Following the heavily disputed elections of February 18, 2016, different players set in motion a process aimed at bringing, especially President Museveni and Dr Kizza Besigye, the two foremost political protagonists of the past two decades, to the negotiating table.
Dr Besigye insists that he won the last election, and he actually claims that he also won previous ones, and has only not taken power because of vote rigging. President Museveni, on the other hand, insists that he enjoys the support of the majority of Ugandans and he has been winning cleanly.
When Dr Besigye went to court to challenge the election results in 2001 and again in 20016, the verdict was in President Museveni’s favour on both occasions, but the Supreme Court was unanimous on both occasions that there had been irregularities in the processes, and that a number of reforms needed to be made to the electoral system.
After the 2011 elections, a group of scholars from Makerere University and elsewhere embarked on a study in selected areas in the country and returned with the conclusion that Ugandans believe that President Museveni cannot be defeated in an election. In addition to this, successive surveys by Afrobarometer and other firms show that most Ugandans don’t consider Uganda’s election free and fair.
Furthermore, in the run-up to last year’s election, a group of civil society organisations came together to demand for what they called electoral reforms, and the process culminated in a conference in Kampala during which they adopted what they called a Citizens’ Compact on Electoral and Other Reforms.
What all this seems to show is that very many people feel that there is need for reforming the political system.
And, in our opinion, this is a legitimate subject for all concerned to pursue.
Religious leaders and a group of elder statesmen and women under the umbrella of the “Elders’ Forum”, among different other people and organisations, have been trying to broker talks between and among the key players to resolve the impasse in the country.
Introducing a Bill that seeks to remove the presidential age limit under these circumstances, therefore, seems to have had the effect of throwing the subject of dialogue through the window, therefore, and returned the spotlight to President Museveni, whose opponents accuse him of trying to rule for life.
As the discussion of the presidential age limit ensues, therefore, it is important that the concerned players take this into account.