Catholic, Anglican prelates tell Museveni to step down in 2016

Rt. Rev. Nathan Ahimbisibwe, the bishop of South Ankole Diocese in Uganda, prays for President Museveni and wife Janet at St. Matthew Cathedral in Kyamate during the Easter service yesterday. Other clerics have asked the President not to stand again for presidency come 2016. Photo | PPU  

The Kampala Catholic Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, has called on President Museveni to peacefully relinquish power in 2016, saying it is the best gift he can give to Ugandans.

The same call was echoed by Kampala Anglican assistant bishop Zac Niringiye, who said Mr Museveni should relinquish power at the end of his current term if he wants to have a clean legacy recorded.

The two prelates also urged the President to start thinking of how his succession will be peacefully managed for the sake of the country’s stability.

“The biggest gift the President can give Ugandans is the smooth transfer of power when his term of office is over,” Dr Lwanga said in his Easter sermon at Rubaga Cathedral. He added: “How can you (security forces) mercilessly flog the very people who pay taxes that is then used to pay your salaries.”

Dr Lwanga said given President Museveni’s telling contribution over the years, he believes he (President) has to pave way for a smooth transition of power in the next four years. He said it is time for the president to think about how he would be remembered when he no longer wields State power.

In a separate sermon at St Stephen’s Church of Uganda, Kisugu, Dr Niringiye said he was retiring from active priesthood to pay attention to issues affecting the country. “I am saying restore term limits and we are also saying Mzee finish well and retire well and I am going to work for that when I retire,” he said.

“I hear security forces are plotting against me but this is part of God’s ministry. Many people are asking whether I am not afraid of what I am going into but I don’t fear death,” Dr Niringye said.

Public opinion

Bishop Niringiye is part of a civil society lobby that is reviving and actively campaigning for calls to restore the Constitutional Presidential term limits, removed in 2005 to help Mr Museveni run in the 2006 presidential race.

Information minister Mary Karooro Okurut yesterday said the ruling party would decide Mr Museveni’s succession at the right time. “The question of who will be the NRM (National Resistance Movement) presidential flag-bearer in the next election will be determined by NRM,” she said.

The bishops call comes against the backdrop of a report released on Thursday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group which predicted President Museveni was ruling Uganda through patronage and repression and could lead Uganda into deadly chaos if he does not change his governance course.

The government dismissed the report as the “handiwork of ignorant Europeans”. The bishops' comments also come in the wake of the latest Afro-barometer Survey conducted in partnership with Wilsken Agencies Ltd and the Centre for Democratic Governance between December 2011 and February 2012, which showed that 74 per cent of Ugandans feel the country is heading in the wrong direction.

The figure represents a sharp reversal in public opinion compared to what the same institution, which measures social, political and economic trends in 20 African countries, found out in January last year.

Dr Niringiye also warned the people around the President, saying they feed him with inaccurate information. Dr Lwanga last week dismissed reports that he had links with a rebel group, saying the rumours were the handiwork of wrong elements in the intelligence agencies.

He told a church conference in Mbarara that church leaders face being framed on political charges of rape, defilement, incest, molestation and illegal possession of guns if claims contained in an anonymous letter he obtained were to be taken seriously.

Last year in April, the opposition pressure group, Activists for Change, started walk-to-work protests over increasing cost of living.

The protests that were brutally suppressed by police and other state agencies, saw nine people shot dead in Kampala, Masaka, Mbale and Gulu. Many opposition leaders were also arrested and charged.

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