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Inside Museveni’s life presidency

Why the removal of age limits may be the best way to get a peaceful succession in Uganda

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | There is consensus among Ugandan, African, and even global elites that presidents who rule for long make peaceful succession impossible. This informs the current debate on the attempt by the NRM to amend the constitution and remove the age limit so that President Yoweri Museveni can run for the presidency in 2021. After 31 years in power, allowing Museveni to run in 2021 gives him a chance to extend his rule to 40 years. This turns Uganda from a republic to a monarchy.

The NRM party enjoys a huge majority in parliament and our legislators are broke and indebted. I suspect 90% would desire Museveni to retire. However, over 350 out of 436 MPs will vote for removing the age limit. It is, therefore, naïve to think noise in mass and social media can decouple his plans. And even though over 70% of the country thinks the age limit should be maintained, Museveni will most likely win the 2021 elections.

I think Museveni should retire. This is not because he has ruled for long or because he is old. Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore ruled for long and grew old in office yet retained energy and dynamism. Museveni should retire because, while he commands a lot of power (more than any successor will ever marshal), his policy ideas and management ability cannot take Uganda to another level. Put simply, he has too much power but very little leadership left in him. Uganda’s tragedy is that his opponents are even worse in both management credentials and policy ideas.

But what does his presidency for life portend for our desire for a peaceful succession? Human affairs cannot be subjected to a controlled experiment in a laboratory. So it is difficult to see how our actions today will shape outcomes tomorrow. However, history is a very good guide for us to make a reasonable prediction. Thus, we need to look at the character of NRM and compare it with similar regimes across time and space.

NRM came to power after a protracted armed struggle. Beginning small, it challenged a state funded by donors and backed up by 30,000 Tanzanian troops. Without an international power to bankroll it or a rear base where to hide when the going got tough, it dismantled the state from below. This demonstrated exceptional organisational and leadership ability.

Therefore, the best way to predict the future of NRM and Museveni is to look at other groups that came to power by similar means – in Cuba, Vietnam, China, Zimbabwe, Eritrea, North Korea, Cambodia, former Soviet Union, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Algeria, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Guinea Bissau. This covers all continents spanning 100 years from the capture of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 to today. This history provides considerable grist for our intellectual speculation.


  1. It looks like I have taught some good manners to this old little chap called Mwenda. The language is all of a sudden comradely. Maybe, sometimes one can teach an old dog new tricks. uh? Today, I want to defer from what the main stream opposition is agitating for- to not amend Article 102(b). Some have gone as far as stating that “if one doesn’t have what to die for, then, that someone has nothing to live for.” Those in this league are notably, Norbert Mao (DP president general) and Medard Ssegona (MP Busiro East.) My held view is that, if term limits are reinstated then we can do away with the age limits. What informs my opinion is that a leader does not become good or bad because of age but because that leader abuses his or her office. So, it is better to limit that bad leader by years he/she is in office rather than their years of life existence. Secondly, there are those of us who love to witness presidencies of Besigye , Muntu or Amama Mbabazi, if for some reason Museveni holds on beyond, 2021, and there is no amendment, then, we can only hope against hope. Mwenda would argue that “the politic informs the law”- suggesting to only amend the constitution when the need to do so arises. But for those of us who take time to the golf course, we always play that shot that will make the next shot easier. Let the NRM “snatch” the lugworm.
    My first reasons notwithstanding, I have come to a quiet conclusion that it would be easier for all Ugandans to accommodate the “character ” of president Museveni than him changing from the opulent life of a president to an ordinary life of a citizen. Am I giving in for a life presidency? (to be continued… on Friday)

  2. There is a track doing rounds where M7 is asked by a certain journalist in a black coat where he asks “are you saying you wouldn’t go beyond 75 yourself Sir”? to which M7 responds “not at all, certainly not”.
    Now my brother ejakait(briefly suspend your like or dislike of M7 and his stay in power) and concentrate on the English language as we were taught it (by the Brits themselves)in the Junior English Composition and Grammar; which book everyone who went to any Uganda secondary school in the 60s and 70s must have learned and passed well,do you catch the double-speak of M7 when he answers “not at all certainly not” to “are you saying” part of the question? Excogitate my brother after which you will realise that these people are playing with a very crafty old fox….. which is spoiling for a fight so it can eliminate them once and for all.
    Methinks, unless the opposition is eating from a funder (in the background); there always is when stakes are as high as control of Uganda, it is better to dialogue….not bargain as equals (because the parties to the argument aren’t) but approach as petitioners. involve religious leaders, women and children should seek an appointment (without the press). Lay the grievances on the table and suggest solutions. The probability of M7 succumbing to such a petition is 99 chances out of 100. Politeness and humility can disarm and emasculate M7 faster than any artillery gun bombing state house. You would be surprised how Ug would return to its former Paradise glory. Can you believe ejakait that if Uganda had remained stable from 1962, all menial labour in Uganda would now be being done by foreigners? The cooperative society system was in a way of making sure every Ugandan(including dogs and cats) had all essentials and to spare. When the TC school council decided that this week we eat nile perch and atapa(which you can’t get in Serena now) and handed the menu to the catering officer,to which he ran to execute, was the money used given by British aid? I believe Ugandans (M7 among them) can revive the 60s glory in 3 years. Let people be serious. Let someone start an intellectual guerrila war,recruit connoisseur worldwide (purely on voluntary basis) and suggest solution to present-day seemingly incorrigible status-quo and you see. Then, approach M7 with a solution and see. He wants things working more than anyone else but is hostage to many concerns which a people can first eliminate by concession. If the opposition downsize their ego, M7 will follow instantly. It is the natural law.

  3. I beg to disagree with M9 where he says “However, history is a very good guide for us to make a reasonable prediction”…..”… This demonstrated exceptional organisational and leadership ability”. Though M9 was young and could not know much then but came to know later when he grew up, it is essential to note that story gather much as they roll on the journey of time. M7 succeeded because of: 1. desperation and he had the most dangerous weapon that a belligerent can possess…..called NO CHOICE. His opponents had a choice and fall-back position. 2. M7 had a momentum of having been in a fire-fight recently (1978-1979) and just continued from where he had left off with only a short break. Maintaining of momentum is so essential in an armed conflict that it can be compared to Newton’s law of inertia. take a cue from how Kagame’s RPA routed Rwanda’s army and with just a short break in between, followed it into Zaire and routed Mobutu without any substantial external assistance. 3. M7 had young,loyal,diehard and legendary commanders and soldiers who exist once in a generation (this is also a natural law) and are brought about by Providence to execute a need. This is disputable whether there is such a need now as Providence becomes compelled to intervene…. it is not for we mortals to debate. 4. Despite fact that he was resourceless, M7 was up against a very disorganised,corrupt and decaying army. The best it could do was retaliation against M7’s blows by killing,looting and raping.To do now(to UPDF) what M7 did to UNLA is very very very difficult. Unless M9 wants to say that history can clone the situation as it existed then and reproduce similar calibre of players (or better) as those here above mentioned, it is not probable to get same results if one does as M7 did.

  4. M9, I am inclined to agree with you this time. Looking at the chaos last week in parliament and the type of opposition politicians we have, M7 should stay put. However, he has failed to spark the intended progress needed to propel the country forward. He is surrounded by too many individuals with wrong intentions. His ‘bus’ is too full! Does he need all those ‘passengers’??

  5. ejakait engoraton

    Baba Tina, M7 has set the fire and is now coming in to extinguish it, therefore becoming the hero.
    When you put the dog/cat against the whole and leave it no option but to fight it’s way out, and then you say it should be put down because it’s violent.
    M7s every nerve in his body knows nothing else other than violence, and believe me he respects Kony more than he does the opposition

  6. ejakait engoraton

    M7 did not come to power by accident, nor was it overnight.
    Probably more than 60 years ago, he had planned that he would come to power by any means, but mostly through violence and his ending up in Mozambique to train with the FRELIMO guerillas as well as ending up as an intelligence operative in Obotes 1st government under Rwakasisi was not by accident.
    The rigged election was just an excuse as it is well known that he had already, years before surveyed the Luweero area and the cattle corridor and established its suitability for his war.
    He was prepared and had planned to come to power by violence and to retain consolidate and retain the same power with violence and other softer means.
    It is therefore very difficult to compete with M7 because the plan for the life presidency for instance, he has always been years ahead of all the competition and has always used the ruse of keeping others in hope like he did to the likes of Mbabazi, whom he used to remove the term limits, thinking that they were the anointed successors, only to discover too late.

    • No one human can plan that far ahead ejakait and you know it. Then why did he attempt to desert sometime in the middle of the struggle? ask Ruzindana. Why did he almost sign peace agreement with Tito Okello delegation in Nairobi? Haven’t you heard him him severally reported to have said (in the heat of Oyite Ojok’s onslaught) that every day he survives is a victory? As for serving in the President’s office in 1970, you know as well as I do that any graduate of that time chose where they wished to work;there were no job-seeker(Ugandan) graduates then; in Uganda or elsewhere. ejakait will you deny that when UCC Nakawa (aka Uganda College of Corruption then) was formed in early 70s, managers from private sector and even parastatals used to poach students from there before they completed their coursework ….bribing them with 504s,Citroens,Saabs and houses? Can you bet 1k UGX that M7 would have stayed in President’s office for 2 years if Gen Amin had not set in? He would have gone to other greener pastures like EAC, National Insurance, UCI, UDC and other car/house supplying parastatals of the time. His presidence is purely serendipitous. Some hooligan UNLAs were harassing him (recall the Kireka roadblock arrest) and he had no power to discipline,frighten back or handle them. So he had no option except to fight a running war with them…. hoping that maybe, Obote would call him and establish peace. The Rwakasisis being big-headed and power-drunk thought to crush him (like they nearly did at Lutamaguzi’s home) and in the process the indisciplined UNLA continued to mess up operation after operation sending fugitives in M7’s lap…. and now see what they got.

    • A President-for-life may be regarded as a de facto monarch. In fact, other than the title, political scientists often face difficulties in differentiating a state ruled by a president-for-life and a monarchy.
      Most leaders who have proclaimed themselves President for Life have not in fact gone on to successfully serve a life term. Most have been deposed long before their death while others truly fulfill their title by being assassinated while in office. However, some, such as Jose Gaspar Rodriguez de Francia, Alexandre Petion, Rafael Carrera, Yuan Shikai, François Duvalier, Josip Broz Tito and Saparmurat Niyazov have managed to rule until their (natural) deaths. Others made unsuccessful attempts to have themselves named President for Life, such as Mobutu Sese Seko in 1972 and Amin Dada. So M7 is also Mortal and he’s likely to fall in any of the categories I’ve mentioned above

    • Yes. This says it all. 100% true!!! With that crystal wisdom, what do suggest as a feasible solution to outwit the old tricky fox like M7?

  7. Happy Birthday Andrew if God had not created you i dont know how life would have been………
    1.The G7 nations disorganised the Arab world now they are planning to disorganise E.Africa especially Ethopia,Kenya and Uganda this is because some of their buisness partners were denied businesss opportunities.
    2.Gone are the days when governments were toppled thru coups,assisiations these days there are 2 organizations that have become a pain to govts;(i)the activitis and (ii) the terrorits.
    3..M7’s biggest mistake is his patience with Ugandans for me if i were the president of Ug, it would take me 30 minutes to put the country right(I would even relocate some slow Ugandans to Congo)
    4..Being a president of a 3rd world country is a daunting task for example,how do you juggle both mordernization and traditional belief?
    5. Dictators could be Africa ‘s blessing for example; if M7 directed that the Chinese should take over the development of northern Uganda dont you think that place would glitter in 5 years?I am suprised that Govt looks on as women protest while naked mbu to save thier land from being utilised it that not primitivity?
    6.The action of the opposition leaders reminds me of the play”Wizard of Oz” they think they will scare the govt?
    7.Fame has really entered Bobi Wine’s head he thinks because some villagers in Gayaza voted him he has all the answers to Ug’s qns?I am 100 sure that he will be in Butabika any time.
    8. Oposition leaders are claiming that bombs are being hurled in their homes how?I am 100% sure that all this is stage managed why didn’t Bobi Wine put mess wires in his window to prevent pieces of glass from entering the house?
    9.The 1st world makes some good bucks from selling military equipment how will they make sales if Africa is peaceful?

    • A president can lead the country to progress or to its downfall. He is like a captain of a ship. The country that he is handling is the ship, the passengers that are on it are the citizens of the nation and the crew are his department staffs and members. He needs to drive and navigate well the ship and avoid it from sinking through his best efforts, dedication, determination and knowledge for in his hands lie the lives and future of all his passengers. So M7 has sunk the ship already. He failed to curb corruption, he has failed to curb land grabbing , he has failed to maintain optimum security to the citizen of this country. the economy is rotting every now and then. He’s totally out of ideas, he has no capacity to run this country again.

  8. (Continuation….. 2nd and last part)

    Am I giving in for a life presidency? There is no guarantee and apparently no suggestion that if article 102(b) was to be amended, then, term limits will be reinstated. Even if that were to be, president Museveni would be eligible to run for another two terms under the “new law.” This would take president Museveni’s rule to 50yrs – making him the longest “democratically” elected president on the African continent. But for a Ugandan president to having “served” for this long and still asking for more- where as in the past, we had had a minimum of eight presidents in less than twenty five years. What could be the reasons behind Museveni’s drive? Is it sheer greed? Is it the “standard measure” of a true revolutionary? Or is a country being held at gunpoint that it is now, a “do” or “die” affair? It has always been a do or die matter ever since Museveni decided to fight Idd Amin just after a day in power. He followed it up by going to the bush after the 1980 general elections. He has, in the recent past come up with phrases like: “After my dead body”, “I shall crash them”, “Ensi egula mirambo”, etc. With due respect both to my president and my country, we could be dealing with a psychopath struggling with suicidal tendencies. That it was more of a suicide trap than a strategic plan to take just 27 men to fight against the state.
    There are commentators who have drawn comparisons between the Obote government (the 1966 crisis) and President Museveni’s current constitutional amendment. The difference couldn’t be more apparent. In 1966, President Obote was only 41yrs of age and he had just been in office for 4yrs. On the other hand, president Museveni has just celebrated his 73rd birthday and 31yrs in office. At 41yrs of age, Obote is by comparison a son to the 73 year old Museveni. It is, therefore, by the stretch of the imagination to state that the two incidences are comparable. It is from this “dark fact” that I draw my conclusions.
    Those that are fighting president Museveni through article 102(b) have long lost the war (not the battle). That even when the amendment is foiled, Museveni long had his way in 2005, when Article 105 was amended. With 31 years in power and now at the age of 73, Museveni has in real terms enjoyed a life presidency- what my colleagues should be preoccupied with is, how smooth the “wrap-up” should be? A normal game of football lasts for 90minutes. If a coach finds his team down by 5goals at the ninetieth minute, he can only ask for “divine intervention” for his team to overturn that score, otherwise, what a smart coach would do is to substitute his otherwise good players in preparation of the next game. The life presidency game has long been lost, it is time we refocused on term limits.

    Lastly, I had a monologue with God (not a dialogue since God is spiritual). He visited me while I was in the middle of writing this comment (that’s why I postponed it to today, Friday.) I asked God why it had taken Him so long to fulfil my prayer. During my primary four, and amongst my peers at the time, we fancied a chance of being presidents and we made wishes to that effect. I reminded God of my wish to be Uganda’s president for just one day and that I would wipe away peoples’ troubles by getting money out of Bank of Uganda and distributing it to the poor. God smiled, and then replied, “You were young and there were many of you, had I granted your wish, I would be unfair to the rest. But now, you can make your individual wish.” I looked up and said, “please God can you stop President Muse…” God interrupted me, “Are you also about to comment about Museveni?” He continued, “I have had thousands and thousands of complaints about that fellow and another one Kagame- I have been patient with the dual but it seems these two lack appreciation.” God then referred me to his creature ‘Abraham Maslow’ and his hierarchy of needs. This God, was an “educated God!” God confided in me that He had done everything godly possible to appease president Museveni including, making him attain self actualisation. That, however, Museveni begged for more and of recent Museveni started a quarrel with Him- asking for “transcendence powers.” That Museveni told God that since he had attained almost everything “humanly possible”, it was now time that he “shared” powers with God. God “reported” to me, that during this intense exchange, Museveni appeared to be so ecstatic and revealed his sadness that God couldn’t extend his death further. This infuriated God that He vanished in thin air. He, however, confessed to me that He does His things in “ones”, “tens”, “hundreds” and “thousands.” And that’s why there is “one” God and “ten” commandments. He told me that after the “a thousandth” month, if Museveni wouldn’t have apologised for the wrongs, He would recall him and have a “private talk.” God can only have a private talk when Museveni is alone, and Museveni can only be alone when he’s in the grave. I was about to ask God my final question when He vanished in thin air. My question was, “Are you sure?” I soon lost my celestial abilities and I immediately questioned myself whether I had had an actual conversation with God or I was just delusional? I concluded that if God was the spiritual part of us, then, I had had a true conversation with my God. But if one had considered God to be some super natural being that lived far apart from us, then, that assertion couldn’t be less delusional than my conversation with God.

    (If I am to divide 1000 months by 12 months (a year), then, God is recalling Museveni at the 83rd year and if Museveni is currently 73yrs, we can bear him for another 10yrs.) God is good and all the time…

    • Have been wondering how you had neglected your handlers’instructions of Kagame-phobia. Your obsession with these two gentlemen will erode your innards and like your type are wont to be; people shouldn’t be surprised if the both outlive you. Work hard at your hatred and you will realise the dividends sooner than later.

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