Museveni’s use of force has become counterproductive

There is consensus that Museveni is a leader guided by a unique philosophy based on the use of force and fear, dependence on foreigners and regional focus that has made his presidency counter-productive, calling for his defeat in 2011 elections. Museveni’s defeat is very important for Uganda, neighboring countries and development partners in order to avoid heavier losses in the future. Thick clouds are gathering on the political horizon and if they are not dissipated quickly they could unleash a very destructive storm. If preventive steps had been taken Ethiopia and Zaire could have avoided the adverse impact of 1974 and 1996/7 events respectively. To prevent the possibility of such events occurring in Uganda, we need to adopt a preventive strategy because it is always cheaper than cure. We should at all times avoid emotions about what Museveni has done for or against us. We should be guided only by considerations of dignity, liberty/freedom and equality of all Ugandans. We should seek and tell the truth because a diversion will be catastrophic. For easy reference let us review the rationale behind Museveni’s philosophy.

Museveni’s political ambitions were driven by the desire for his Bahororo tribe to dominate others in Uganda in a disguised feudal system of lords, clergy (the pajero vehicles were meant to get Protestant bishops on his side as he marginalizes Ugandans) and serfs as obtained in medieval Europe. That he was determined to promote Bahororo tribe to and sustain them at the top is confirmed by the report of a meeting that took place at his country home in Rwakitura in 1992. Thus, Museveni’s desire for Bahororo dominance of all Ugandans is not in dispute. The challenge that Museveni faced was how to realize this goal.

By the time Museveni went to the university in Tanzania he had concluded through debates and other student activities that he was not a popular and intelligent person. Apparently he missed admission at Makerere University because there were better applicants. Museveni’s early participation in revolutionary and military training and rebel activities against Amin had one goal: to build a national popular political base. Subsequent events at the Moshi conference that created structures for post-Amin regime, his treatment during the 1979/80 transition period and loss of an election in 1980 (there was a recount of votes in his constituency {Hansen and Twaddle1988}), Museveni decided that waiting for the next round of elections would not help and chose the use of force, an instrument he has applied since then. That Museveni has ruled by making Ugandans fear than love him is not in dispute.

The humiliation he suffered at Moshi, during the transition period and at the 1980 elections taught Museveni another unforgettable lesson: not to trust Ugandans even his Bahima cousins that chose another candidate over him in the 1980 elections. Thus during the guerrilla war his closest advisers and commanders were Batutsi (possibly Bahororo from Rwanda) refugees who formed some 25 percent of the guerrilla force. Financial support was provided by foreigners including Qaddafi, Rowland and Abiola. Media was coordinated by William Pike and the political cover was led by Lynda Chalker who was the first foreign dignitary to meet with Museveni as president of Uganda.

As president, Museveni chose to get advice and tutorials on how to run the country from foreigners. For example, Museveni was tutored in macroeconomics by foreign experts (Mallaby 2004). He filled ministries especially finance and central bank and investment institutions with foreigners particularly British and there was no limitation on the hiring of expatriates. Through massive privatization, Uganda’s economy was placed in foreign hands including the return of British Asians and repossession of their properties possibly including those that had been compensated. Museveni’s media advocates in domestic and external arena were foreigners led by William Pike who headed the New Vision (Uganda) news paper and Lynda Chalker who has remained Museveni’s confidant to this day in 2011. Paul collier has also been among his close advisers on economic matters. The few Ugandans involved in running the country have been brainwashed and sound like World Bank/IMF employees. The rest have basically been hopeless onlookers. Those who volunteered advice on their country, it was rejected. For all intents and purposes, Uganda is a British neo-colony! This may be difficult to swallow but it is true. Well placed people have remarked that Museveni gets instructions on how to run Uganda from the British Commissioner in Kampala (EIR May 30, 1997).

Lynda Chalker’s praise of Museveni was captured in an article in the Standard dated February 5, 1994. As minister of Britain’s Overseas Development, Chalker wrote that “A little over ten years ago, the eyes of the world rested briefly on Uganda were greeted by scenes of destruction and human misery very much like images from Bosnia and Somalia this year”. Much of the national economy lay in ruins: Agriculture, manufacturing and transport were virtually at a standstill, health and education systems all but destroyed. Optimism was thin on the ground. Yet now the picture is a very different one”.

Lynda Chalker did not mention that if Museveni had not embarked on an unprovoked five-year guerrilla war with foreign political, financial and media support, the physical and institutional destruction and human misery in Uganda would not have occurred.

Lynda Chalker added that “In the intervening years, many different forces have been at work to rebuild Uganda and make it a country where people may enjoy relatively secure lives and look ahead with confidence. The changes wrought in Uganda provide one example of what can be achieved through combined international effort”.

Again Lynda Chalker did not describe the skewed distribution of the benefits of economic growth in favor of a few Ugandans connected to the first family and foreigners, removal of subsidies especially on education, health and agriculture and export of foodstuffs traditionally produced for domestic consumption that have worsened conditions for many families particularly the 20 percent in the lowest income bracket that have become poorer.

Furthermore, Lynda Chalker has not commented on the spreading and deepening diseases of poverty, rising infant and maternal mortality, malnutrition and extensive biological loss due to the advice she gave to Museveni to work with IMF and draw up a structural adjustment program adopted in 1987 and abandoned in 2009 because of the serious adverse impact.

Foreign advisers also tacitly encouraged Museveni to use authoritarian means and avoid multi-party politics as long as necessary supposedly to maintain security and stability when multiparty politics was a condition for continued aid in other African countries. That explains in part why defense and security budgets were exempt from subsidy cuts and instead kept rising while subsidies were eliminated and budgets drastically reduced in other sectors.

With this solid and assured foreign backing and the use of force that guaranteed his security at home, Museveni turned his energies to regional matters in Burundi, Rwanda, Sudan, DRC and Kenya squandering development resources and causing untold suffering including looting of DRC resources which was confirmed at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague. A recent report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) has alleged that Uganda troops committed genocide against the Hutu people in DRC.

Despite all these negative revelations western powers continue to shower praises on Museveni as a great leader, very capable and visionary politician as commented by the outgoing EU representative to Uganda. Did the Ambassador read the UNHCHR report on Hutu genocide in DRC which was widely distributed, did he read the UN and ICJ reports on Uganda’s plunder of DRC resources, did he read the UNFAO report on environmental degradation which could turn Uganda into a desert within 100 years, did the Ambassador miss frequent floods in Kampala where he lived because the drainage channels for rain water have been blocked by buildings constructed during Museveni’s presidency, did the Ambassador miss pictures of Ugandans being destroyed by malnutrition and jiggers and the demonstrators that were shot dead and many others injured in Kampala in 2009 etc?

Where did the EU representative get information that enabled him to make such a bold statement that Museveni is a very capable, visionary politician? Capable for who and visionary in what direction, one may ask? May be the Ambassador was using a yardstick that we are not familiar with. Without understanding that context, our conclusion is that his statement is not borne out by facts on the ground. We hope that if the Ambassador reads this article, he will be able to explain satisfactorily why he regards Museveni a very capable, visionary politician.

So where has Museveni’s philosophy left Ugandans? The use of force, foreign support and adventure into regional politics by Museveni has left Uganda disadvantaged. The situation is being made worse by Kenya. Kenya’s partisan involvement in Uganda’s politics during the current campaign for presidential and parliamentary elections has raised serious questions about interference in the domestic affairs of a sovereign country which Kenyans complained about when it was alleged that Museveni interfered in 2007 Kenya’s politics. Kenya’s open support for Museveni from both coalition parties of Kibaki and Odinga has raised serious questions about Uganda’s future relations with Kenya particularly in the context of the East African economic integration and fast track political federation.

Whoever becomes president, Ugandans must rethink the rush to political federation. Experience from other countries especially the European Union has shown that there have been two approaches. There are those who wanted to begin with economic and social matters in the short and medium term and end up with the political union. In this regard, the signing of the Single European Act on December 17, 1985 laid down the conditions for integrating member states into “Europe that would be not only economic and social but also, in the long run, political” (F. Delouche 1993), conveying a clear sense that you end up with a political union: you do not start with it as the leaders of East Africa are doing with their fast track political federation option. There are so many unknowns that discourage this fast track model. The first East African Community collapsed largely because there was no strong foundation and viable institutions and culture to sustain it when the three leaders disagreed. We are repeating the same mistake.

Other Europeans including Altiero Spinelli and Jean Monnet dreamt of a federal Europe along the lines of the United States of America. This is similar to what Museveni spelt out in his 1997 mission statement regarding the creation of federal states in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region under one nation. Practically, this United States of Europe dream has become difficult to implement and has receded (A. Staab 2008). It is hoped that the eminent report being prepared for the April East African Summit will draw on this experience as well as the challenges being faced under NAFTA and the integration of the Americas.

Ugandans must remain vigilant because the stakes are very high. Economic integration and political federation matters sound excellent in theory but are very difficult to implement, much less sustain. Europe, Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar) and the first East African Community should provide guidance on how difficult these things can be when it comes to implementation (the dividing up of Uganda into over 100 districts started off as an excellent idea in theory, now look at the problems in funds and qualified personnel it has created, without mentioning potential of undermining the national unity project if it still exists). Right now, East Africa does not have a cultural, linguistic, historical etc basis for rushing into economic integration and political federation.

Kenya and Uganda leaders eager to move forward should not force their citizens into rushed economic and political agreements, notwithstanding that the two ideas are fine in principle. These are matters that need patient, calculated and incremental discussion and unanimity on all points particularly in areas of land, jobs, immigration and markets.

We need to keep reminding our leaders that we understand what is at stake. We should not allow Museveni’s authoritarian rule to close our eyes to what is happening within and without Uganda. The easiest solution to all these challenges is to defeat Museveni on February 18, 2011.

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