As Zimbabwe, and Africa at large, comes to terms with the unexpected fall of Robert Mugabe, Kampala, more than any other capital in East Africa is following the events in Harare with more than fleeting interest.
The shocking end of Mr Mugabe has fed directly into the combustible debate in Uganda about ongoing efforts to amend the Constitution to extend President Yoweri Museveni’s rule.
According to some analysts, the quick succession of events over just two weeks that eventually showed Mr Mugabe the door indicate that while President Museveni projects firm control of both military and political affairs in Uganda, as Mr Mugabe did in Zimbabwe, such control is usually premised on wrong assumptions and whittles away pretty fast.
“Two weeks ago, when Mr Mugabe removed Emmerson Mnangagwa from the post of vice president a lot of people jubilated. Two weeks later, when Mr Mugabe is removed from the chairmanship of ZANU-PF people also jubilated. That shows that actually in these banana republics of ours the so-called political support is actually manufactured, artificial support,” says Makerere University historian Mwambutsya Ndebesa.
While President Museveni appears to have successfully purged the army and the party of his war comrades, his hold on the latter is sustained more by money and coercion and less by genuine belief in his ideology, according to Andrew Mwenda, who informally advises him.
“This allows us to understand why NRM MPs have little incentive to make a case for President Museveni staying longer in power — because they don’t have one,” Mr Mwenda recently wrote.
Indeed, NRM legislators have struggled to market the age limit Bill, which would clear the way for President Museveni to stand again in 2021. If he does, he will stretch his rule beyond 35 years. Until Mr Mugabe’s sudden fall, the 93-year-old leader had ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years and was set to run again next year.
President Museveni’s dogged efforts to remain in power at all costs is increasing discontent among the public as it presents little hope to turn round the already deteriorating governance, economic performance and security situation in the country, according to a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG).
“Uganda is not in danger of renewed civil war or rebel violence, but it risks sliding into a political crisis that could eventually threaten the country’s hard-won stability,” notes the report released on November 21.
The ICG recommends that Kampala should hold a national dialogue over presidential succession. But the government, as usual, rubbished its work as “gutter content sponsored by anti-Ugandan spin doctors.”
But Tumwebaze, Minister of ICT and National Guidance, posed that “How can Uganda suffer from declining governance when it exercises rule of law, holds free, fair and regular elections, has a wide and robust press and delivers economic freedom and economic good?”
He added: “The authors would have done themselves a favour, if they perused Africa’s own Peer Review Mechanism reports on Uganda. The current report on Uganda generally recognises positive changes made by the NRM administration since assuming power.”