Uganda: On Presidential age limit and the ‘impoverishment’ in our politics

Under no circumstances should one be remorseful for having no kind words for ongoing attempts, and the people attempting, to, once again, alter with the peoples’ constitution for whatever purported “common” purposes. For no mere ‘impolite’ utterance can be equated to the act of gradually transmogrifying the supreme document of the land into a socially useless and meaningless text, one to be aligned and re-aligned, from time to time, to the interests of the powers that be. The insatiable hunger for power that has come to dominate the perverted existence of many of our leading political elites blinds them to the immediate and long-term counterfinality of these attempts. Greed and unthinkable selfishness, coupled with a common illusion that (ill-gotten) wealth can buy immortality, leave no room in the mental spaces of these “leader(s)” to comprehend the dangers inherent in their attempts. The boiling plan to alter with Article 102 (b) of our constitution, hence enabling the current President to ‘contest’ beyond 2021, is a direct slap in our faces – especially given that only twelve years ago, a similar raid targeted, with (temporary) success, Article 105 (2) of the 1995 constitution. No doubt, the attempt is a mockery to majority Ugandans. A brutal insult to our conscience. It is to tell us, in a commonplace political phrase, “do what you can or go hung!”. Everything in our power must be done to foil this and other similar attempts.

However, our popular zeal to render current constitutional raid attempts impossible should not be thought and done on the backdrop of the view that this yet another attempt to change a part in the 1995 constitution constitutes, in itself, the major problem in our current political environment. That would tantamount to sheer shortsightedness, a major condition of our contemporary typical politician. Here the opening lines of the (not yet altered) preamble to the 1995 constitution are of critical importance. To say that “We the people of Uganda: Recalling our history which has been characterized by political and constitutional instability; Recognizing our struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation…” is to recognize that many of the political problems we grapple with today are, generally speaking, a continuation from a part of our past – the colonial past. It is to recognize that our country’s ‘post-colonial’ politics was struck by a strange kind of impoverishment which, as time goes, threatens impoverishing the whole social body. Indeed, it is to accentuate the fact that the 1995 constitution making was an attempt to counter this impoverishment.

Many Historians have pointed to the numerous failures in transition from colonialism. The question, informed by the actually existing ‘post-colonial’ forms of political impoverishment, of “what went wrong at and after ‘independence’” has led to numerous conclusions but one stands out: that the impoverishment in our politics today manifests, in many ways, a continuation of elements of the ‘colonial’ in the ‘post-colonial’. Elements that escaped (or were made to escape?) ‘post-colonial reform’. Of the half-cooked and one-sided nature of this reform which Prof. Mahmood Mamdani conceptualizes in one of his works as “deracialization” without “democratization”. The fact that today, in Uganda, we decry what one might call ‘periodical political cannibalism’ – the post-independence ritualization of bloodshed in regime change – testifies to the historical rootedness of our predicament. The needed resistance against such attempts as those to “amend” Article 102 (b) should be fronted without rendering any ‘success’ therefrom as an end in itself. If anything, such success will be in eliminating a symptom to a deep-seated problem. The end target of struggle should be the whole as it is impoverished by remnants of that which anti-colonial struggle strived to negate: colonialism.