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Who is the best choice to succeed Yoweri Museveni?

Who is the best choice to succeed Yoweri Museveni?

The charade of this week’s so-called election, whose official result we already know, should not distract us from one obvious reality. At 77, Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni will soon yield to biology and a need for long-deserved retirement. 


As usual, the ruling regime has employed violence, death, arrests and other forms of harassment against legitimate opponents. Silencing the opposition has been the central drive in the motions of make-believe democratization.


To the extent that the ruler’s armed operatives have hobbled the efforts of his opponents, the regime has been very successful in implementing their mockery of democracy. That is one reason why I stated months ago that this sham exercise is not an election but a selection, one in which I find it impossible to mobilise the tiniest flicker of interest. 


I generally do not enjoy fiction except that written by great wordsmiths like Ousmane Sembene, Chinua Achebe, Okot p’Bitek, Ngugi wa Thiongo, Godfrey Kalimugogo and Joseph Conrad. Museveni’s fiction about democracy in Uganda induces fatigue and boredom. I would rather focus on the reality that awaits us in the not too distant future.


There are some things that not even the most ruthless regimes can prevent. Among these is the intellectual incapacitation that comes to all who are blessed with longevity. The other is the bodily demise of even those with the most robust DNA, be it Madame Jean Calment of France who quit living at 122 years, or Methuselah, son of Enoch, who reportedly checked out at 969 years of age. 


In our own lifetime, we have witnessed octogenarian autocrats whose diminishing vitality has set the stage for national decline, chaos, anarchy and even blood on the streets. One thinks of Tunisia’s Habib Bourguiba, Cote D’Ivoire’s Houphet Boigny, Malawi’s Hastings Kamuzu Banda and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. 


Their death or late exit from power inflicted severe harm to their fragile countries. This is something that Museveni understood and summarized in one of the great truths that he told shortly after seizing power in 1986. “The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power,” Museveni declared.


Thirty-five years later, Museveni rules Uganda in the style of Banda, Bourguiba and Boigny, eager to stretch his stay in power by any means necessary. Do not take my word for it. Ask someone like Amama Mbabazi, the former prime minister who dared to challenge Museveni during the 2016 electoral façade. Mbabazi was subjected to harassment and arrest and his votes were redistributed in the fraudulent counting, leaving him with an official tally of 1.39 percent of the votes. 


Nothing has changed except that the stakes are even higher, given the entry of Robert “Bobi Wine” Kyagulanyi into the race.  With the fear that the Buganda vote is all but lost, and the urban youth across the land appearing to be passionately committed to Bobi Wine, the regime must up its game at the tallying point. The mother of all tallying frauds is about to be inflicted on the land. It will make the 2016 fraud look like a slightly disorganized Holy Communion.


The morning after the cooked results have been announced, Museveni will continue to run Uganda through his personality cult, evidently oblivious to the serious consequences that will follow the inescapable rendezvous with his functional expiry date.  That day is closer than we care to admit. Then what? 


The struggle for power will be brutal. The positive achievements of the Museveni years - and they have been many - will face the high risk of pulverization that we saw happen in similarly personalized states. The well chronicled negative achievements of Museveni’s rule – and they have been many – will intensify and threaten the very survival of the Ugandan experiment. 


No doubt the ruler and his courtiers, giddy with the illusion of power that is conferred by temporary control of unlimited cash and lethal weapons, will dismiss my cautionary comments as the ramblings of a fool. The faithful partisans, clad in blinding yellow, intoxicated by the latest promises of good times coming, will charge ahead towards national ruin even as they sing that Uganda cannot survive without Museveni. The irony of their claim about a man late in his eighth decade seems lost in the noise of their party songs.


Happily, the door of hope is not yet closed. Uganda has men and women with the capacity to take over from Museveni and steer the country back on track. It will not be an easy task, for ours is one of the most complicated colonial marriages that the British forced upon an assortment of chiefdoms, kingdoms and anarchical communities. The three consequential post-colonial regimes (Obote, Amin and Museveni) have driven the country into an abyss that will require a difficult retreat. 


However, this retreat will be easier if the transition of power from Museveni occurs voluntarily while he lives. That is assuming that he cares about his legacy and the fate of those he will leave behind. It will also depend on who leads the post-Museveni government.   


In my view, among the men and woman who have offered themselves as candidates for president this year, Mugisha Muntu of the Alliance for National Transformation is the best and most qualified choice. 


This is not to dismiss the potential that exists within others, such as Robert Kyagulanyi whose personal courage and mobilization skills have endeared him to me and millions of fellow Ugandans. Kyagulanyi is definitely very well-placed to pick up the baton of top leadership in the future. 


Muntu has the knowledge, skills and experience to lead and manage the government of Uganda today and serve as commander-in-chief of the army. He is a genuine and tested democrat, with the moral authority to lead the war against corruption. He has a demonstrated fidelity to meritocracy and the ability to build a coalition of leaders that reflects the real face of Uganda. 


Muntu’s belief in institutional governance, his aversion to personality cults, his preference for a humble lifestyle, his track record as army commander, legislator and party leader, and his well-articulated agenda for our country single him out as the person whose leadership Uganda needs at this critical moment.


Muntu’s character, integrity, temperament, humility and collaborative personality are indispensable qualities of a successful leader.  With the support of Ugandans who desire peaceful, transformative change, Muntu would make a great leader, not a ruler.


We know this because, so far, Muntu has never claimed credit for the achievements of organizations he has led. Instead, he has always credited the teams he has worked with, an indispensable characteristic of an effective change agent. 


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