President Yoweri Museveni surprised many when he declared this week that he harbors no intention of running for power after attaining the constitutional age limit of 75 years.
Museveni will be 76 in 2021 when the next election will take place which will see him relinquishing the presidential race and power.
But can the political animal in Kaguta be believed as far as his latest pledge of leaving power is concerned?
Well, for one to answer this question he or she needs to examine the political history of the president in order to hazard a guess as to whether he this time round means his word or not.
Upon landing power following his five-year guerilla war against Dr Milton Obote and the junta of Gen Tito Okello Lutwa , Museveni stated that he would rule for only four years and then return home to look after his cattle.
He stated that he wasn’t a career politician and that he had been forced to take power in order to remove ‘fascists’ who he said had been killing citizens as well as running down the economy.
But of all the famous political statements the new liberator uttered while swearing in at the stairs of parliament, one stands out to date and has indeed come back to haunt him several years later. That is the one where he attributed Africa’s problems to leaders who refuse to leave power.
Four years after, Museveni would stay on in power. Even then, Ugandans did not take offense. For one, the country was still healing from the heavy wounds that had been wrought on it by the past regimes. The citizens felt safer under the hands of the new liberators who had even proved them to be much better guys than Obote and Lutwa.
For the other, the new leaders needed more time to complete the process of writing a “people’s” constitution. See, Premier Obote had in his quest to land power abrogated the truly peoples’ constitution of 1962 that had been debated by representatives from across the country. He would substitute it with one written by his attorney general Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa in 1967.
Obote did not stop there. He went ahead and deposed the compromise independence president, Freddie Muteesa following what is historically referred to as the 1966 crisis. He accomplished this by using the force of arms, a process that culminated into destructive coups geared at restoring the rule of the people.
Obote did not help matters when he returned to power in 1980 only for his soldiers to allegedly kick start a wave of senseless killings that is estimated to have wiped out almost half of the population.
Downright political naivety would see the conquerors of Obote 11 regime led by Gen Tito Okello Lutwa doing even much worse than the government they had ousted from power.
For the fact that the country needed, and badly so, healing from the political nightmares that the citizens had gone through for many years subsequent to attaining independence. And because Museveni had promised to write a new constitution, when the new leaders asked for an extension upon the expiry of the initial four years, Ugandans gladly welcomed it.
Well, the constitution was promulgated in 1995, but still Museveni stayed around. He said needed more time to pacify the whole country and then go home to rear his cattle. Majority of Ugandans, including those from the opposition whom he had co-opted into his government, found no problem with this. After all, insecurity lingered on.
But over time and after critically studying Museveni, discovering that he wasn’t interested in giving up power, they started pushing the new leader to go home or to compete with them in an election.
After protracted hesitations and seeing that he had consolidated enough power, Museveni yielded to calls and organized the first general election in 1996. He defeated his main rival, Dr Paulo Kawanga Ssemogerere.
He did not go home in 2001. He simply threw off his military gear and embraced the kanzu, going on to return to power under the cover of a “civilian leader.”
He would return yet again in 2006 under the slogan of professionalizing the army as well as grooming a capable successor. He said he would go home in 2011 after handing the ‘tamed army’ to his civilian successor.
Ugandans believed Museveni. They did not want the liberator to leave behind a roguish army such as those from the past. They were also eager to witness the first orderly handover of power since time immemorial. So they handed him another term.
He did not go in 2011 even when the ‘truly people’s’ constitution allowed him only two terms to be in power. On the contrary, Museveni spoke to the party organs to declare him the sole candidate, a move that was seen as a plot to lock out his challenger, John Patrick Amama Mbabazi.
A few months into winning the 2016 election, we are witnessing yet again actions indicating that Museveni is coming back in 2021. But only two for lack of space, will suffice. On a visit to Germany in April this year, the president told a news outlet there that the issue of age limit is a simple one and that it would be” sorted out by Ugandans.”
Just recently, the president was too happy to receive a petition from MPs from Kyankwanzi asking him to run again in 2021. He would later host the MPs at State House where they spoke at length about the issue and promised to discuss it further within the NRM party organs.
The president did all these in spite of the fact that the constitution bars him from standing in 2021 since he would be beyond the requisite age.
With the above exposition, it would be hard for people who have seen Museveni for a long time to believe what he told the TV station this week. It would be up to the man to prove his critics wrong.