By Norbert Mao
As the news broke that Museveni had assented to the Age Limit Bill, one social media posting caught my attention. It was from Perez Ahabwe former Rubanda East MP. He offered a word of caution to the MPs who were jubilating in the wake of the passage of the infamous bill. He recounted his own experience. Readers will recall that in 2005 Ahabwe was Jacob Oulanyah’s deputy chairman on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
Ahabwe and his boss had different experiences after their central role in removing presidential term limits from the constitution. Ahabwe was celebrated in his constituency for facilitating the continued hegemony of the Ankole-Kigezi axis over Uganda, and rewarded with a second term. In addition, in 2009 he was elevated to the position of State Minister for Local Government. Unfortunately, two years later he was dropped like a hot potato. He even lost his parliamentary seat in the 2011 elections. All he could do was retreat to Makerere as a lecturer and also work on his PhD.
Ahabwe embraced his ministerial job with gusto. He became a rabid attack dog against Museveni’s critics. In a 2009 a newspaper reported that while addressing local officials in Kasese said “MPs from northern Uganda who critisise the government are simply jealous because they lost power they enjoyed during former President Milton Obote’s regime. He singled out Obote’s son, Jimmy Akena (MP Lira Municipality) and Okello Okello (MP Chua) among the pack of dissenting legislators who do not appreciate anything good the government has done.”
Ahabwe’s boss Oulanyah however did not fare very well. Having presided over the committee that paved way for Museveni to actualize his despotic ambitions, he lost his parliamentary seat. He was seen as a pariah for supporting the abolition of term limits. Despite contesting on the UPC ticket, he was dropped by the furious electorate. He only revived his politics by latching onto Museveni eventually rising to the position of Deputy Speaker of Parliament.
Ahabwe is thus sharing his bitter experience. When he was still useful to Museveni he seemed unstoppable. He basked in the afterglow of the lifting of term limits. Emboldened, he even became the chief author of the minority report that exonerated former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and saved him from censure in the Temangalo land saga. At that time Ahabwe said that those who wanted to censure Mbabazi censured were not anti-corruption crusaders but were rather targeting Mbabazi in order to eliminate him from the post Museveni succession queue.
That is how Ahabwe ate big. Others who ate big because of saving Amama Mbabazi’s skin were Asuman Kiyingi, as state minister for Lands, Mr James Kakooza as state minister for Health in charge of Primary Health Care while Jessica Alupo became state minister in charge of Children Affairs. Not everybody however survived. Finance Minister Dr Suruma, was fired and demoted to Senior Presidential Advisor. His crime was that he subjected NSSF boss David Jamwa to a lot of pressure to approve the Temangalo deal very quickly.
Ahabwe’s fate is not unique. Museveni has once described himself as a sieve (kikamulo) which squeezes everything useful out and discards what is useless. He has no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, only permanent interests. What then prevents new entrants from learning from the frustrations of discarded colleagues? The answer lies in the heady elation newly elevated adherents experience that lures those watching from outside. In other words, the Icarus Syndrome. Icarus was the son of Daedalus. They were imprisoned on the island of Crete. Daedalus, an engineer, used wax to fasten together wings of large birds. These he attached to their arms in order that they fly to freedom. He however warned his son not to get excited and fly too high lest the wax melts and the wings fall apart. His warning went unheeded and Icarus crashed into the sea.