How Museveni got into power and why he is not leaving soon

Museveni has remarked that as a guerrilla fighter he is not going to be chased out of state house like a chicken thief. He has warned that you cannot kill an animal and leave someone else to enjoy the meat. Since Uganda has just found oil, Museveni expects Ugandans and the rest of the world to understand why he just cannot walk away and leave someone else to enjoy the benefits. He will come up with something else in 2016 elections to stay in power!

In order to govern indefinitely Museveni forced an amendment in the 1995 Uganda Constitution that removed presidential term limits. He can therefore contest presidential elections as many times as he wants. Western powers have acquiesced. In other situations they would have put pressure including withdrawal of foreign aid. What facilitated Museveni’s ascent to and stay in power?

Museveni had crystallized the idea of governing Uganda early in his life in large part because he was not prepared to be governed by people who had before independence been slaves (Bairu) or commoners. The minority rulers (Bahima/Bahororo) lost to Bairu majority at the ballot box in former Ankole kingdom before independence in 1962. Because of the numerical inferiority of his Bahororo tribe (Nilotic Batutsi from Rwanda), he concluded that only force would bring him to power. He then went to Tanzania not so much to study for a first degree in economics and political science subjects which were better developed at Makerere in Uganda but to get access to revolutionary and military training facilities.

After Amin was overthrown in 1979, there was a leadership problem and Obote who had been overthrown in a military coup in 1971 with western backing for his so-called socialist views returned to power in the 1980 elections. Although he tried to prove he had become a capitalist in orientation, Obote would not be trusted by the western world. A trusted replacement had to be found.

Since 1980 the struggle among western powers for control of then Zaire and its abundant wealth led to the need to find an African surrogate. According to Keith Harmon Snow, United Kingdom, Israel and USA (Phillips 2006) chose Museveni as their man. He was given political, media and financial cover. It is reported that Museveni boasted at a press conference that he was funded by Lonrho of Tiny Rowland and various refugee aid operations. Propaganda and publicity was provided free of charge by BBC (EIR September 26, 1997).

Once in power, Museveni received strong political backing from Linda Chalker former minister in Thatcher government in UK who has remained Museveni’s close adviser since then. Museveni managed to marshal this support in large part because he accused Obote of stealing the 1980 elections although it had been sanctioned as Obote’s victory by the Commonwealth team of observers. Museveni also accused Obote of being sectarian using both religion and tribe to divide the people of Uganda. However, of all leaders since independence, Museveni has been judged by Ugandans and others as the most divisive along religious and tribal lines and most corrupt. Yet western powers have not done much to address these complaints. Why has this happened?

At the urging of Linda Chalker, World Bank and IMF, Museveni’s government adopted the shock therapy version of structural adjustment program (SAP) which had been rejected in Ghana because of the hardship it had cause the people of Ghana. In order to continue with the SAP experiment as a development model for developing countries concessions were made to Museveni. Structural adjustment would not adversely affect security forces in resource allocation. Museveni was also given a waiver to delay the launch of multiparty politics. He used his resistance system to destroy pre-independence parties of Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC) and Democratic Party (DP).

Nelson Kesfir has observed that the New Labor Party under Tony Blair in the UK decided that it would not press the multiparty reforms in Uganda. However, this was the time when donors were insisting that aid depended on progress towards multiparty politics (Journal of Democracy April 1998). Museveni banned party activities, harassed opposition candidates, rigged elections, became corrupt and sectarian on the basis of religion and tribe, abused human rights and got away with it. John F. Clark has added that Museveni’s regime has been forgiven its trespasses because of pursuing structural adjustment policies (2002) that were unpopular in Africa especially in neighboring Tanzania during Nyerere’s administration. With structural adjustment out of fashion, Museveni has quickly found another area that will keep him the ‘darling’ of the west.

By becoming a strong anti-terrorist leader in East and Central African regions and contributing Uganda troops to Somalia, Museveni has endeared himself to western powers fighting terrorism. In return, western powers have been diplomatic in addressing rampant corruption, mismanagement, human rights abuse and invasion of neighboring countries and allegations of genocide against Hutu in DRC, among others. Museveni has refused to set up an independent electoral commission meaning that he has staffed it with his people to help him rig the elections in 2011. And where is the dissenting voice of donors?

Thus, Museveni came to power with backing largely of western powers that have sustained him in spite of many trespasses and abuses. With an electoral commission on his side, Ugandans believe that Museveni will do what it takes to get reelected and his western sponsors will not say a thing. Thus, democracy at gun point has been given free rein in Uganda. In former Zaire dictator Mobutu stayed in power for thirty years because western powers needed him during the Cold War days. When his sponsors were through with him, he was forced out and died in exile a few months later. Similarly there is likelihood that Museveni will govern Uganda as long as terrorism still threatens Eastern and Central African regions and western powers still need him.

The majority of Ugandans that has suffered under Museveni’s regime need to urge him to agree to a coalition government or bury their differences and pull their resources together and deny him an opportunity to rig the fourth time. Using divisive tactics have helped Museveni to weaken opposition and rig elections. He should not be given an opportunity this time. What is needed is collective determination and boldness by all in the opposition camp. A lot of talk has been done, now is the time for concerted action.

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