Friday, September 22, 2017

Age limit; Museveni Speeches Tell It All

Esther Nakkazi

Uganda medics have an uphill task. President Museveni asked their opinion on the most contentious issue in the country today. Age limit for a president.

The Uganda constitution spells out that a president should be between 35 and 75 years old. Last week, Friday 15th September, Yoweri Museveni celebrated his 73rd birthday meaning if the constitution is not amended, he cannot participate in the next elections due in 2021.

It will be Museveni’s sixth term as he has been Uganda’s President since 1986.

But in 2012, while appearing on a television show, Museveni said leaders over 75 lacked the necessary rigour and that, that was ‘scientific logic’. Now that logic needs scientific evidence from the Uganda medics.

Recently, Museveni was put on the spot, over his very remarks and not wanting to backtrack or eat his words asked the medics to give their opinion - if a 75 year old would really be ‘fit to lead or not’.

It was not the first time that Museveni sought solid scientific evidence to enable him make his next move.

When Uganda was about to pass the tough Anti-homosexuality law, Museveni was quoted by the Aljazeera news outlet as asking from scientists; "What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be a homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the bill.” He even invited scientists from the US to help.

This week the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), an association of Uganda medical doctors said they are waiting for a ‘formal request’ from Museveni to provide an answer. The Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization (SACCO) of UMA got a a large donation of 2 billion shillings from Museveni.

So can any of them speak up and tell the emperor that he has no clothes?

For sure even without a formal request, medics can tell Ugandans that older people in general have cognitive decline and impairment. We have all observed Museveni become less articulate, using less sophisticated vocabulary, using more fillers like ‘um’ ‘ho’ 'ni-ni' and even repeating himself, not only for speeches but even word for word.

But worse he is even getting vulgar. When he was addressing the press in 2015 at Mbale State lodge, this is how he was quoted by the Observer newspaper, "if you put your hands in the anus of a leopard, you are in trouble” "...If you go and put your finger in the anus of a leopard. You are in trouble, you are in trouble. Ho! Ho! I cant believe how people could do so. NRM?, you attack NRM people in Uganda here? If it is in South Sudan or Kenya, yes we may have some problems. But in Uganda here? Where do go? Where do you go? So there will be no problem here. Those people made a big mistake, those individuals and those children are going to regret."

Sometimes Museveni’s speeches have turned biblical and hilarious like the one he made at mark of the anniversary of Entebbe 40 year raid. The UK’s DailyMail had a fitting headline; Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s bizzare rambling speech. He literally said nothing much.

At most public gatherings, Museveni doses off in-front of cameras but he has defended that saying he is ‘not sleeping but meditating’. It could be stress, fatigue because he is said to put in long hours but it could also be another medical condition or age.

It is just obvious that a human being at 70 is not as sharp as they were at 40. If you analyse Museveni's speeches that is evident. At first he had brilliant ideas like barter trade among developing countries, which he explained in speeches that were peppered with phrases like ‘the most unfavorable exogenous factor is lack of access to markets in North America, EU, Japan, China, India and Russia’’.

"All protectionism, especially in the OECD countries, must end. Yet these are the countries that evangelise in the name of free trade! What a paradox that is quite unfortunate! These double standards must end,” were his signature phrases.

For the ‘State of the Nation’ address on April 11,1989 his speech was like; “I am very proud to see that one of my long-held wishes—to see the emergence in Uganda of a reasonable measure of national consensus, as well as a nonsectarian forum— is at last beginning to be realized.”

“Currently, Africa is one of the most backward continent in the whole world. Elsewhere, I have defined backwardness as the absence of a reasonable degree of development. I have also defined development as man's ability to tame his environment and utilize its natural laws for his own benefit. I am using the word "reasonable" because man's mastery of nature— even for the advanced countries—is still only relative. Nevertheless, there are those who have reasonably mastered certain aspects of nature and have, consequently, improved their lot on earth. If one, therefore, takes "development" and "backwardness" as defined above, you will agree that Africa is one of the most backward continents.”

Those were well turned in sentences with explanations showing a sharp brain at 45 years.

But these days he makes more unrealistic speeches of Uganda getting middle income status by 2020 even when organisations like the World Bank have made it clear that it is impossible. You just wonder if he lives in an alternate reality.

All he cites are investment in infrastructure, discovered oil that will create thousands of jobs. But he never mentions fundamental issues like the ever increasing corruption or even by the very least bringing down the fertility rate to 2.2% which would stabilise the population.

Uganda’s fertility is one of the highest in the world at 5.6%. By 2050, Uganda’s population will be 101.2 million and by 2040 about 75.6 million people.

Medical studies have proven that linguistic and cognitive decline often happen at the same time and verbal fluency reflects brain performance. It is normal as people age. No one can be as sharp at 73 as they were at 45.

Museveni who has a habit for speaking extemporaneously - never staying on his written speeches - is sometimes hilarious, biblical, historical and even grandfatherly so we can just follow the speeches to say what the medics can't say.  No need for medical examinations!


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