FARUK KIRUNDA: Uganda’s political transition is secure

I admire and respect the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr. Nobert Mao, whom I first knew as a firebrand Guild President at Makerere Univerty and later Member of Parliament for Gulu Municipality, LC 5 Chairman and DP President General. Joining Cabinet as a Minister despite being a DP leader speaks of his willingness to mend fences for the sake of peaceful co-existence and harnessing President Yoweri Museveni’s policy of working with all regardless of political and other differences.

Minister Mao’s DP is a key player in Inter-Party Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD), a body uniting political parties with representation in Parliament, boycotted by some other parties powered by radical isolationism. His advocacy for a transition can be understood from his “outsider” background but he is now best placed to work from within to cause the change he pushes.

However, I belong in the category of those who believe that there is no controversy around transition, and duly conclude that there is no need to lose sleep over it. Our Constitution provides for transitional procedures which align well with the democratic dispensation we enjoy.

Most times when someone talks of about transition-or succession-the focus is on the Presidency. Reason being that Uganda has had President Museveni in power since 1986. To me, every five years there is a transition, except that the same person is reelected President. Each successive term of the President is unique from the preceding one since the mandate is different. Besides, every five years, we have a new cabinet, a new Parliament, new Local Councils and so on. This is constructive transition!

About transition at Presidential level, if an incumbent loses elections, the winning candidate takes over, simple! All one needs is a 50% plus 1 (one) to win. If there has been no transition (at all), the challenge is on opponents of President Museveni for failing to defeat him. It’s not his challenge. Every leader seeks to maintain advantage over competitors. That’s the nature of politics. Ugandans reserve the power to cause a power shift and the legal regime provides for that.

There is no need to panic or be anxious for change; it cannot be forced. It’s okay to talk about it but sometimes such discussions divert us from things that should really interest us.

We should work more for “economic transition” than discussing political transition which is guaranteed under the Constitution. Ugandans are grappling with great need to take the next step economically while Government is all out to devise methods to enable the people join the money economy. Economic transformation is the main challenge of our times which we should address with all out might, mind and will. Things of “who comes next in the political queue” do not put money in anyone’s pocket or bring food on any one’s table. Instead, they mislead Uganda’s to think that a new Government would put free money in their pockets or put food on their table as if by magic.

Transition and succession talk gives confidence and relevance to the President’s opponents but nobody knows who may win the next general elections. There could be surprises, including people that currently have less say in politics. Those obsessed with the two ideas may feel a sense of entitlement to benefit from the transition directly, looking at positions and roles, but that is not in the interest of the Ugandan that needs support to grow his or her agricultural enterprise or small shop. Let’s prioritise economic transformation and service delivery. The politics will sort itself within the democratic allowance in place.

We can discuss the process and how to improve it but transition as a subject matter is, in my view, redundant and over pressed. The transition fanatics have a chance to mobilise for the change they want, that’s opponents of the President have always come up to challenge him, because they are aware that the transitional infrastructure is in place, expect that they fall short on defeating the incumbent.

President Museveni has created a platform for people to grow their potential unlike in the past when potential successors were eliminated. If anybody is meant to be the one to take over, he or she will not fail to find a foothold. If there is anyone to thank for the “transitional space” in place, it is President Museveni, as opposed to being a stumbling block to the same.

Or maybe they want him to hand power to another person who is not elected by Ugandans, just for the formality of seeing power change hands. The President has never said he cannot hand over to someone else if defeated or if he chooses not to contest elections again, but who is that person for whom a red carpet must be laid when it cost blood and sweat to put us back on course?

Our Constitution does not leave room for speculation and at the appointed time, there will be a transition on all fronts as and when Ugandans are satisfied with the conditions and contenders in place.

For now, can “alternative leaders” justify themselves by promoting Government’s transformation programmes and fighting corruption, crime; promoting unity and harmonious co-existence, etc? The question that should attract our attention is: “Transition to do what?” Transition for the sake of it did not help Uganda at its hour of greatest need in the late 1970s and early 1980s. We had leaders lasting only months, what did that benefit us? On the contrary, we were greatly distablised until a stable Government took over, steering us through turbulent seas until now when we have regular free and fair elections. Let’s consolidate that without losing sight of the most pressing objectives and needs of the people-they need jobs, they need capital, they need industries to add value to their produce and earn higher profits, they need better health care, roads, schools and so on.

I wish to allay the fears of all Ugandans than the question of transition is already answered within our Constitutional framework as well as in our democratic practice. Let’s play our part within the democratic calendar in place!

The author is the Deputy Presidential Press Secretary 

Contact: kirundaf2@gmail.com