Kristian Schmidt, the European Union [EU] Ambassador/Head of Delegation to Uganda says there is no need to dwell on term limits for the president if Ugandans can still go to elections to choose the leader they want.
“First of all, it is the sovereign right of every country to amend its Constitution, and the fact is countries have different models,” Kristian told Daily Monitor in an interview a few days ago.
“You will find European countries that don’t have term limits or age limits, but there are countries in Africa that have the two and respect them, and are doing well.”
Kristian said what is key is not a particular age or terms, “what is key is that wherever you have presidential elections there should be a level playing field so that everybody has a shot”.
He explained: “Term limits is one way of saying ‘there is too much advantage for the incumbent, let us minimise the risk’, but if you could level the playing field in any way, you don’t need term limits.”
He said in the US, for example, there are term limits because given the power of the office, the ability to mobilise funding and presidential control of the machinery is such that after two terms the incumbent is simply too strong, but if “you can legislate that even after four terms the incumbent starts on the same line with all others, with the same resources and without any due advantage, I think you don’t need term limits. But where this level playing field cannot be guaranteed, I think we need term limits”.
Kristian says 2016 elections were legitimate
Kristian said EU recognises the outcomes of the 2016 elections which former presidential candidate, Kizza Besigye, denounced as having been rigged.
“The findings by our election mission are public knowledge and we feel and insist that elections fell short of national standards on a number of fronts. But if you ask me whether Uganda is a functional democracy, I will say yes although there are some trends which are worrying,” the envoy told Monitor.
Elections are just as important as what happens between them, the envoy pointed out, adding, an election will declare a winner but what happens to the loser is also very important because at times the minority or the opposition have to challenge the aspirations of the people who voted for what they believed in.
Kristian believes elections are important for stability, but they also give people a chance to assess if the processes of keeping people in power are legitimate.
“Our election mission report focused on the absence of a level playing field, but showed that the quality is certainly improving and we made recommendations on how we see and what needs to be done.”
Monitor cartoonist, Chris Ogon, penned one in which Kristian cheers on police suffocating and brutally manhandling Besigye for rallying Ugandans to “defy the junta regime and demand an audit of the elections”.
In the cartoon, Kristian [holding his EU briefcase] is cheering on “tighten the grip until he surrenders for the good of progress”.
Kristian shared the cartoon on his twitter handle saying “Excellent 😅, but NOT what I said. Luckily, I have one last chance to set record straight tomorrow morning on @ntvuganda!”
The envoy also told the newspaper Besigye denying Museveni government is legal was not helping matters at all.
EU, US keeping Museveni in power
Kristian denied the fact that EU and US are keeping President Museveni and several other long-serving leaders in power as long as they play to these super powers’ gallery.
“That is not true at all. We don’t have power of influence to keep anyone in power, either for or against. Power lies with the people of Uganda as elsewhere. We don’t vote here, we don’t hack into your systems and we don’t influence anyone,” he told the newspaper.
Yes, it is true with President Museveni, as an important partner in fighting sectarianism, Kristian admitted, adding, “in dealing with Somalia and all that, but I don’t think Uganda is doing that on our behalf”.
He said Uganda has real significant interests in the stability of the region and that Uganda and Europe are acting together, “not acting on our behalf”.
During the Europe Day celebrations on May 9, Kristian cautioned that “security doesn’t come from a gun”, clarifying that the gun has over the years helped nation states in asserting their legitimacy and control over the territory but not internal security.
“In Uganda’s own narrative, there is peace and security both internally and in the region, so under those circumstances should feel safe and over time we have seen allocations to security go down. So that human security development comes from the gains the government has made.”