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Succession politics: how the ‘Muhoozi Project’ will impact Uganda

Cases of off-springs or relatives replacing deceased family members in elective positions are growing under the belief that this would fuel a better future for the community in question based on ‘blessings’ from the departed leader.

At this turn of the political clock in Uganda all and sundry are preoccupied by the Muhoozi Project.

It is rumoured that President Yoweri Museveni Tibuhaburwa who has ruled Uganda since 1986 after a gorilla war, is fronting his son Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba to take over from him, a talk that Museveni has bashed.

“Why should I groom my son? The people of Uganda are there. They will select whom they want,” Museveni said during an interview with France 24 in 2021.

But Muhoozi has publicly stated that he plans to contest in the coming 2026 general elections, making it no longer a theoretical conclusion.

Muhoozi who doubles as Presidential advisor for Special Duties, has been criticised for holding political rallies across the country despite him being a serving army officer.

This is contrary to Section 99 of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) Act, which prohibits serving military personnel from engaging in political activities.

Some pundits argue that a stage has already been set for off-springs to take over their late relatives positions, adding that under a pretext that if Muhoozi is presented in future it does not come out as a surprise.

The recent by-election to replace the late Speaker of Parliament and Omoro County Member of Parliament (MP), Jacob Oulanya’s son, Andrew Ojok, to replace his father who died of cancer in the USA is a great pointer.

Another by-election of Serere County also raised eyebrows. Staunch and pivotal National Resistance Movement (NRM) party leaders, such as NRM Vice chairperson for Eastern region, Capt. Mike Mukula, were alleged to have secretly backed an independent candidate, Emmanuel Omonding, to the detriment of the party flag-bearer, merely on the alleged premonition of backing off-shoot inheritance of office.

Omonding replaced his father, Patrick Okabe, who died in a car crash on December 19, 2022 alongside his wife Christine Okabe.

After the death of Col (rtd) Charles Engola Macodwogo, the former state minister for Labour, his son, Samuel Engola, was the NRM flag-bearer in the just concluded July 6, by-election for Oyam north county seat which was formerly held by his late father. Macodwogo was assassinated by his bodyguard on May 2, 2023.

The election was won by Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party candidate Eunice Otuko Apio.

Apio said the win came as a surprise following cases of ballot stuffing and violence ostensibly in favour of Engola.

In Hoima district projected by-election following the tragic death of incumbent district chairperson, Kadiri Kirungi, in a car crash on April 17, his 24-year-old son Uthuman Mugisa Mubaraka, is among the 7 contenders campaigning to contest his departed primogenitor’s office in the ongoing primaries for the ruling party ticket. The general election has been scheduled for September 14.

“And in all probability, the vote will be manipulated and he may clinch a sympathy vote,” John W. Kiiza a political observer and Pastor told The Albertine Journal on July 20, adding: “In such incidences objective evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of a particular contestant for power and office are not considered.”

Mubaraka. Courtesy Photo.

Sanitising politics would be paramount because behaviour of politicians directly affects public good provision, shapes the economic incentives of other agents and is often a public signal to coordinate behaviour.

But questions are being raised about where Uganda’s democracy is headed; and whether such could be accounted a vestige of political maturation and development; or a sampling of political parties in rubble.

Some pundits argue that Uganda is slowly witnessing the rubble generated by malaise of political mindset disintegration.

They are warning that elsewhere its results are either grim with little or nothing to toast to when looking at how the trajectory can impact society.

Elsewhere, Kiiza explained, offshoot sympathy votes have proved to be a far-fetched guarantee of continuity, security and assurance in a setting rightly perceived as potentially cataclysmic, hectic, uncertain, shambolic and turbulent, wondering why Uganda would want to set such a precedent.

Ayyaz Mehmood, who has worked for the World Bank as a monitoring and evaluation officer for Benazir income support pogramme, said in a recent paper that in Pakistan, the electoral politics is, unfortunately, a family business with a few families running Pakistan’s legislature, turning them into oligarchs.

He adds that because of the strong nexus between political dynasties and bureaucracy, no institutional reforms take place.

Mehmood said the sad state of affairs begins with individuals who are capable and worthy or representing the people at the national level who are unfortunately, not born in these families.

“Thus, the prevalence of political dynasties is a violation of merit and competence as they restrict entry into politics and the most competent are not elected as representatives.”

Kiiza said the proliferations of messianic cults have not been effective when they take over political offices, citing examples of Butaleja district woman MP Florence Nebanda who replaced her sister, Cerinah Nebanda who died in office in 2012 and Dr. Charles Ayume following in the footsteps of his late father Francis Ayume, former attorney general, among others.

Ndebesa Mwambutsya, a university lecturer at the college of humanities and social sciences at Makerere University, told The Albertine Journal that where it has been done, it has stunted deeply-rooted democratic traditions and has fomented panic and uncertainty..

“Democracy is about having someone who is effective to offer services such as oversight functions and legislation and if someone doesn’t do it and is elected in office because he is a son or a relative of someone, generally we are taking our democracy into the 18th century,” he said.

Michael Muhairwe, a history teacher, says when one is donated power he becomes unaccountable.

He said it becomes hard to stop vices such as corruption and creates an environment where offsprings look at it as their turn for eating and sends a country in a self-destructive trend.

Elsewhere

The most controversial on record in Africa is Laurent Kabila, a warlord cum-freedom fighter credited with restoring Patrice Lumumba’s Zaire from the ruins and tarnished image of Mobutu Sese-Seko Kukubendu Wazabanga’s Zaire back to the present blooming Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kabila was succeeded by his son, 23-year-old Joseph Kabila whose period in power was marred by controversy over removal of term limits and the multiplication and proliferation of pitiless warlords.

In Asia, former Myanmar (Burma) national leader of the 1970s sired a daughter, Ang San Sukyi, who rose to the national ranks and later married a Briton, and became pro-democracy struggle icon. But she was a miserable failure as a national leader.

Not all is gloom.

In India the teeming historical record of Mahatma Gandhi was priced off with a granddaughter, Indira Gandhi, one of the most illustrious world leaders of post-world War II cold-war geopolitics.

Pakistan independence father Mohammed Bhutto was also succeeded by daughter Benazir Bhutto as Prime Minister, one of the most vocal advocates of world peace in the contemporary world, later imprisoned by dictator, Gen. Mushraf, who openly condoned the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and attempted to block the capture of Osama Bin Laden.

Risks of witch-hunt

It also creates a lot of disgruntlement-people hunt them. After assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, his younger brother, Robert, nursing white house ambitions was similarly assassinated in 1968.

Thereafter, their elder brother, Senator Edward Kennedy settled for representing Massachusetts in the senate until his death in 2014, at the advanced age of 78.

Begum Khaleda Zia of Bangladesh also inherited from a political-line-father. The most disastrous instance of in-line-family political inheritance was Rajiv Gandhi, a son of Mrs Indrira Gandhi.

He was killed at a public function by a Tamil Tiger suicide bomber from neighbouring Sri Lanka.

Empty-sounding tin or a viable political panacea?

Kiiza added that where dynastic republics penetrates the national political sphere it has on the other hand been a mixed bag of outcomes. In Kenya the Uhuru Kenyatta myth has been disgracefully dispelled.

Uhuru Kenyatta in his reign as the fouth President of Kenya from 2013 to 2022 proved a feeble replica of his late father Jomo Kenyatta-the country’s first President.

In Uganda Prof. Yusuf Lule’s son Wasswa Lule has never since captured a single headline as a national hero.

Okello Oryem, state minister for foreign affairs is also a diminutive replica of Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa; and Taban Amin, an Internal Security Organisation (ISO) brass and a Presidential advisor on national security does not measure up to the military success and impact of his father Idi Amin Dada who also was a political power-actor.

In America President George W. Bush presided over the invasion of Iraq and nevertheless did not equal the father George Bush’s allure and stature in the Gulf war waged by Saddam Hussein on Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

In the Philippines the Marcos dynasty was a shambles and in Sri Lanka the effects of off-shoot office inheritance were compounded by the Tamil Tigers.

In a paper titled: Like Father, like son? How political dynasties affect economic development, Siddharth Eapen George and Dominic Ponattu of August 2018, they note that despite their prevalence in India, little is known about how political dynasties affect economic development.

They said dynastic heirs often inherit political capital from their predecessors — a prominent name, a positive reputation, a powerful network, a party machine.

“If these political assets give dynastic descendants significant electoral advantage, elections may be less effective at holding them to account.”

“Descendants could be poorly selected (if electoral advantages allow even “lemon dynasts” to win) or face poor incentives (if their re-election does not depend on performing well in office). These descendant effects are likely bad for development. The net impact of dynastic rule is a combination of founder and descendant effects,” the paper added.

The paper quoted Andrew Carnegie, the wealthy 19th century industrialist and philanthropist, who took a dim view of bequests: “The parent who leaves his son enormous wealth generally deadens the talents and energies of the son and tempts him to lead a less useful and less worthy life than he otherwise would.”

Explaining his decision to establish the Nobel Prizes instead of bequeathing the money to his children, Alfred Nobel remarked that “I consider it a mistake to hand over to them considerable sums of money beyond what is necessary for their education”.

He added: “To do so merely encourages laziness and impedes the healthy development of the individual’s capacity to make an independent position for himself.”

A (quite literally) rich literature in economics has investigated the effects of inheriting wealth.

The consensus view of this literature is that inheriting wealth causes heirs to reduce labour supply and increase leisure.

Uganda’s constitution has been changed many times in the past including removal of term limits in 2005 and again in 2017 to remove the 75 year age limit for the President when Museveni was due to turn 75 years old.

Previous elections have been described as not being free and fair, as Museveni has concentrated power in his hands and established systems for family rule-ready as if to transfer power through his family members.

A recent report insists that the Muhoozi project if it comes to a reality will make the country to head for the worst.

The 2022 policy paper meant to provide clear recommendations for European Union (EU) policy makers, said the international community needs to use its foreign policy tools to place the transition issue at the centre of its engagement with Museveni.

The paper said the prospect of change through the ballot is increasingly becoming unlikely in Uganda as political space has been closed off and state institutions personalised and weakened.

The paper said the international community should force Museveni’s hand by stopping its budget support, failure of which is an unstated approval of the Museveni regime and risks contributing to a disorderly transition.

The paper said if Muhoozi becomes the successor-in the case of a sudden death of his father, via an arranged transition, or through a fraudulent election-the consequences are similarly unpredictable.

Titled: “Uganda’s future: navigating a precarious transition, the role of the international community” the paper said Muhoozi who is not popular as his father, could create severe tensions with other groups within the NRM and the army, who also are eyeing the top seat but feel uncomfortable with the Muhoozi project.

The paper said the Muhoozi project will lead to reliance on the use of coercion, and an unpredictable increase and worst violent conflicts within the region.

“The country may be sitting on a time bomb, and violence against the ruling region may cause ethnicities.”

To resolve the issue of political dynasties, Mwambutsya said there is need to sensitise the population so that they vote somebody based on his or her competencies but not based on the name.

“It is the population that wakes up and if the population doesn’t wake up relatives will take advantage of the name of their relatives. You can’t have democracy without democrats,” Mwambutsya concluded.

5 replies on “Succession politics: how the ‘Muhoozi Project’ will impact Uganda”

A concerned group must stop this family succession in political positions !
Uganda is at its suicidal peak.
I weep.for.my country.

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