Uganda’s long term President, Yoweri Musuveni, has told opposition leaders that he’s not going anywhere and they should put aside any dream they might have that he will hand over power anytime soon. On the one hand this is simply what any politician in power will say. On the other, well, he’s been there more than three decades already and, well, when? What might slightly worry is Musuveni’s statement of why he went into politics and what he needs to achieve before he leaves. That being one of those things rather beyond the power of man to make happen.
The basic point he makes, that he’s not leaving soon:
Uganda President Museveni has told opposition parties that he is not about to leave power and they should stop thinking of a transition. He spoke during an inter-party dialogue summit, which brought together leaders of parties represented in Parliament, in the capital Kampala. Mr Museveni, who said he enjoyed the dialogue, told his opponents that he will not think of relinquishing power until he is satisfied that the “prosperity and strategic security of Africa have been achieved”. “I hear people like Mao talking about transition, how they would like to sit in the audience and see Museveni handing over power. That is the most important thing for him. I do not think that is the most important and it is good he is saying that,” Mr Museveni said on Thursday.
Well, yes and no. Of course the duly elected President has every right to remain the duly elected President. So, of course, no point in agreeing to go before he must. The courts have recently lifted the age constraint which would have prevented him running at the next election as well. So, OK. And yet, that task he’s set himself. He’s not running nor ruling Africa, but only one small part of it, Uganda. So insisting on remaining until Africa is sorted is really a bit much, no?
However, this has much more dangerous overtones:
“We came here to get assurance that there will be no more torture of opposition politicians and that when we move out of this country, we must be proud,” he said. “Getting an assurance that there will be no more arresting and remanding people and investigations keep ongoing. Jeema came here to get assurance that occurrences of this nature will not happen again,” Mr Basalirwa said. Mr Museveni said he agreed with fellow political party leaders on the issues of torture, freedom of association as longs as they act within the law. The president said he also agreed with the opposition leaders that no arrest and detention of people should happen before thorough investigations. However, Mr Museveni added that he disagreed with his rivals on civil disobedience and promoting insecurity in the name of freedom of assembly with their supporters.
Civil liberty as long as you aren’t trying to organise to beat me in an election is one way to read that. Further, civil liberty really shouldn’t be followed with a “but”.
A reasonable and very general view is that Musuveni was a great deal better when he came to power than what had gone before. But there’s a limit to this, one that’s probably past. Quite apart from anything else we might say democracy is for the major one is to enable the passing on of power without disturbance or violence. Something that does rather require that power is passed along at the ballot box rather than the coffin.