Andrew Mwenda On The Age Limit Debate

The debate on lifting age limits is very depressing. This battle was lost long ago when the opposition adopted a strategy of a single minded attempt at winning the presidency at the price of ignoring the necessity of increasing their numbers in parliament.

Now this strategy has led inevitably to NRM domination of parliament, the body with powers to amend the constitution. Today NRM controls 82% of parliament, giving it unrestrained power to rule as it wishes.

Laws and constitutions are functions of politics. To work, constitutional provisions must reflect political reality – the balance of power between the different contending forces in society. Right now power in Uganda is heavily tilted in favor of Museveni and his confederates. They have not only power of the security forces but also power of parliament.

Constitutions are not respected because leaders are good and noble men. They are respected when they reflect the social dynamics of society; when leaders know attempts to change them will not succeed and/or can cause them serious trouble. So this is really not about M7’s greed but about political reality.

Besides, power cannot restrain itself. It needs an external check. The opposition have been obsessed with power and not democracy (checks and balances). If they were committed to democracy they would have realized that what Uganda needed was a strong opposition in parliament not a Besigye in state house.

Having lost the war because of their greed for power, opposition activists are now involved in a lot of sentimental hogwash, appealing to NRM MPs to stop their party president from ruling for life. Only a fool can depend on the reasonableness of his enemy/opponent to win a battle leave alone a war.

Furthermore opposition activists although subjectively the bitterest enemies of M7’s life presidency, they are objectively his greatest allies. To convince themselves that they can influence events they have retreated to using insults and intimidation on social media. Their threats and insults are certainly terrible for their victims but intolerable to most Ugandans. So their campaign is going to alienate many people.

There is widespread M7 fatigue in Uganda; 73% of Ugandans don’t want age limits removed, including many supporters and admirers of M7. But since Museveni has parliament under his grip, removing age limit will be easy. However winning 2021 is going to be tough.

Therefore the best anti age limit strategy is the 2021 presidential election. It will be extremely hard for Museveni to win in 2021, whether he tries to rig or not. In fact my study of presidential elections since 2001 proves beyond any doubt that M7’s ability to rig has been shrinking and he cannot rely on it to salvage him in case people turn against him. Kyadondo East has just demonstrated this.

M7’s only hope is that the intolerance of the radical extremists of the opposition alienate many Ugandans leading to low voter turnout. I can predict that as day follows night, radical extremists in the opposition will make Museveni’s dream come true.

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