AGE LIMIT BILL: What If M7 Doesn’t Stand?

By Arinaitwe Rugyendo

Dear readers,

I have been off the scene for quite a while. While I was away, I did try to craft another entry point into the world predictive analysis.

And so, I return today with TELEPATHY, a huge departure from the previous column, ‘BEHIND THE SCENES.’

While at Behind the Scenes, we dug deep into what inspired the headlines, the current circumstances in the country dictate that we move analysis from ‘behind the scenes’ to ‘Scenario writing.’ The idea is to the paint the future for the discerning reader.

TELEPATHY, according to various sources is ‘the ability to know what is in someone else’s mind, or to communicate with someone mentally, without using words or other physical signals.’ In our case, we will draw inspiration from one of my best-known ‘Scenario Planning’ teachers; British-born and author, Clem Sunter, who taught me these things while doing attending my Fellowship at the African Leadership Institute in Cape Town, South Africa. The year was 2012.

Clem said then: By drawing on fascinating examples found in business, nature, science, space (politics) and sport, scenario planning provides a crisp and entertaining analysis of the mind of a fox and identifies the two questions you should ask before committing yourself to action: what do you and do you not control? What is certain and uncertain about the future? Paint scenarios; evaluate realistic options, and thereby make effective decisions.

Today, we begin with the much-hyped ‘Age Limit Bill’ and what holds for the future.

When the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs gazzetted an omnibus constitutional amendment bill, known as ‘The Constitution Amendment Bill 2017’ in the Uganda Gazette last week, focus shifted to one article that many Ugandans suspect is included and therefore subject to amendment. This is Article 102 (b) of the Ugandan Constitution.

It states that a person is qualified for election as president if that person is not less than 35 years and not more than 75 years of age.

Like it’s ‘cousin article’ 105 (2) of the Ugandan Constitution, which, before it was amended in 2005, spelt out a two-term limit for one to serve as president of Uganda, Article 102 (b) is equally controversial and sensitive. This is why political watchers say it has been inserted into the omnibus bill to enable the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) use its numerical strength in parliament to lift the mandatory 75-years cap so President Yoweri Museveni can stand again in 2021.

It is easy to understand why it has become controversial. President Museveni who for his popular appeal, largely benefited from Article 105 (2), is widely believed to be the beneficiary of Article 102 (b). At the age of 73, he will be ineligible to run again in 2021 unless it is amended and the upper age limit lifted.

Let us ask ourselves one question and paint a future: What if it is lifted and President Museveni Does not stand in 2021?

To me, there is a ‘Key Uncertainty’ in my telepathic imagination that it will be lifted but that President Museveni will not be its direct beneficiary.A few incidents in the president’s past paint a picture towards this uncertainty.

About a year or so ago, President Museveni told NTV journalist Patrick Kamara in an interview that he would not pursue another term in office after clocking 75 years ‘because there is a scientific idea there that one cannot be fully active after the age of 75.’ The president did not provide evidence but this statement was a very important clue into his state of mind regarding this issue. This interview shows the President believes he may not be as active as he has been once he clocks the age of 75.

To understand this, we will turn to his mentor and former President of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.

President Museveni has admitted in the past and variously that upon completion of his A’ level studies at Ntare School in the 1967, he put all his choices for university education to the University of Dar es Salaam because then President Nyerere was speaking a good language about transformation and African unity. During his stay at the University, Museveni and other students formed a student Think Tank called University Students’ African Revolutionary Front (USARF). They often organized public debates many of which Nyerere attended in person to listen to Museveni’s fiery anti-colonial presentations. It was during this time, that Nyerere identified him and started grooming him, having felt that the young man had potential.

It is therefore possible that having grown up under his tutelage, Nyerere, even in death, is likely to be influencing Museveni’s next steps. Museveni has repeatedly mentioned Nyerere as one of the greatest black Africans who lived. He has even joined the crusading cause for his sainthood as well. It is therefore very possible he wants to emulate his legacy.

In 1985, 63-year-old Nyerere retired from politics and went back to his village in Musoma where he continued to influence not only national events, but also his own Chama Cha Mapunduzi (CCM) party. From Musoma, he directly influenced the choice of his successor, then 60-year-old Ali Hassan Mwinyi who was Prime Minister at that time.

Going by this example, it is very possible that if Museveni is going to follow in his mentor’s footsteps, he will not run for president in 2021 and his successor is likely to come from his generation of leaders. It is probable that in 2020, he will front several names among his old cohort at the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party’s National Conference in Kyankwanzi. Over the last 15- 20 years, Museveni has maintained majority of his cabinet from his generation- meaning those are the ones currently experienced to run government- not the young crop. This is the reason why the upper age limit is going to be lifted in order to serve the purpose of his generational successors ruling for a number of terms after 2021 until the younger generation has acquired sufficient experience in public service.

Therefore, while Ugandans are devoting their energy on fighting the bill thinking it is going to benefit him, Museveni will quietly work out his succession plan and front one of his cohort as the beneficiary.

During this debate, it is necessary that we do not focus on Museveni as the beneficiary but look at the wider picture, which is the cohort in the 60-70 age group, currently serving in cabinet and the military.

We return next week!

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