Of late I have picked interest in reading local literature, especially books on Uganda’s Political and Constitutional History. ‘Impassioned for Freedom’ written in 2006 by Eria Kategaya (RIP) is one such book. I can’t help but share some troubling yet eye opening excerpts written by the Number 2 of the NRA revolution.
When you read this book, you realise that we have been where we are today, thereby justifying Winston Churchill’s quote “The further back you look, the further ahead you will see.” Those who are involved in the debate on removing the presidential age-limit will do themselves a big favor reading this man’s thoughts on why he opposed the removal of term limits.
You will find that they are even more relevant today! I really wish fellow Ugandans pick the same interest in our history as they have in our music and sports.
We would find solutions! Reading history also helps us to understand why the previous approaches failed, and causes us to think about new strategies and probably try a new style of leadership.
“The first time this matter of lifting term limits of the President was put to me was in Kyankwanzi in 2002 when the RDCs had a retreat there. …..My straight answer was that it was unthinkable because:
(a) In the 2001 Presidential elections, we had told the country that this was the last and final term of President Museveni. It is in his manifesto on page 11. My answer was how are we going to turn around and to ‘eat’ our own words before the people?
(b) In my naïve thinking, I believed that President Museveni will live up to the stature of a statesman and be the first President of Uganda to retire as per the Constitution and thereby set a constitutional precedent. I still strongly believe that this should be done for the sake of the future stability of this country. I have spent most of my youth running up and down and even went into exile because of bad politics and I don’t wish my children to experience the same problems.
(c) I have observed that the longer one stays in power, the more one is insulated from reality. The trappings of state apparatus tend to make one live an unrealistic existence. There is need for retirement and let fresh blood be infused into the system.
The necessity to retire is even more so in our situation where state institutions are not firmly functional and decisions are taken on almost a personal basis.” …..“The future of our constitutionalism and democracy is bright provided that those who are in position to provide leadership have the conviction and courage to do so. The overall picture is favorable to the forces of democracy and constitutionalism.
In the course of the struggle, those who have everything to lose by democracy and constitutionalism are expected to put up resistance. These forces may appear fearsome but history is replete with such cases and they never win in the end. What we should fear is fear itself. All we have to do is to be sincere to ourselves and our people, and be consistent in deeds and words.”
“……Since 1962, Uganda is the only country in the region which has never had a president leaving via the Constitution. In 1966, 1971, and 1979 Mutesa, Obote and Amin were overthrown respectively.
Lule and Binaisa were toppled in 1979 and 1980, respectively. In 1985, Obote was overthrown again. Okello was toppled in 1986. Since then the Movement government has done so well in many things.
It should set a precedent of having the first President to retire honorably. …..it is not clear whether President Museveni wants the third term or not.
Because of the vagueness, people are beginning to suspect his motives. I don’t want to see my colleague, with whom I have worked for so long, being suspected by the people.” “…..I don’t want to see my long-standing colleague involved in manipulation for this will create cynicism in the people. …..The President should refocus the debate from the third term. And by this I don’t mean just saying ‘shut up’. He should clearly say that there is no need to change the Constitution or lift the two-term limit for the presidency.” “Do you see a worthy successor to Museveni?”
“To put that question is to belittle the people of Uganda. Where did Museveni come from? He came from the people of Uganda. I am sure the people of Uganda can produce another Museveni. We are not ‘mugumba’ or ‘engumba’ as in some of our local languages. Is Museveni, God forbid, going to live forever? The sooner people get out of this mindset the better.
The lifespan of any man is shorter than that of a country. If the Movement cannot produce another leader then we have failed. That is what killed the old parties. I first heard of Obote as leader of U.P.C. in 1961 when I was in Senior One. Now I am a minister, and old minister at that, and he is as the helm of U.P.C. The Movement should avoid that feudal mentality of treating someone like a king, otherwise we are not democrats. We have seen what killed those parties. Why do we study history? To avoid mistakes of the past, and chart a better future! But these days, some people talk as if Uganda or Africa has no history. Parties collapsed due to lack of internal democratic debate. They degenerated into people praising a leader, saying things they don’t believe but they know what the leader wants to hear. They sing the leader out of power.” Pages 121-128.
OK,now am I high on something or is Eria Kategaya resurrecting through this little book.
Rest In Peace RO02, thank you for leaving behind such a book to inspire the next generation.