Let it be known that Museveni’s problem is not age. It is a combination of dangerous adventurism, incompetence, rigidity and dishonesty. He became president in his early 40s and has been in power uninterrupted since 1986. With experience of 27 years as executive president and still counting and abundant public good will at home and abroad in the early stages, financial and natural resources and highly educated and experienced Ugandans, Museveni should have turned Uganda into a first world country economically, socially and democratically.
At the start of his administration in January 1986, Museveni launched a very popular ten-point program subsequently revised to fifteen that promised among other things eradicating poverty, hunger, ignorance, disease and suffering in general; commercializing agriculture and industrializing Uganda within fifteen years; periodic free and fair elections that would elect representatives that would be servant and not master of the people. He promised a professional military force that would defend the country against external invasion. He promised security of the person and property, elimination of all forms of corruption, cronyism and sectarianism and return of property including land to rightful owners. He promised freedom, justice and equality of all Ugandans. He promised good neighborliness because doing otherwise would destabilize the region.
Soon after becoming president, Museveni abandoned all the promises and embarked on economic and military adventurism in the form of “shock therapy” structural adjustment program when he knew it had run into difficulties in Chile and Ghana. He embarked on military and other forms of interference in internal affairs of other states including in Burundi, Central African Republic, DRC, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan and currently South Sudan which could escalate the war and extend it to neighboring countries. This military adventurism has resulted in millions dead, millions wounded, millions displaced and millions worth of property destroyed.
Because of Museveni’s pursuit of personal greatness at the expense of development, Uganda has been classified as a failed state which has become vulnerable to internal and external shocks. Therefore his age at 70 has very little to do with these failures. If anything it should have been a highly valuable asset.
There are many examples which demonstrate that advanced age when combined with competence, patriotism and honesty is an asset and produces excellent results regardless of ideological and even physical differences of leaders. Here are a few illustrations.
Konrad Adenauer a tall man became chancellor of Germany in 1949 at the age of 75. It was his longevity in power, moral authority and exceptional leadership that enabled him to turn Germany around after the devastating impact of the Second World War.
Benjamin Disraeli served Britain as prime minister. He was in his seventies during his last premiership. He used his advanced age, experience and commitment to initiate reforms and policies to inter alia improve slum, factory and farm work conditions. He believed in progress and improved living standards for all.
Ronald Reagan a tall man became president of the United States of America when he was 69 years old. He inherited an economy in recession. He turned it around, sharply reducing unemployment and inflation. He restored a sense of optimism to his nation. As a reward for his accomplishments, Reagan received a rating of Grade A.
Narasimha Rao became prime minister of India when he was 70 years old at a time when the Indian economy was in deep trouble. With his long experience in the Indian government, capable leadership and a careful selection of advisers including ministers on merit, Rao gathered courage and abandoned “many of [India’s] old and foolish policies”. He turned the economy around and laid the foundation that has lifted India onto a world stage as a good performer.
Deng Xiaoping a very short man became leader of China at the age of 73. With his long experience in the Communist Party, he knew what had gone wrong. He launched an economic modernization program that also opened China to the outside world. His main focus was ending poverty and gaining China’s recognition on the world stage. It did not matter what methods were used. He commented: “It does not matter whether the cat is white or black; if it catches mice it is a good cat”.
Not least, Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa when he was 75 years old. He successfully forged South Africa into a rainbow country where many thought it was impossible.
Thus, Museveni is being rejected by the majority of Ugandans and increasingly by other Africans and non-Africans alike and urged to step down soonest not so much because he is old but because of his failure at home and dangerous adventurism abroad.
Secretary General, United Democratic Ugandans (UDU).