My musings reflect on how ironic it is that a nation that prides itself on being a beacon of democracy and liberty is now seemingly falling short. Under the leadership of this administration. Protests have become common place. From Hollywood icons openly denouncing him at award ceremonies to athletes in the NFL taking a knee; citizens are boldly using their respective platforms to express their unhappiness and frustration at their President.
It would appear that the liberties the Americans face as a free world are restricted in the face of restructuring and rebuffs by their leader. Causing division and breeding contempt.
Our leader here in the Pearl of Africa doesn’t quite inspire the same level of contempt from his people. By contrast they seem worlds apart, in terms of both tact and empathy. I am thankful for this.
Reflecting on the last 31 years of President Museveni’s reign in Uganda, one has to admire how far the country has come under his stewardship. However, since 2006, the climate and narrative concerning our President among Ugandan citizens is indeed changing.
The week beginning 25 September 2017 saw Uganda trust into the global limelight. The limelight sadly not one of pride as opposition MPs openly brawled in parliament over plans to scrap the Presidential age limit. Uganda’s constitution determines the age range for presidents at 35 to 75 years. Scrapping the age limit would allow current President Yoweri Museveni the opportunity to stand for election once again in 2021. Making him eligible to run again even past the age of 75.
Our President was viewed as one of the African leaders who would help in leading the continent towards the African Renaissance. The African Renaissance is the concept that African people and nations shall overcome the current challenges affecting the continent, with a view to attaining cultural, scientific, and economic rebirth. For a healthy and prosperous Africa for its people.
This concept was first voiced by Cheikh Anta Diop (Towards the African Renaissance: Essays in Culture and Development, 1946-1960). Following the first democratic election in the post-apartheid South Africa, then Vice president Thabo Mbeki spoke of Africans taking charge of their lives. To be the masters of their own destiny. One aspect of being in control of one’s life, especially when living in a democracy is the freedom to vote and choose one’s leader.
While as a Ugandan I was shocked and embarrassed as I watched the session in parliament descend into chaos, I thought about this word “Liberty”. The same word that is in shocking contrast to the situation in America as well. It is defined as “the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views”. The growing sentiment among Ugandans is that should the bill be passed, it will be a flagrant disregard of their liberty.
Incidents like the fight in the Ugandan Parliament have provoked varying reactions. Though I condemn the violent actions of the opposition, I applaud the courage and willingness to speak out against changes being made to the constitution which they feel seems to favor one individual.
With the bulk of our taxes going on administration; unemployment continues to rise, and the economy continues to collapse. Surely presidential age limits shouldn’t really be the priority, should it? Granted constitutions are subject to change and amendment of course but at what price? The sectors meant to support the growth of the economy are not supported well and after 31 years….are we sure that we want more of the same? If so, what guarantees are there that the progress we ask for will be delivered?
Africa’s failure to achieve the renaissance can be blamed on a wide array of issues. Sadly, some of the leaders who were to help us attain this vision have forgotten the reasons why they sought office in the first place.
We must move away from selfish leadership only thinking of the here and now. Removing the presidential age limit in Uganda may make some happy but is it logical for the Uganda we want? In identifying selfish leadership, we must endeavour to instil the right attributes in our citizens. Political parties must be organized in such a way that they embody these values, and by doing so, shall have the faith of the people. Only then can we bring about the renaissance that we on this great continent so desire.
Written by: Baingana Sabiti, Uganda