When Museveni told MPs; Besigye can never be president
• Museveni: No one can manage my Generals
• Term limits, age limits are backward
Ahead of the December 20, 2017 controversial passing of the Constitutional amendments, President Yoweri Museveni held back and forth meetings with MPs and key party strategists to plan on how to push the amendment through Parliament.
Acting on intelligence reports that had indicated that support for the amendment was below the mandatory two-thirds of all MPs, Museveni intensified his engagements with the MPs.
He would invite groups of 30 MPs for meetings at either State House Entebbe or his Kisozi ranch in Gomba district.
With time fast running towards the bill’s second and third reading before its subsequent passing into law on December 20, 2017, Museveni sought to lobby the Independent MPs.
The 10th Parliament has 66 Independent MPs making the group the second biggest after NRM’s 302 MPs of the 437 MPs with voting rights.
The ruling party needed 291 MPs to support the bill at both its second and third reading but had a challenge of some 24 MPs led by Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo who were openly opposed to it.
This forced Museveni to task the Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa to mobilise the Independent MPs and take them to State House Entebbe.
The meeting happened in the first week of December and Kabale Municipality MP Andrew Aja Baryayanga, the leader of the Independent MPs spoiled Museveni’s mood.
According to an NRM MP who was part of the meeting, Baryayanga waited for Museveni to conclude his speech before he dropped a question that made the president lose his cool.
“You have talked about so many things, and we would really want to support you on this [amendment] but in all your statements, you are not talking about the transition; when you intend to leave power yet some of us would want to be President of Uganda. When are you planning to retire?” Baryayanga reportedly asked Museveni.
Having been part of the team that worked with Nankabirwa to mobilise the MPs for the meeting, the NRM MP hid behind a chair in State House’s Conference hall.
The entire team that worked on the meeting was thrown into panic especially when their boss showed signs of discomfort with Baryayanga’s question.
Museveni shot back; “You Baryayanga? You think you can be president? I don’t want to be president, I am only sacrificing myself for you.”
He briefly diverted into other issues that the Kabale Municipality MP had hinted about such as why he agreed to a Parliamentary vote than subjecting the amendments to a referendum.
Soon, he was back to the issue of the presidency.
“Baryayanga, you think you can be president? You think you can manage my Generals? You? You?You think you can manage my Generals?! You think you can manage Tumukunde, Muhwezi… you? You?” Museveni asked Baryayanga.
The MP remained silent for a while before he responded, “Your Excellence, with your help, I think I can manage. I am still a young and vibrant man, I really think I can manage.”
In response, Museveni said, “Unless those Generals are dead, you can’t manage.”
Museveni went on to give an impression that he was not in concert with the restoration of term limits in the Constitutional Amendment Bill that was passed into law on December 20, 2017.
“I used to see [Godfrey Lukongwa] Binaisa posing around that he is a former president. What impact did he create? Then you see [Kizza] Besigye with walk to work…Besigye can’t be president for even three months,” Museveni said.
He went on to attack agitators for the restoration of term limits and those who were campaigning against the removal of age limits whom he said were backward thinkers.
Interviewed, Baryayanga said he had no regrets for having openly told Museveni that he needed to retire.
“I myself and other members have for long been asking ourselves about the transition plan. I had to ask him to tell us at what point in time shall we have a transition from NRM to NRM,” Baryayanga said.
Before this, Baryayanga who spoke on behalf of the group, had told Museveni about what they wanted as a group to be included in the amendments.
Among their demands was for the Independent MPs to be accorded the same status as the opposition.
The opposition leadership in Parliament (LOP) is established under Section 6 of the Administration of Parliament (Amendment) Act 2006 which gives the LOP the status of a cabinet minister.
The same Act also gives the LOP powers to name a shadow cabinet with such dockets that correspond with government ministries.
Much as the law accords the LOP the same status as a cabinet minister, the office holder has a bigger budget and benefits than what a minister gets.
The MPs did not get a response on this demand but Baryayanga suspects that Museveni deliberately ignored it based on a report that linked the Independent MPs to a plot of forming a new political party in the final year of the current Parliament.