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Uganda’s Presidential Succession is a Settled Matter!

By Ofwono Opondo

Sept, 20, 17

The Uganda political jackals are peddling the false political narrative that Uganda’s constitution as currently is, isn’t sufficient to nature a lawful, democratic, smooth and peaceful transition of power from President Yoweri Museveni to another person, either within the NRM, or from the opposition parties, which must be debunked.
Article 109 of the Constitution provides that in the event a sitting president dies, or un-able to perform the duties of president, the vice president takes over. And in the event that the vice president too is dead, un-available, unable, or unwilling, then, the speaker of parliament becomes the president. Furthermore, in the event that these elected leaders are un-able, which is really a spurious imagination, the constitution confers obligation to the Chief Justice to become an acting president until elections are held through universal adult suffrage to elect a substantive president. Therefore, the question of presidential succession in the event of a tragedy or impeachment is a settled matter that we shouldn’t really be wasting time on. This narrative of possible void and anarchy is meant by the opposition to spread false fear, uncertainty, and perhaps make President Museveni appear as the proverbial ‘elephant in the room.’ The fact that president Museveni doesn’t win all votes, it implies he can actually be defeated both within the NRM and outside.
And perhaps unknowingly, by raising tantrums over the question of the succession of President Museveni, the opposition leaders in FDC, DP, UPC and JEEMA are inadvertently casting serious doubt in the minds of Ugandans over their own inability to as possible credible alternative to the NRM. In fact, they are confirming to Ugandans that they collectively are unable to win a democratic election and provide national leadership.
With established periodic, and regular presidential and parliamentary elections every five years at the end of term of government, Ugandans have an opportunity to change the entire elected national political leadership if they consider them not-worthwhile. Today, the majority of MPs and councilors across the political aisle, NRM and opposition parties are below fifty years old, having replaced those who came from the Luwero bushes or old guards from UPC, DP, CP and UPM. At the NRM secretariat, the top leadership, Justine Lumumba (Secretary General), Richard Todwong (DSG), Rose Namayanja (National Treasurer) and her deputy Kenneth Omona are below fifty years. As the historical leader, President Museveni has over the years given opportunity by bringing up people from the backyard and appointing them to the front to expose them and prove their capabilities to the whole Ugandan population and international community. If these leaders flounder, the problem can only be theirs and not Museveni!
Within the NRM, and indeed other parties, going by changes the UPC, DP and DP have had in the past within their respective leadership, it is clear that succession has been taking place in these parties, except that they have often not had effective leaders with better organisational capabilities to drive policy agenda that the voters find relevant. Indeed in many parts of the world, Africa inclusive, leadership change as a fashion, has been taking place without much material transformation on the ground in terms of the quality of politics, democracy and socio-economic life.
There have been futile attempts to make it appear that the framers of Uganda’s Constitution, 1995, were imbued with infinite wisdom, and therefore the absurd argument that nothing in it should be amended. Take for example the case of a presidential re-run in case none of the candidates obtains the required majority of over fifty percent within the first round, or in the event that the Supreme Court nullifies a presidential election results. Currently, article 103 (5) provides that a re-run must be held within thirty days. Equally, article 104(6) and (7) state that where the Supreme Court nullifies a presidential election result, fresh elections must be held within twenty days. Quite frankly, these are impossibilities for now in Uganda taking financial, logistical and administrative challenges into consideration. It would be worse if the electoral commission was disbanded because we cannot re-constitute it within that short period and be able to organise a credible election. These are recipe for disaster if not cured now.
There are also other issues that some lawyers have pointed out contradict the spirit of constitutionalism and democracy, among them the fact that a seventy-five old is required to pay tax and yet not allowed to fully participate in the democratic process including offering themselves as candidates for the highest office.
And this is so while an eighteen year old is permitted to stand and be voted for as Member of Parliament, and could become speaker or minister, yet the same person is barred from being elected chairperson of local district government. These are ridiculous provisions, to say the least. Indeed the same 18 year old could be appointed prime minister, Chief of Defence Forces, Inspector General of Police, all shouldering responsibilities higher than that of a district chairperson. Many Ugandans believe that formal academic qualification isn’t necessary for an elective office and would want that removed. Now, those who shout that the constitution shouldn’t be ‘touched’ how are they proposing these glaring contractions be resolved.