The president-for-life train is going full steam ahead in Uganda.
Having played coy in the early stages, with proxies being dispatched to present private member’s Bills in parliament to amend the Constitution and remove the 75-year age limit, President Yoweri Museveni has since dropped the act and become the face of the campaign.
At the next election in 2021, Museveni, who will be officially 77 (there are many Ugandans who believe he is three to four years older) and has been in power for 32 years already, wouldn’t be eligible to stand if the 75-year limit is not scrubbed.
A parliamentary committee stacked with ruling National Resistance Movement legislators has now recommended that the age limit be taken down. But they have thrown in an intriguing sweetener – that presidential term limits that were torpedoed in 2005, be restored.
Museveni himself has come and said that a five-year term is “not enough.” Seven years, he feels, is more like it.
So, the Ugandan president-for-life play is taking shape. It’s headed for what could be called the “Rwanda-Before-Kagame-And-Kagame option.” Rwanda was unique in the region, in that its presidential term was seven years.
President Paul Kagame’s term would have ended this year, but by “popular demand,” the Rwandese people insisted that he stay.
The Constitution was amended to provide that he could stand for another seven-year term, but in 2024, the term limits would fall back in place. However, from then on, the next president (and Kagame would be eligible should he choose to give it a shot) would serve only two five-year terms.
The Constitution will be amended in Uganda. You can take that to the bank. It’s only the details that may surprise. At this point, it looks like the president’s term will change from five to seven years, and a two-term limit will be reinstated.
In 2021, Museveni would win it (Museveni is old-fashioned in that way, he doesn’t allow an election he won’t win), and be in power until 2028.
He would be eligible to stand then, and rule until 2035, when he would be 91. It is unlikely though that he will stand in 2028. He probably is looking to do a “Mandela” – step down and not contest the “last term”.
The narrative he is probably seeking is that, despite his having ruled for 42 years and ruthlessly run to ground all who tried to challenge him, he still stepped down “early.”
There are people who are laughing at this point, but one has to admit the genius of it. Museveni’s president-for-life quest is also his retirement plan, if that makes sense.
All he has to do now is to be in good health, and recently he signalled that he is banking on it. He said at 73, he is as good as new because he doesn’t drink.
He is short-changing himself. In the past three years, from the US, the UK, Japan, and Spain, men and women celebrating their 100th-plus birthday all said one thing in common – they all had the proverbial glass of red wine with their dinner.
But it may be just as well. If he extended his life with wine, he would probably just want to stay on to 2035 and beyond.
Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. [email protected]