Dear Mr Museveni, This ‘Sole Candidate’ Idea Is Bad for You [opinion]

For several months now, I have been unable to put my thoughts on paper because I believe some of my colleagues in the NRM got access to my manuscripts and began acting them out.

I, therefore, sat back like the rest of Ugandans to enjoy the drama or what many say is “Uganda’s political comedy”. The end of the drama is so predictable and nothing to write home about. You will all agree that there are moments in our lives when we just wish things could pass by without us commenting.

That is exactly how I have been feeling about the sole candidature for President Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 elections, since it started in February. In the first place, I think Museveni is too smart a politician to fall for such a prank.

With all the melodrama of dishing out brown money-loaded envelopes, youths kneeling and worshiping the ‘great leader’, and local leaders donating chairs, shields and spears and begging him to run as a sole presidential candidate, I have maintained my cool, convinced that Museveni cannot bend so low.

I know that in other African countries, such political stunts have earned leaders like former Zaire’s Mobutu Sese Seko, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Central African Republic’s Emperor Jean-Beacutedel Bokassa, political longevity but also tragic endings.

I have engaged in debates and maintained that there is no way the Museveni I know, and witnessed swearing in as president in 1986, can fall for such sycophantic gimmicks.

Museveni was a “new breed” of African leaders that offered Africa a second chance of liberation. Therefore, there is no way he can join the ranks of accomplished African dictators whose population wallowed in absolute poverty and venerated before them in fear as they amassed wealth and lived a pompous lifestyle.

The Museveni of 1986 despised all those African dictators that were bent on dying in State House. The likes of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the Equatorial Guinea dictator and Zimbabwe’s Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who has earned himself various names like “Mad Bob”, “Africa’s Tsunami” “Black Hitler”, “Satan” and many others because of his comedy and longevity in power, cannot be Museveni’s heroes now.

I do not want to imagine that the once-upon-a-time Luweero bush war hero is now being brought down to his knees as he desperately clings onto power. A drama piece by the youth MP Evelyn Anite in Kyankwanzi, begging Museveni to stand as a sole candidate in 2016, has now divided the NRM, pushing a wedge between two historical allies.

Former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and his mentor Museveni have become archrivals, dominating the tabloid cover pages for almost a year now. The NRM politics of ring-fencing political positions is a root of insecurity, creating a sense of anxiety, exclusivity and denying many Ugandans access to political opportunities.

There are a lot of risks associated with sole candidature, among which is the entrenchment of dictatorship, increased brutality and impunity by politicians. Most Ugandans with political ambition are bound to shy away from politics due to the presumed intimidation and violence to their person and families, while others will become more vicious, hence making politics a very risky business.

The values of democracy and good governance we proudly proclaimed in the 1990s are now being flushed down the drain. Instead, democracy is associated with opposition politics or civil society donor-funded projects.

Opportunistic politicians, some of whom recently shunned the national consultation conference on free and fair elections in Uganda and branded it an opposition initiative, are pretending to aocate for Museveni’s sole candidature yet in essence, they are ring-fencing their own political constituencies and stifling healthy political competition which is central to deepening democracy.

I pray, without pampering Museveni’s ego, that as the NRM prepares for the Namboole delegates’ conference on December 14, 2014, he reconsiders his stand on sole candidature. Here is my aice to the president:

Mr President, being a sole presidential candidate is not good for you, your family, friends and Uganda. It will undermine democracy and good governance and all the wonderful things you desperately fought for. Instead, it will breed dictatorship and all its vices and put you in the ranks of the lowly African leaders you abhor.

Sir, as you have always told us, the high cost of sustaining a dictatorship means higher taxes for the citizens, reduced disposable incomes, increased gender-based violence, poverty and vulnerability. Uganda is bigger than you and me: as one of your voters, I would want to live in a country with institutionalized political offices so that all Ugandans are able to compete without fear or favour.

Together with you, we need to begin looking beyond your regime. We need to focus on building a g nation with credible political parties and social-economic institutions that will in turn provide a fertile ground to breed seasoned leaders to take Uganda forward.

Your Excellency, we need an environment that encourages political organisation for all Ugandans so that they are able to constitutionally determine who governs and how they are governed.

Knowing that you are a seasoned politician, many Ugandans are anxiously waiting for you to abandon the irrational call for a sole candidature then, your name will be recorded in the books of history as Uganda’s greatest visionary leader.

The author is a human rights activist and former member of EALA.

Source : The Observer

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