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Stop hiding your head in sand; address succession!

Ramathan Ggoobi

Stop hiding your head in sand; address succession!

What Besigye said in the media is exactly what the public is whispering about in bars and other informal gatherings, only that it lacks Besigye’s courage to say it overtly!      

Mr. President, I read your long letter entitled, “Clarification of Besigye’s lies” that you wrote on Tarehe Sita day and published in print media. It was an interesting piece to read for those who are either novices in this country or unsophisticated enough to read between lines. But to those, and you are always a lucky man this category has very few people, who are sophisticated enough to decode messages, your article further scared the hell out of us.

In your introductory remarks you write, I have now decided to write something because the Sunday Monitor of the 3rd of February, 2013, published an interview by Dr. Besigye.

A sophisticated bystander would want to ask a very simple question, “What is going on here?” At one time the President does not want to comment on media reports because they are full of lies intended to divert public attention from their core interests”. But at another occasion he decides to write to “clarify Besigye’s lies”. The bystander may deduce that either the President is the one who is actually telling lies about “media lies” or the content of “Besigye’s lies” is actually nothing but the truth. Otherwise, why does he choose to respond to lies this time?

You’re creating uncertainty
Mr. President, I usually remind you of Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom, thus, “You can fool some of the people all the time or all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Time has come for you to stop hiding your head in the sand and address the succession question. “The circus that is going on in the newspapers” is generated by the uncertainty and frustration due to your failure to give Ugandans assurance that this country will for the first time change a president without bloodshed. We need to know when you will pass on the baton to another president peacefully.    

Like I always tell you, Ugandans love you so much. You have dedicated a greater part of your life struggling to better the lives of a people that had nearly been wasted away by bad leadership. But as time goes on, questions have started to point in the direction of uncertainty.

Everything good that you have achieved in the last 27 years seems to be getting messed up; everything bad seems to be getting worse. You seem to have lost your historic asset — the ability to set the agenda and get your team in charge of the affairs. It has become a one man’s show. And although you seem to enjoy it that way, often telling us how you have failed to identify any serious Ugandan, visionary enough to take over from you, you need realize that you are mortal.

We spend sleepless nights thinking what would befall our country in the event we woke up one day (God forbid!) and you were no more. Selfish people do not want to think about these realities but they are just that — realities! Mr. President, have you ever taken time to think about our country’s fate should the unlikely tragedy befall us like it did among your friends — Malawi’s Bingu-wa-Mutharika, Ghana’s John Atta Mills, and Ethiopia’s Meles Zenawi?

In Malawi, chaos nearly broke out when Mutharika died in power and his family (his brother Peter Mutharika) attempted to grab power. We came to learn that had it not been for the patriotism and professionalism of the Malawian military, the country was headed for unprecedented violence thanks to the late Muthalika’s egocentricity. Like you he had failed to address the succession question in Malawi, preferring to play similar games by grooming his brother and wife to take over, against the Constitution of Malawi.

On succession you stammer. Why?

Mr. President, I don’t know whether you have taken trouble to analyse events across Africa lately. Trouble has been brewing mainly in countries where presidents attempted to build dynasties by maneuvering to pass power over to their family members. This is what happened to Egypt’s Mubarak, to Libya’s Gadaffi, and to Mutharika among others.

It goes without saying that it is a frustrating gambit on those you govern with when you disregard their feelings, and attempt to impose on them members of your family to take over as if the country is your personal farm or kingdom. It is really a sign of being insensitive and uncharitable.

What Besigye said in the media about your son, Brig. Muhoozi, is exactly what the public is whispering about in bars and other informal gatherings on a daily basis, only that it lacks Besigye’s courage to say it overtly!      

The reason people “bring issues totally out of context” to the extent of “duping” Presidential advisers is one: you have failed to give them predictability by addressing the succession question. People want to get an idea, however far-flung it may be, who will take over from you and when? You are often a clear communicator but whenever you are engaged in this debate you tend stammer! Why?

This wouldn’t be so distressing had it not been for the fact that as you keep us in the dark about your retirement, you continue to make questionable maneuvers similar to those of Mubarak, Gadaffi, and Mutharika. The rate at which Brig. Muhoozi has moved up the ranks is quite suspicious.

In September, 2011, just a year and a half ago, your son, then a Lt. Col., while reacting to Wikileaks reports that you were preparing him to take over from you, said “If by grooming certain people mean that because Museveni is my father and given his excellent credentials with the Uganda electorate (fighting for liberation of this country) that I would be a popular candidate, that cannot be helped.”

Economy is collapsing
I wrote in these pages that although Brig. Muhoozi has every right, like any other Ugandan, to compete for any office in this country, no one wants to be lectured to along the line he took. It is simply insensitive and disgusting especially to some people. I mean those men and women who 32 years ago joined you to fight self-serving leadership, insensitivity, and arrogance.  

The other day Gen. Ssejjusa formerly known as Tinyefuza penned another open letter tackling similar questions. He was writing for the second time in four months! We don’t know when you will respond to his “lies” as well. We also hear stories that you recently fell out with the last among your long time friends and allies, Premier Amama Mbabazi. Hardly a year ago you were hyping him as a steadfast, loyal, and visionary cadre. What happened so fast? In our informal meetings word has it that the reason you fell out with Mbabazi is because he had started to show ambition to take over from you, yet you still want to carry on beyond 2016, after which you intend to pass the baton to a family member!

General Douglas MacArthur, former Chief of Staff of the United States Army during World War II, once said when asked by media why his troops were retreating from the enemy, “We are not retreating — we are advancing in another direction.” I know being a Ssabalwanyi makes you very unwilling to back off from your earlier plans. I think MacArthur’s wisdom becomes handy here. Otherwise political uncertainty has started to create economic uncertainty.

Like you showed in your response to Besigye, the economy has made tremendous strides in the last 27 years but lately it has started to show signs of collapse under the weight of fiscal indiscipline, runaway inflation, a weakening shilling, massive corruption, and politically inspired violence. Most of these have their origin in your failure to provide a predictable future. It’s never too late, nevertheless.

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Ramathan Ggoobi

Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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