Last week President Yoweri Museveni as commander in chief of the armed forces announced a battery of promotions in the army.
Among the promotions was that of his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba who he elevated to Brigadier from his former position of Colonel.
Immediately we shared knowing glances, “Clearly he is g rooming his son to be the takeover,” we told each other as we took a sip of our beers.
Some of us even intimated that the speed of his promotion to a general was unparalleled in the armed forces – of course we forget Mugisha Muntu meteoric rise to Major General and army commander or Salim Saleh before him or Noble Mayombo’s rise to Brigadier, all achieved in less than the 12 years it’s taken Muhoozi to attain his current rank.
And the international press was sucked into the debate with the “The Africa Report” reporting that “Museveni’s son has suddenly been promoted raising speculation that he is being groomed to take over from his father…”
My thoughts on whether Museveni is grooming his son to take over or not are really irrelevant, what often has me tearing my hair out in exasperation is the way the whole succession debate rears its head.
The constitution of Uganda has a well laid out succession plan. If for whatever reason the presidency is vacant the Vice-President is next in line followed by the Speaker and the Chief Justice, but no the conspiracy theory in us rejects this formula. It is too straight forward and transparent? There must be another plan.
In fact at every turn we harangue the president to show us his successor.
“It still remains a mystery who President Yoweri Museveni wants to succeed him …. Analysts have expressed fears that Kainerugaba’s promotion was the beginning of a chaion of events that could lead to an undemocratic succession,” The Africa Report says.
To begin with in democratic societies outgoing presidents do not finger their successors that is often left to their respective parties to do.
In South Africa for instance it has been suggested that Nelson Mandela’s favoured successor was Cyril Rwamaphosa but the ANC party’s internal dynamics were such that Thabo Mbeki eventually succeeded him.
In fact for a seating president to front and support a successor would lead to an “Undemocratic succession.”
This is why democracies cannot be written into effect but have to evolve.
The practice of democracy is not only for the ruling elite but for the whole society, which once it has internalized the values of democracy can bring pressure to bear on the ruling elite and ensure they behave democratically.
Our insistence that Museveni should show us his successor outside the institutionalized process may be a temptation too hard to resist.
The real focus should be on the institutions that would usher in the succession when it comes; The legislature, the judiciary and security institutions. Are they robust enough to resist the competing interests to see the process through and sustain the result?
As far as the constitution is concerned a successor is in place.
However the President were he to step down of his own volition can work through the NRM to indicate his successor and the party in turn once it has flag bearer would throw its weight behind the chosen one in a presidential election. All this I imagine, would happen within the structures and practices of the NRM.
As it is now the president is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. The chattering classes seem hell bent on second guessing his every move.
Even if he announced tomorrow that he would step down at a certain date, we would weave all sorts of theories about how he must have an ace up his sleeve. And if he announced he was going to go on much longer we would still doubt his motives and cobble some conspiracy theory to explain why things aren’t as they seem.
Our ability as citizens to leverage or have a say in the process will depend on our organization, without that we might as well keep quiet and let the process take its course.