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AGE LIMIT: The angry Ugandans

(L-R) Dr. Kizza Besigye, Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago and Allan Ssewanyana

Why Besigye’s army of rage is defeating Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | HAGGAI MATSIKO | When about five security officers from President Yoweri Museveni’s protection force, the Special Forces Command (SFC) first pounced to evict Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine from parliament on Sept.27, he was ready for them. He was raging, standing, and pointing down at them with a metallic rod in hand, with one foot on the seat of the second row on the opposition side and the other on the back of the opposition front bench seats.

Behind Kyagulanyi was MP Allan Ssewanyana, also brandishing a plastic microphone stand, and pointing at the security men. The MPs black shoes, silhouetted sharply against the gleaming soft-green leather of the seats, were a perfect picture of the desecration of the usually august House that had minutes before witnessed its third brawl in three days since it was established in 1962.

Psychologists would possibly describe the actions of Kyagulanyi, Ssewanyana, and others as textbook examples of a fight-or-flight response to a threat from which one cannot escape. Such rage inevitably leads to violence.

The two were among the last of 25 MPs who had refused to leave the House after being suspended by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for rowdily opposing a motion to lift the presidential age-limit from the constitution so that President Museveni can run again in 2021. They are also among the youngest MPs in the House; the so-called `Generation Museveni’ or Ugandans who have known only Museveni as president for the last 32 years.

Ssewanya was not born yet when Museveni came to power in 1986. Kagulanyi was a four-year old toddler. Of the 25 expelled MPs, only three were of voting age when Museveni came to power. The oldest, 52-year old John Baptist Nambeshe was 20 years old.

Anger against Museveni’s long stay in power among the youth has been known for some time now as survey-after-survey has pointed it out. According to a `Citizens Perceptions on Uganda’s Governance’ poll by Research World International in October 2016, 73% of the respondents aged 15 to 34 years in Kampala and other urban areas said the “constitution should not be amended to allow a person to contest even after attaining 75 years of age”.

Similarly, 74% of the respondents in Kampala region, in urban areas among both male and female and those aged 25 to 34 years, said Museveni should retire after his current term of office.

Also 24% and 35% of respondents from urban areas and Kampala respectively, the highest of all groups, disapproved of the way President Museveni performed over the past 12 months according to a 2015 Afro barometer survey.

Despite the known despondency, the rage and aggression being exhibited by the so-called “generation Museveni” is a new phenomenon. And it has got many people worried.

Even before the Sept.27 brawl and military swoop on parliament, the U.S. and EU diplomats in Kampala had expressed “deep concern” about the build-up of tension in and outside Kampala” and the arrest of NGO leaders and politicians.

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