In leaving power the president would cause Ugandans to re-evaluate his legacy with better perspective
There is one thing I wish to request: That President Museveni and NRM should not amend the constitution to remove the age limit on the presidency so that he can run in 2021. There is also one
thing we are likely to see: the NRM-dominated parliament will most probably amend the constitution and remove the age limit so that Museveni can run in 2021. It matters less what Museveni’s initial personal attitude towards this is. The way electoral politics has evolved in Uganda makes the amendment inevitable.
There is a second thing I would ask: that Dr. Kizza Besigye not run for president in 2021. However, Besigye will most probably run for president in 2021. If Museveni runs in 2021, it will be an almost foregone conclusion that Besigye will run. And if Besigye is the most likely candidate of the opposition in 2021, Museveni will most likely run for president as well. This is because although Museveni and Besigye are subjectively bitter rivals, objectively they need each other. Museveni needs Besigye to remain NRM’s only choice. Besigye needs Museveni to remain FDC’s only choice. Therefore, as long as Museveni stands for president, FDC will not find a more appealing candidate against him than Besigye. And as long as Besigye stands, NRM will not believe there is another candidate likely to defeat him but Museveni.
Although the two sides subjectively see the battle this way, objectively both are wrong. For Museveni, the ideal outcome is an election where Besigye wins and the president concedes peacefully and hands over power (and I hope no one witch hunts him and his family). This would be Museveni’s greatest moment, a triumph of vision over fear. He would have demonstrated he is a democrat. For Besigye, it would (or should be) a moment of worry and anxiety. Finally, he would have to come face to face with the nature of democratic politics in a poor country. Besigye would realise (like Museveni has done in regard to his criticism of Milton Obote) that a lot of the things he criticizes the president for are products of deeply entrenched structural constraints, not Museveni’s personal desire to ruin Uganda.
For example, if Besigye had won the last election, he would become president of a country 75% of whose parliament is controlled by an opposition party. Being dominant yet broke and indebted, NRM MPs would only support Besigye’s agenda in parliament if he pays them. If he holds his ground against their blackmail, they would refuse to pass his reforms or budgets. This would force him to act dictatorially and thereby shave his democratic pretentions.
Besigye’s none repressive strategy would be to cajole the NRM MPs to get his agenda through parliament. The most effective weapon would be to bribe many of them. Yet this would open the floodgates of corruption inside FDC, a party whose leaders would be serving in cabinet. It would be politically suicidal for Besigye to bribe NRM MPs with cash (thereby enriching them and building their campaign war-chest for 2021) while impoverishing his own FDC leaders in cabinet with a strong anti-corruption stance. So the price of a parliamentary vote would rise from Shs 5m (where Museveni has kept it since 2005) to Shs 50m.
Rarely do leaders employ one strategy. These contradictions would actually force Besigye to try both repression and bribery. Now imagine a Besigye genuinely committed to clean and honest government being forced by political circumstances into the mud of bribing MPs. This would dent his credibility as an anti-corruption president. He would reduce this dirt at the price of some intimidation of NRM MPs and thereby injure his reputation as a democrat.