Uganda President Yoweri Museveni drops 2016 quit hintBy ISMAIL MUSA LADU and Agencies | Monday, April 16 2012 at 10:43
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni will step down in 2016 if his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party asks him to.
He made the declaration Friday during an interview with the American television network, CNN. “I can leave power anytime, but if it is discussed and approved by my party,” he said.
President Museveni, in power since 1986, is one of the longest-serving African leaders. He has defended his long grip on power, saying he had earned the mandate of the people through elections, although independent observers have questioned the integrity of all four elections.
The President has repeatedly passed the question of his retirement to his party, which he controls closely, but the latest declaration comes amid growing calls within the NRM for President Museveni to step down or name his departure date.
Mr Mike Mukula, the NRM vice-chairperson in Eastern Uganda and and an MP in Soroti municipality, on Sunday said it was time for the party to openly debate the succession question.
"I think there is a growing feeling among the party members that this should be President Museveni’s last term,” Mr Mukula, who is one of the party officials who have indicated they might be interested in replacing Museveni, told the independent Daily Monitor daily.
"It is important to note that he can still serve in other capacities, among them the chairperson of the party, or when the East African political federation takes off, he can serve as its president because he would be the most experienced then for that job.”
However, Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo, one of the growing number of gadflies in the NRM, said President Museveni should take responsibility and lead the succession process instead of passing the buck to the party.
With growing urban unrest fuelled by unemployment, rising cost of living and antipathy towards corruption at all levels of government, President Museveni is increasingly coming under pressure to call time up on his long political career.
Last week, the Catholic Archbishop of Kampala, Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, urged President Museveni to peacefully relinquish power in 2016, saying it was the best gift he could give to the citizens of Uganda.
A similar call was echoed by the Anglican assistant Bishop of Kampala, Zac Niringiye, who is taking early retirement to campaign for the restoration of presidential term limits. (READ: Bishops urge Museveni to leave power)
Scrapped term limits
The term limits, which would have forced President Museveni to stand down in 2006, were scrapped in a process that did not enjoy popular appeal and after MPs were bribed to support the move.
President Museveni, however, told CNN that debate on term limits and his longevity in office were not a priority. “What is important for Uganda,” he said, “is to deal with the country’s [development] bottlenecks and not who should be the President.”
Despite the President’s comment, debate on Succession within the NRM has always been a no-go area, partly due to the President’s grip on the party.
An upcoming meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee, which runs the party, will provide a platform for those interested in dislodging Museveni to attempt to make the matter a subject of debate.
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