As the debate on Raphael Magyezi’s bill to amend Article 102(b) rages, BAKER BATTE LULE looks back at the journey President Museveni has walked to where he is now.
Some pundits refer to his 31 years in power as a life presidency project. That from the outset, Museveni was never going to let go of the presidency.
The carrot and stick have been applied at different points to overcome obstacles to this alleged project.
We start with the first four years after the NRM/A shot its way into office in 1986 when the new government issued Legal Notice No. 1. The notice decreed that the interim government would be in place for only four years, following which a general election would be called in 1989.
However, in the same year, President Museveni, who was the chairman of the NRA [now UPDF] and National Resistance Council [now parliament], shifted.
He told his then minister of Justice and attorney general, George Wilson Kanyeihamba, to draft justifications for the extension of the NRC and its executive arm for another five years until a new constitution under which general elections would be held had been written.
Kanyeihamba, now a retired Supreme court judge, told The Observer recently that there were justifiable reasons for the extension of Museveni’s tenure then. But these reasons no longer exist today, Kanyeihamba says.
“When the Movement came, they had given themselves four years but that was idealistic. Museveni entrusted me to articulate the views why the NRM should extend for another five years. I did; you don’t have to believe my word, go to the NRM secretariat [and check what I said],” Kanyeihamba said.
Today, the retired judge finds himself vehemently opposed to his former boss’ determination to lift age limits from the constitution and remove the last thing standing in the way of a potential presidency for life. Kanyeihamba says the issues which necessitated extending Museveni’s tenure 28 years ago have long disappeared.
“For the president who has served the country for over 30 years making decisions day and night; he is physically and mentally exhausted...,” he said.
In the then expanded National Resistance Council of 270 members, only one member, Joseph Wasswa Ziritwawula opposed the 1989 extension. He famously walked out, resigning his seat as NRC member representing a Kampala constituency.
Ziritwawula has long retreated from active politics. However, in an interview with a local daily, the former Kampala mayoral candidate said he would still resign if the same situation played out now.
“Proclamation No. 1 of 1986, put it that the government would be in power for four years after which they would hold elections. Which they didn’t do,” Ziritwawula said.
“I was saying that parliament (NRC) could not extend its term. It is like parliament sitting today and deciding to extend its term. That is not its mandate; it’s the mandate of the people. Giving a period for government is a mandate of the whole population; not a mandate of parliament,” he said.
LIFTING OF TERM LIMITS
The NRC later approved the Uganda Constitutional Commission headed by former Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki to collect people’s views about the new constitution which was debated and promulgated by the Constituent Assembly in 1995. In there, it had article 105 (b) limiting a person eligible for election as president to two five-year terms.
In the subsequent elections of 1996, a still popular President Museveni defeated his closest rival, the opposition coalition candidate, Paul Kawanga Ssemogerere by 75 percent.
Five years on in 2001, he returned to the people with an election manifesto built around the need to professionalise the armed forces ahead of the transition to full civilian rule.
Credit: The Observer Newspaper.