Saturday , February 24 2018
Home / COLUMNISTS / Andrew Mwenda / Why Museveni should retire

Why Museveni should retire

In leaving power the president would cause Ugandans to re-evaluate his legacy with better perspective

National Resistance Army (NRA) leader Yoweri Museveni holds his first cabinet meeting after being sworn in as president of Uganda on January 29, 1986 in Kampala.
National Resistance Army (NRA) leader Yoweri Museveni holds his first cabinet meeting after being sworn in as president of Uganda on January 29, 1986 in Kampala.

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.


  1. There is a general saying that, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It doesn’t become truer until one has read Mwenda’s views towards Dr. Kiiza Besigye. Mwenda harbours (or has harboured) two wishes. However, in each of his wishes there lies a devilish “sub-wish.” Mwenda’s first wish was that President Museveni loses (lost) the February, 2016
    election. The “sub-wish” in this was that, it would then present a platform for Besigye’s failure as President. Mwenda has stated that he would relish a moment when Dr. Besigye will come face to face with the nature of democratic politics in a poor country. Mwenda’s second wish is, that President Museveni does not stand as president for the sixth term (2021). The
    “sub-wish” in this is, to deny Dr.Besigye a chance of ever becoming a president. In summary, if Museveni and Besigye ever drowned and Mwenda was sent on a rescue mission, if to rescue Museveni meant rescuing Besigye, he would let the two drown. With such euphonious wishes, Mwenda reckons that between Museveni and Besigye – Uganda is torn between the Devil and a Deep-Blue- sea. It is thus clear, that as Mwenda has “aged”
    into Uganda’s politics, so have his ideas been fatally etiolated with the strong winds of Tooro. His arguments are inconsistent and fall short on the notion of altruism. Mwenda has argued before (see: The Dynamics of Uganda’s elections (May 10, 2015)) that in his many conversations with aspiring candidates, they would indicate that they shared the views of FDC. But that since elective politics had been monetised, it was risky business running on
    FDC ticket. If this analysis bore a logical direction, then why would Dr. Besigye have to bribe FDC minded MPs? (Mwenda’s argument would be better served, if he explained as to why President Museveni has to fork out Shs 5m to “NRM MPs” on every contentious issue?) The grounds on which Mr. Mwenda wants to crucify the Presidency of Dr. Kiiza Besigye are not politically or scientifically attainable. It so seems that over the years, Mwenda has culminated a pessimistic view towards Uganda’s politics. He has built a zero sum ideology
    around Museveni’s politics. That what has failed Museveni- then, no one can put
    right. Quite absurd. Prior to 1986, Uganda had undergone seven different regimes.
    Apart from that of Godfrey Binaisa and Paul Muwanga all other governments had
    been changed-over through d’états including an external one; by Mwalimu Nyerere. I want to imagine for a moment that, had there existed another journalist (during the Obote II regime) of Mwenda’s ilk trying to make a case for the insecurity at the time (as Mwenda is doing for corruption now) and making it the standard-gauge on which future governments were to operate. How wrong would that journalist/writer be, considering that for the last 30yrs and still counting, Uganda has been governed as a secured state? I can imagine this writer stating that since the Langis wanted a Langi as president and the Acholis wanted an Acholi and the Baganda wanted a Muganda, then in order for Uganda to be secure, it needed every region to have its own president! Making the case for the 1980- 85 insecurity inevitable. I want to imagine that Mr. Mwenda is very satisfied with what he has achieved so far, both materially and otherwise but let him look around himself and he will find that there are very many hungry mouths staring at him. In anatomical science, it is proved that one testicle is always bigger than the other, yet they both lie in the same scrotum. What of two different men?

    • Kigongo Ssentongo

      What are you blubbering about?

      • Kigongo, I do understand that some matters could prove to be a little heady for you to comprehend. That shouldn’t be your problem. Some people lack the necessary designs to carry out certain tasks. For instance, just imagine someone trying to take a “selfie” using a Nokia 107 series, it would take a more sophisticated smart phone than that. Better still, imagine a fishmonger in possession of a smart-phone and accidentally finds himself on these pages, what contribution(s) would you expect of him? I will do the honours and take you through what is expected of a reader on these pages. A reader is supposed to read, comprehend and thereof make inference (a thought.)
        In case, you find part of the historical evidence is meaningless or it does not meet the intended purpose, please make your case known by stating the “exact problem.”For now, that’s how far I can respond. If you still find a problem with me, I advise that you take a cross-examination of your mental software.

        • charles Businge

          In all sincerity I am struggling to understand the essence of Mr. Mwenda’s article if not to sow seeds of fear for change as if Ugandans cannot aspire for better. I think we need to take the discussion beyond Museveni and Besigye. We need to be looking beyond Museveni as individuals cannot live in perpetuity. This is not an issue of sarcasm. Creating an impression that the future is worse without the current leadership in my view is misdirecting attention away from the accountability responsibilities of our leaders. If all Ugandans held the same thinking some more than three decades ago perhaps Museveni would not have been president today. Mr. Mwenda, you are killing any sense of optimism in Ugandans by your assertion that the problems (poverty, mass unemployment, corruption, police brutality etc) Uganda is facing are there to stay irrespective of who is in leadership but at the same time giving Rwanda’s post genocide as an exception and not telling us why it is or should be an exception. Where is the accountability of our governance systems then? Should Ugandans have something to aspire for in life? in your view what would that be?

          • Mwine Rwakitetera

            See my comment. This is one of the most excellently executed Museveni 2021 campaign ad you will ever find. Great stuff Mwenda. I swear If I were M7, I would pay you at least 100k USD for this piece.

          • basanga lawrence

            absolute stupidity from Andrew you have belittled your self due to money ,you have no morals now ,your paper is to rpomote dictatorship in uganda have you lost sense of reasoning ,is your PHD making you more dull than before man grow up,your articles are so annoying cann’t you think beyond m7 shame on you Andrew you have lost respect in uganda due to your greed for money it has made you insane please think ,think and think.

  2. Mwine Rwakitetera

    Excellent campaign ad for Museveni 2021. Mwenda, sometimes I discount your intelligence, but as it turns out, you are actually quite smart, not consistently though.

  3. Well thought out article, that’s the way to go for Ugandan Journalism

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *