OPINION: What is there to reward President Museveni with the ‘No-Age Limit’ Constitutional amendment?

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Lawmakers brawl in parliament over presidential age limit
FILE PHOTO: Lawmakers brawl in parliament over presidential age limit

Last week, I started on the exploration of the NRM 10 point program that must have raised the momentum for supporting the NRA war which saw the current president come to power in January 1986. Today, I continue with the last part of the 10 point program showcasing how its advocates have strayed from their earlier intentions.

Restoration and improvement of Social Services and the rehabilitation of the war ravaged areas: The group suggested that the situation of social services in Uganda and Africa in general was appalling, and cited the lack of “clean water, hygienic housing, literacy, adequate level of calorie or protein intake, doctors available to treat people etc,” as some of the areas that stood out. They suggested that their policy would be to ensure, within their means that, essential social services are provided for everybody especially because many of these possibilities were “actually within our present means if the country could manage to get the right type of leadership.”

My opinion: The provision of social services to the nationals has been the very first failure for the president’s leadership. Healthcare services today are afforded by just a few, and majority of Ugandans remain with Mulago Hospital and other government affiliated health institutions that are characterized by inadequate services. Whereas the service provision is not what one would consider ideal for a sick person seeking medical attention, other essentials like access to medication or affordable care (financially) are impossible. People have to part with monies to access medical personnel with many who cannot afford that spending days unattended to.

In rural areas, many continue to rely on herbal and other provisional means because they seem to trust that those either work better or are the only alternatives that would not require the money that they may not in reality have.

 Elimination of corruption and misuse of power: They accused Africa for being a continent that was “never in shortage of problems, has also the problem of corruption – particularly bribery and misuse of office to serve personal interests.” They also explained that, corruption was a problem that channeled structural distortions which then neutralized any disease-elimination programs since the medical staff invariably ensured that government drugs (medication) were diverted for private sale. They therefore declared that, “to enable the tackling of our backwardness, corruption must be eliminated once and for all.”

My opinion: I hope that all those familiar with the way government health centers operate agree that this standard is still as prevalent as it used to be. Whereas there are more healthcare centers than used to be, the quality of service and affordability for healthcare services are areas of concern. People with significant health complications have to either be flown out of the country or let go and watch the sickness eat them up till their death moments. All these are happening while countries like Kenya which have enjoyed a relatively “peaceful” period and other like Rwanda which went through a devastating genocide in the early 90s are doing so well. Uganda’s other two neighbors, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan are themselves still struggling with internal conflicts hence the reason I have not utilized them as comparison points.

In Uganda today, the issue of corruption itself is seemingly a norm that is presently fully recognizable to both the giver and receiver. It has become a common custom that even when one is not asked to offer pay for even the would-be free service, they willingly offer because it is common knowledge that timely services may not be offered without a financial incentive.

Redressing errors that have resulted into the dislocation of sections of the population and improvement of others: Three groups were utilized as measures to explain this point; a) people that had been displaced from their lands by illegal land-grabbers of erroneously conceived development projects; b) the long suffering Karamajong people c) the salaried people that had been impoverished by the inflation of the 70s and 80s. This point highlighted the factors relating to landlessness, land misuse leading to food insufficiency. The group stated that their immediate concern was the tens of thousands of people – or possible hundreds of thousands – that had been displaced by ill-thought out development projects or sheer illegal land-grabbing by businessmen or state officials using corruption.

My opinion: Whereas the outcomes of this notion are seemingly scanty if at all any exists, the same challenges seem to underline some of the major issues causing restlessness among the people. While some may argue that the dynamics relating to the population size of 18 million people at the time, and the current almost 40 million people makes this problem harder to tackle, I would agree that it is true. However, the current land law reforms call for scrutiny over the agenda of the current administration. Let’s remember that the country’s Land Act is as recent as 1998. What significant changes have occurred since that warrant the need for land reforms at this time? Is it due to the recent unprecedented discoveries of the significant amounts of natural resources like Gold, Oil, Aluminum and the others? That the reforms would make it possible for those in government (with power) access and acquire land from its owners or occupants with ease.

Let’s ask what redress has been done to Luwero for instance, which was ravaged by the NRA/M war while the same leadership that enjoyed their unwavering support are still the “guys” in charge. Does this mean the instigators of the rebellion had only mastered the rhetoric and not the action, and that when it came to their turn, things have been just like before?

Co-operation with other African countries in defending human and democratic rights of our brothers in other parts of Africa: While the NRA/M intention was “not to encourage wrangles over borders but rather to highlight the irrationality behind the present entities and to re-enforce the argument for close co-operation among African states in order to defeat the balkanization and maximize advantages among themselves to be able to usefully compete with other world powers. Some of the mistakes fronted included the misuse of the East African co-operation which they said would have benefited “all of us, but for some reasons unknown to the rational minds, some East African leaders decided to destroy this market of 50 million.”

My opinion: The first lie the NRA/M ever made was to suggest their defense for human and democratic rights, as this has proved not to be a reality. Unless my understanding of these rights differs from theirs, their leadership started off with what they called a Political Movement that did not allow any political party affiliations for ten years. Since 1996 when political parties were allowed back in the field, there has been unequal display of favors by security agencies; the police and military who have, under their commanders orders undermined both democratic and human rights of all Ugandans unstoppably.

Today, journalist are imprisoned, media houses and social media platforms shut down, opposition politicians have become the number one criminals since they are rarely out of jails, and the misuse of government resource to promote the campaigns of those on the president’s side a common practice.

How mistakenly did the group assume that they would be able to promote human and democratic rights in other countries when in Congo, where conflicts still prevail, our presence became a case study for what plunder means since Uganda’s military leadership utilized the opportunity to take the natural resources they were able to get their hands on, a matter that was reported to the International Court of Justice.  For those interested in reading more about the case research on the “Armed activities on the territory of the Congo (Democratic Republic of the Congo v. Uganda).

Following an economic strategy of mixed economy: This agenda was intended to follow an economic strategy of a mixed economy; which would allow majority of the economic activities to be carried out by private entrepreneurs – Small, medium and big – with the state, however, taking part in selected fulcrum-like sectors which the state would use to guide the economy as a whole towards the desired goals. In this sense, they were considering a rejection to the laissez-faire of pure capitalism which they considered to be injurious for backward economies juxtaposed with developed capitalist economies whereby the operative law is the law of osmosis.

My Opinion: Uganda seems to have adopted a pure capitalist alternative and the citizens left to fend for themselves economically. There is no evidence to support economic guidance on the part of the government in any way possible. The likely alternative which would have been a policy initiative aimed at creating room for business growth among small business owners has also not been attempted. Today, the Ugandan businessmen will be the first to tell you of how complicated it is to be one. The over taxation of their businesses has led many to hike the prices in order to sustain the existence of their businesses. It is clear that the adopted strategy has not helped people economically progress, and those trying to frugally survive the economic slap, by improvising and selling by the roadside, have had their business are crashed by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) in the guise of development.

Whereas it is important for those renting shops to make the desired earnings with the roadside sellers away, the government has failed to rethink a strategy that caters for the many wannabe businessmen who may not be able to afford the costly venture.

While we continue to contemplate on the constitutional amendment that will scrap the age limits to a contending president, it is not an illusion to think that some older members of parliament who may be in support of the amendment, may assume that possibly this is an opportunity for them to continue holding hopes for contesting for the country’s highest office. Whereas under the realistic notion this would, in the President Museveni administration, there has been no sign of the dimness of such thought than today. This means that by no means, all those easing the way for the president to cling to power should prepare themselves to embrace their commitment to set the course of the country and be ready to face the consequences that will come with it.

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Rogers Muyanja is a Ugandan living in the United States of America. He works as the Employers Relations Developer for Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island, an organization that assists low-income adults in realizing their full potential through literacy, employment, advocacy and community involvement.