Ugandans and development partners who reason that Uganda is on course to achieve full liberal democracy as an expression of the will of the people to choose who should govern them in a free and fair environment, hold them to account and even recall them if they consider them incompetent, dishonest or heedless of public opinion are missing one fundamental point. As long as Museveni is in power full democracy on a multiparty basis will not be permitted. If you read his speeches and interview reports carefully and dialectically and watch his actions you will not fail to realize that Museveni did not go for military training and suffered hardship until 1986 to bring democracy to Uganda.
Museveni went into the bush to conquer, enslave and colonize Uganda and use it as a command post to launch federation in Eastern and Central Africa. His interview with Bill Berkely in 1994 sheds some light. In that interview which was conducted from his Rwakitura country residence, Museveni categorically stated for all to hear “I have never blamed the whites for colonizing Africa: I have never blamed these whites for taking slaves. If you are stupid you should be taken a slave”(The Atlantic Monthly September 1994). Museveni does not drink so nobody can defend him that perhaps he made those remarks under the influence of alcohol. In fact during that interview Museveni sat comfortably and looked thoughtful in the shade of a huge frame tree sipping from ‘a glass of piping-hot fresh cow’s milk’. Museveni has stated unambiguously and repeatedly that he did not hunt to then handover the dead animal to someone else to enjoy the meat. How else could he be clearer that he has no intention of leaving power! This is supported by statements he has made implying that Uganda and her people were defeated on the battlefield. Thus, captives have no say in national affairs. Museveni defeated and colonized Uganda with Batutsi mercenaries and some Uganda collaborators who had scores to settle with Obote and UPC reminiscent of colonial war in Uganda. In 1997 Museveni announced to the whole world that his mission was to create a federation of states in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region (EIR Special Report 1997). His relentless push for the East African federation on fast track is the first leg in the process of creating a larger federation. Until he gets his federation which he will head Museveni won’t let Uganda go to someone else – willingly.
In his heart Museveni does not believe in democracy but feudalism of master and servant. This is implied in his 50 year master plan adopted at his Rwakitura country residence under his chairmanship in 1992 in which he wants his Bahororo tribe (Batutsi from Rwanda) to be the master and the rest servant except the clergy. Like in feudal Europe Museveni wants to create Bahororo lords specializing in commanding the military, the clergy whom he has treated well to preach the peasants that they will be rewarded in heaven for their suffering here on earth, and the servants to toil for the clergy and Bahororo higher orders. Some have added that Museveni has a colonial settler mentality to fill Uganda with foreigners largely Batutsi, an idea that was defeated at the start of colonial rule thanks to some colonial officers especially Bell, Spire and Simpson. In a nutshell, that is Museveni’s agenda for Uganda. That is why he has corrupted or marginalized those who would oppose him, kept and enticed others in the diaspora.
Museveni realized early on that capture and retention of power would be based on owning a gun and collaborating with foreigners than democracy and Ugandans. During the guerrilla war most of the commanders and intelligence officers were Tutsi mercenaries, one of them received an award from NRM on January 26, 2012. Other foreigners provided finance to sustain guerrillas and purchase arms; media for NRM propaganda and diplomatic cover. Prominent Ugandans in the Movement were packed into the political, diplomatic and administrative wings safely away from the barrel of the gun – Museveni’s source of power.
After capturing power, Museveni began to repay the debts and took or forced decisions against the will of the people who according to the constitution are sovereign. Despite strong objections to the return of Asians, Museveni went ahead and brought them back because some European powers wanted them back or else Uganda would not get foreign aid and technical assistance. In 1987 Museveni abandoned the well crafted and popular ten point program and launched the most devastating ‘shock therapy’ version of structural adjustment program even when Uganda experts were aware of the suffering it had caused in Chile and Ghana. Foreign influence on HIV and AIDS policy is too well known to be repeated here. Museveni has also adopted one of the most liberal immigration policies permitting uncontrolled flow of migrants that have undoubtedly boosted Uganda’s population ‘explosion’, strained provision of services especially in education and healthcare and contributed to endemic land disputes. Museveni has also collaborated with foreign powers in many other important ways.
Having graded Museveni a star performer, darling of the west and reliable ally, efforts have been made to sustain him in power. While other African governments were being forced to introduce multi-party politics, Museveni was exempted. For example, “The new British Labor government has decided that it ‘will not press for multiparty reforms in Uganda’. This is particularly significant because elsewhere in Africa, donors have insisted that aid depends on continued progress toward permitting parties to form and compete freely” (Journal of Democracy April 1998).
It is believed in some quarters that Museveni accepted multiparty democracy in exchange for abolishing presidential term limits knowing full well he would frustrate the development of parties opposed to NRM or candidates running against him even under the Movement system. Some impartial observers felt that Museveni would have lost to Paul Ssemogerere had parties been allowed to campaign (Journal of Democracy April 1998). The brutal manner Kiiza Besigye supporters were treated especially in his home district of Rukungiri in 2001 presidential elections is an indication of Museveni’s unpopularity. In that district and in that year military force was used and Besigye supporters were harassed, intimidated, their cards taken away in a house-to-house search and people wounded and one killed (Business in Africa April 2001). Since the multiparty system was introduced, NRM has stepped up suppression of opposition voters and candidates, many of them disenfranchised especially in the 2011 elections and foreigners allowed to vote. Massive military presence kept many opposition voters away. The entire electoral process lacked a level playing field, enough reason to declare the results null and void. And that is the position that the opposition presidential candidates and their supporters took and have declared Museveni’s government illegitimate regardless of what conclusions others have reached.
Museveni and NRM establishment know that their political party is unpopular because it has not delivered the expected goods and services witness absolute poverty level over 50 percent and youth unemployment over 80 percent. They know that in free and fair elections, NRM cannot win at the presidential, parliamentary and local levels especially with Museveni out of the race. In order to hang onto power, NRM will likely reject suggestions to restore term limits that would exclude Museveni from contesting 2016 elections and beyond, establish an independent electoral commission, restore independence of the judiciary and recast campaign finance which has disproportionately favored NRM candidates. No matter what amount of rhetoric the international community makes NRM under the leadership of Museveni will not budge unless tremendous real financial and diplomatic pressure is applied. Otherwise Museveni will squeeze opposition parties that they will either be dead by 2016 or powerless to challenge him and his party in any meaningful way.
This scenario leaves Uganda with one option. Either to let Museveni do whatever he wants including filling Uganda with foreigners to take over the country and give him a solid base of support or stop him. There is consensus that Museveni must be stopped in 2012 or shortly after but certainly before 2016. Reforms within NRM and through parliament which are commendable will be frustrated and eventually defeated. Attempts to unseat the prime minister and interior minister for corruption have vanished. In the absence of genuine political reforms to level the playing field for 2016 elections, there are two methods under debate for retiring Museveni and his government – the military and civil resistance options. Those who favor the use of force reason that that is the language Museveni understands and are organizing to use the barrel of the gun. Those who favor peaceful means argue that force has been used before more than once, it is destructive and does not solve the problem it set out to and if anything it makes the suffering worse and entrenches military regimes. The international mood is not in favor of solving political problems by military means in the first instance especially against a government considered legitimately elected like Museveni’s. Since the recall method has no chance of success, civil resistance is the only democratic method of regime change which might involve negotiations leading to a transitional government. This approach should be acceptable to and supported by the international community especially the major development partners.
Thus, we Ugandans have a heavy task ahead of us. The initiative will come from us. It requires unity of all forces at home and abroad including those in NRM concerned about the future of Uganda and a clear common message. It will also require capable leadership which does not necessarily have to come from the group that claims to have been the first to launch opposition against the NRM regime. Leadership should be based on character and discipline, articulation of a message or development plan, record of participation in real development at home, clear background and family tree, boldness and above all patriotism. Many of Uganda leaders have burst onto the political stage without adequate scrutiny causing serious problems.
Saving multiparty politics will come from stopping Museveni and his core group of advisers from trashing it. A critical mass already exists in favor of peaceful resolution of political differences between the governing and opposition parties. Hopefully development partners will extend a helping hand because real democracy will benefit not only Uganda and Ugandans but other countries and peoples as well.