The National Unity Platform (NUP), Uganda’s youngest political party, finds itself embroiled in a succession debate that could potentially strain its unity and direction.
Political analysts are sounding alarms over a proposed two-term limit for all elective positions within the party, warning that the decision might trigger divisions if not carefully reconsidered, a debate that has intensified after party principal Robert Kyagulanyi introduced the term limit in the absence of the leader of the opposition, Mathias Mpuga.
The scene was set at the NUP delegates’ conference held at the party’s new headquarters in Makerere Kavule, Kampala.
In Mathias Mpuga’s absence, the proposal was unveiled, stipulating that no individual can hold key party leadership roles, including president, chairperson, or secretary-general, for more than two terms.
Additionally, individuals serving as members of parliament or councilors under the NUP flag would also be limited to two terms.
However, this proposition has elicited mixed reactions from political researchers.
While some, like Dr. Patrick Wakida and Prof. Kareijja, support the concept of term limits at the presidential level, they vehemently oppose its application to parliamentary positions.
Both experts contend that this untested approach could sow division and unproductivity.
“They are simply trying out something that has never been tried in the world,” Prof. Kareijja pointed out, adding that Kyagulanyi might be attempting to position himself as superior to the ruling NRM, the group he seeks to replace.
Drawing comparisons with established democracies like the United States and the United Kingdom, researchers argue that longer-serving MPs tend to demonstrate improved service delivery due to their accumulated experience and skills.
“For MPs worldwide, those who have spent more time in the house debate better,” Dr. Wakida highlighted, while Prof. Kareijja suggested that repeated terms can elevate a legislator’s status to that of a hero.
However, the proposed term limit amendments are set to come into effect only during the next elective term in 2026.
NUP’s top leadership, including spokesperson Joel Ssenyonyi and secretary-general David Lewis Rubongoya, reject the concerns raised by political scholars arguing that this decision arises from a desire to avoid the pitfalls of overstaying in power, citing the weaknesses of the ruling NRM.
Both Ssenyonyi and Rubongoya pointed to examples from other countries in the region, such as Kenya, as benchmarks for their move.
“We don’t want to practice the very evil of over-staying in power just like the people we are fighting,” Ssenonyi noted.
“We are not just jumping to this, even here in the neighboring Kenya there is term limit, Rubongoya added.
While some analysts believe the term limit amendments could undermine the potential influence of NUP politicians in the future, they also contend that these concerns could be mitigated through greater regulation of political parties’ activities.
They advocate for more comprehensive oversight beyond a mere presence at the electoral commission.
As the NUP navigates this internal debate, the party faces a pivotal crossroads that could shape its future trajectory and impact Uganda’s political landscape.
The delicate balance between introducing reforms and ensuring stability remains at the forefront of discussions within the party.
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