President Museveni faces family pressure to quit
For the 31-years they have been in power, President Yoweri Museveni’s family has learnt one lesson; to survive, they must think ahead.
So it is not surprising that although Museveni has spent barely a year since he was sworn-in in February last year, among them, the debate is raging about how to handle the next election in 2021. It has always been this way, insiders tell The Independent.
What is surprising, even to some of them this time, is how the so-called “succession issue” is being handled. In a major departure from the past; President Museveni, his wife; First Lady Janet Museveni, and the First Son, Maj. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, have all publicly weighed in on the discussion. Mainly they have feigned indifference but it has not worked in some instances.
First it was the first son, Maj. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who gave an interview that ran on NTV and another on UBC.Then the First Lady followed on NTV. Only the President’s younger brother; the influential Gen. Caleb Akandwanaho aka Salim Saleh has not spoken.
In the NTV interview, Janet Museveni appeared to dodge the questions on the future of her husband, her son and herself in Uganda’s politics.
“Why don’t you save that until we get back into that period?”Janet said when she was asked whether she would consider political office. But, without being prompted, she raised the issue of Museveni being barred from contesting in 2021.
Some commentators have noted that these two possible contenders from the First Family, in a major break from the past, have given such special public interviews.
Coming at a time when a debate is raging about President Museveni’s succession, the two interviews; especially the one by Janet Museveni, and Muhoozi being relieved of mainstream military roles, has got insiders talking.
`Pack your bags’
But former Bubulo East legislator, Simon Mulongo, an NRM mobiliser, who has in the past also worked in State House, said that the on-going debate on succession is not a State House issue but rather an issue of certain groupings in the party and schools of thought about how a transition from President Museveni should be handled.
Some people, he said, feel that we should be in control of the eventual flow of events, which is healthy.
“The problem is with the talk that appears to say the President should pack his bags because that causes fear and anxieties that may divert us,” Mulongo said.
As the temperature over the succession debate inside State House has gone up, the President’s handlers have been busy trying to cool the debate outside.
In an interview with The Independent, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, who runs a law firm with Museveni’s son-in-law, Edwin Karugire and also defended Museveni in the 2016 presidential elections petition by former Premier Amama Mbabazi, for instance, said he cannot understand the excitement.
“There are specific rules on how people ascend to that office,” Kiwanuka told The Independent in a phone interview, “it’s not a matter for just debating.”
Moses Byaruhanga, the Senior Presidential Advisor on Political Affairs, also made the same point in an article in The New Vision.
But Kiwanuka went a step further. He told The Independent that “change should not just be a ceremony, it should be purposeful”.
Using a football analogy, Kiryowa cited an English football team that has had a manager for 20 years. “As long as they are still winning,” he wondered, “why should they change the manager?”
“So for me,” he said, “that debate is the most redundant thing.”
In dismissing the succession debate, Kiryowa also joins David Mafabi, President Museveni’s private secretary for political affairs, who has called the debate on succession false.
Simon Mulongo, Kiwanuka-Kiryowa, Moses Byaruhanga, David Mafabi and others, are all reacting to a raging debate which was sparked by a series of articles written by, of all people; President Museveni’s son-in-law, Odrek Rwabwogo and, of all places, in the government mouthpiece; The New Vision newspaper.
“Rwabwogo may have issues with the way the old generation is handling the party, their performance, he may feel that they no longer have the energy,” Mulongo said, “but the way he is presenting the situation is not proper. It threatens the status quo yet his plan is also not elaborate. We shouldn’t be talking of replacing in a threatening way. We should be discussing how to improve the situation.”
Rwabwogo’s commentary has finally been blocked. Whether coincidentally or not, Janet Museveni’s interview aired the very night, Rwabwogo’s last of a series of articles was published in The New Vision.
In the last column on April 03, Rwabwogo was as brutally frank as he has come to be known. He appeared to hint on a purge of his writing when he wrote that the series were stopping because he had thrown “sawdust” in the eyes of some people who felt threatened.
Speculation is rife that nobody, except President Museveni has the audacity to order Rwabwogo to stop writing. When The Independent called him to comment on the speculation that he had been stopped from writing, the calls went unanswered. But insiders within State House told The Independent that “stakes were getting high.”