In a number of African countries, the Constitution has been changed to allow the president to seek a third term. Among them are Zimbabwe, Chad and Uganda. Voice of America takes a closer look at Uganda's constitutional amendment permitting President Yoweri Museveni a third term in office.
Richard Mutumba is a political journalist who has covered the Parliament in Uganda for many years. Voice of America’s English to Africa reporter Angel Tabe asked him about the political climate that enabled President Museveni to get more time in office. “…The president had earlier been able to get control over Parliament, which had the final say whether he should get a third term or not. His party controlled more than two-thirds of the membership, and when the issue came to vote, he had the upper hand over the other political forces.”
Motumba says the decision for President Museveni to have another term was popular is tricky, especially for a population that had never known political pluralism. “There was no choice…people had never had another political force… or even a presidential candidate who could contest the president. The slogan has been, “Vote Museveni; there‘ll be peace. If you don’t, back to chaos.” It’s very difficult to assess, although at the end of the day, the president got it.”
Although other political forces had been relatively dormant, Motumba adds, there were known opponents, both in civil society and the political arena. “There were still some pressure groups, human rights groups, and even some members of Parliament in the opposition…. They said the man was violating the Constitution to suit the people in power.… They were not a majority, so they could not make any change.”
Motumba believes that professionalizing institutions of governance will make it more difficult for African leaders to hold power for life: “… A good example is Nigeria, where Parliament has refused to give [President Olusegun] Obasanjo another term. And I think ten or twenty years from now, it will not be as easy for the president to change the Constitution….”
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