By Sebhat Ayele MCCJ
The tension is mounting around a crucial political agenda in Uganda as the ruling party of President Yoweri Museveni is shuttling to amend the Age Limit, which is inscribed in the constitution article 102(b). The political drama is unfolding once again, as was the case in 2005 when the 7th Parliament passed a controversial amendment of Article 105 of the Constitution to lift presidential term limits when President Museveni was seeking his second term. If the amendment passes, as is expected, he would again be the main beneficiary of the proposed amendment. At 76, President Museveni will run in 2021, as Robert Mugabe is rehearsing in Zimbabwe at 93. Mugabe led the country since 1987 and still wants to run for elections at 93.
His wife, Grace Mugabe, rose up an outrage when she said her husband should run even “as a corpse” in next year’s election. “If God decides to take him, then we would rather field him as a corpse,” she told thousands of supporters at a rally in Buhera, last February. Mugabe and Museveni are but few cases of how the African politics are dumped and disfigured beyond any recognition. The democratic values and the traditional African values of “majority rule” are swallowed by few dictators and oligarchs. All sorts of opposition are either crushed, as in the case of Mugabe; or maneuvered Museveni style.
According to the Uganda Gazette of June 8th, 2017, the government gazetted a Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 that, among other things, seeks to remove the presidential “age limit”. The fight to amend or preserve this provision of the supreme law is going to dominate political space in Uganda between now and the next election. However, according to a December 2016 poll commissioned by the Uganda NGO Forum and conducted by Research World International, 74 per cent of Ugandans – mostly youth aged 25-34 years – do not want the president to run again. This is a clear indication the youth are saying “enough is enough”. In other words, the mood is changing, and critics and supporters alike, especially the youth, are pointing at President Museveni’s duration at the helm of Uganda’s politics as a risk that could cost heavily even to the ruling party itself. The president, who has ruled since 1986, will have clocked 35 years in power when his current term ends. Back in 1986, President Yoweri Museveni wrote: “the problem of Africa in General, in uganda in particular is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power” What about in 2017, who is the problem, the people or the leader? This is yet another proof that power corrupts!
What are the Consequences?
As Africa has experienced in the last decades, abrogation of constitutions and enthroned “Life Presidents” have benefited only the few people around the power holders: family and allies. With few in power dictatorship is the only way to suppress “people’s wish”. This in turn procures insecurity, armed resistance, IDs, refugees, etc, as we are witnessing all over Africa. According to the UNHCR, Africa has the largest number of IDPs and refugees in the world. Globally there are 40.4 million people who are displaced by conflict; out of these 12.4 million are in Africa, 30%, and the African refugees are 5.4 million. It is crystal clear that in countries where there is one-man rule, few people around the head of state squander the national funds. Family members, security, and military who support the dictatorship amass grotesque wealth while the rest of the citizens are left in abject poverty. Much of public money is diverted to foreign banks as reports from Human Right Watch report often.
In this ongoing tragedy prolonged by dictators and self-imposing presidents, the condition is ripe for foreign companies and NGOs to suck the African wealth. While the majority of Africans are below poverty level, multinational companies are ferrying the black continent’s riches.
There are some alarming statistics about who is really pocketing the African wealth. A report released about a month ago, but which for some reason did not make headlines in the African media, shows that while African countries receive $161 billion in loans, aid, grants and remittances every year, the continent pays out $203 billion in debt repayments, multinational company profits, illicit financial flows and illegal fishing, among other costs.
The report, Honest Accounts 2017: “How the World Profits from Africa’s Wealth”, published by a consortium of civil society organizations, including Jubilee Debt Campaign and Global Justice Now, shows that Africa is a net creditor to the rest of the world to the tune of $41 billion a year, which is more than double what it receives in official aid.
Some more shocking statistics: African countries receive around $19 billion in grants, but over three times this amount ($68 billion or six per cent of the entire continent’s GDP) leaves Africa through illicit financial flows, mainly through multinational companies that deliberately misreport the value of their imports or exports to evade or reduce tax.
African governments received $33 billion in loans in 2015, but paid $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments. Further, an estimated $29 billion a year is being stolen from the continent through illegal logging, fishing and trade in wildlife and plants. “The figures show that the rest of the world is profiting from the continent’s wealth — more so than most African citizens.” Yet rich country governments simply tell their public that their aid programs are helping Africa. “This is a distraction, and misleading,” say the authors of the report. What are the African leaders doing to avert this open crazy diversion of African wealth? Many of the long reigning presidents refuse to relinquish power because they have acquired much expertise in governance. Yet they are not able to stop those sucking mercilessly and illegally African riches. Unfortunately according to many experts they are part of the game. And this gambling is exactly what is keeping them in power.
African Church Leaders
Some Church leaders in some countries spoke openly about sun-setting democracy in Africa. Some condemned openly the amendment of constitutions, as well. Others are however lenient or just silent. After a long silence, the Ugandan Episcopal conference expressed their concern on some hot issues affecting the country at the moment. Among these are torture and human rights violations by Security agencies. The Press release which was published in Leadership Magazine July Issue states: “We note with great concern that in the recent past, cases of torture by some security agencies have been reported in our country, which is a grave violation of the human rights guaranteed by our constitution”. The Bishops condemn the forms of torture and ask the state organs to keep in mind article 24 and 44(a) of the national constitution: “We therefore, condemns any forms of torture, unlawful detentions…We should be mindful of Article 24 and 44(b) of our national constitution”.
The Ugandan Bishops express, as well, their deepest concern on the proposal to amend article 26 that will deprive citizens to own lands. Article 26 of 1995 constitution gives rights to citizens to own property either as individuals or associations. The Press Release signed by the Chairman of the Bishops Conference urges the government to make vast national consultations before approving proposal. Historical heritage of self-styled dictators is only destruction and mass suffering of citizens. When democracy and rule of law are compromised the defenseless and poor people are those who pay the consequences. In front of similar tragedy the Church can’t be indifferent. In January this year,
Pope Francis was asked by youth in Havana and New York via teleconference about his leadership; and his reply was: “I will tell you one thing, a good leader is one who is capable of bringing up other leaders. If a leader wants to lead alone, he is a tyrant. True leadership is fruitful. Each one of you has the seed of leadership”. Indeed, one who wants to seat on the throne alone is a tyrant. A true leader brings others and each citizen is a potential leader, not only the Mugabes….! All citizens have the right to defend their rights endowed by the Constitution, but above all, by the Almighty God. Those who forget that their power is sharing from God’s are not true leaders.
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