Museveni must be having sleepless nights

Well placed people in Uganda and abroad who have watched Museveni’s rapid rise believe he has reached the top of a hill and has begun riding down a steep, winding and slippery road in a poorly maintained vehicle with unreliable brakes.

Museveni has had four reliable allies: western powers; Baganda and Catholics; NRM; and security forces. Museveni received strong western support for his willingness to implement the unpopular structural adjustment program (SAP) and to serve as a surrogate for one western group in the Great Lakes geopolitics. IMF and the World Bank wanted a place with a bold leader to develop structural adjustment into a development model for developing countries. Uganda was that place and Museveni was that bold leader who would not tolerate complaints about the harshness of SAP.

In return for his support in regional geopolitics and SAP, Museveni was given massive financial and technical assistance and allowed time to consolidate his NRM party and security forces before introducing multiparty politics. The donors turned a blind eye when Museveni forced parliament to remove term limits from the constitution and tolerated massive corruption, mismanagement, sectarianism and human rights violations. Museveni became a regular participant at the G8 Summits of the most industrialized countries in the World and was praised for introducing UPE (Universal Primary Education which has turned out a failure), fighting HIV and AIDS (infections are increasing in part for lack of condom use) and more recently for his strong anti-terrorist position. He was christened the ‘darling of the west and regional leader’ in the Horn and Great Lakes regions and the ‘dean’ of the new breed of African leaders. At the United Nations in New York journalists chased after him and he was invited to be guest speaker at many events. UN reports frequently referred to the good development work in Uganda under the leadership of President Museveni (that good work has turned out to have been a hoax as reflected in the spreading diseases of poverty and environmental degradation).

Things began to go drastically wrong in many directions. Uganda’s involvement in a destructive war in DRC and the wanton plunder of Congolese resources involving Museveni’s family members raised disturbing questions in international circles. Museveni’s dream of Tutsi Empire shocked his allies. The allegations of genocide against Hutu in DRC involving Uganda troops undermined his reputation as a regional leader. The abandonment of failed structural adjustment removed the main reason why Museveni obtained massive donor funding and protection against criticism for economic, social and environmental problems (the World Bank has demanded that government must repair Kampala City roads with the money it approved for that purpose). Museveni’s absence from the G8 Summits and the September 2010 MDGs Summit which was the main event for the UN General Assembly, demonstrations against him in New York by Ugandans for his dictatorial rule over a failed state (as confirmed by images of malnourished children and people disfigured by jiggers) and his failure to meet with key heads of delegations while he was in New York sent depressing messages about the future of a man who had been seen as a role model for future African leaders.

Museveni had always counted on solid and possibly permanent support of Baganda and Catholics for restoring their kingdom and bringing Catholics into government after the overthrow of Obote and Protestants. Catholics had entertained the idea apparently based on Museveni promises that a Catholic would become head of state in the near future. Giving Catholics various senior positions including Vice President have not compensated them enough to forgo the post of head of state. Baganda have also had major differences with Museveni on a number of issues including land. For these reasons, it is possible that many Baganda and Catholics that had been taken for granted may vote for another candidate and other parties in next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections to register their disappointment.

Museveni has until this year exercised full and undisputed control over matters related to the NRM. For the first time, 2010 has turned out differently. Disputes that had been suppressed came to the surface during NRM elections for office bearers at national and district levels and candidates for various offices including parliament and district councils. Many candidates who lost rejected the results and have decided to contest as independents. Museveni’s efforts to persuade them against the idea as it would weaken NRM have fallen on deaf ears, signaling that Museveni has lost grip on his party members. Other NRM members of parliament have decided not to run, sending messages that not all is well in the NRM and its leadership. Museveni cannot take these adverse developments lightly as they could spell disaster for him.

This leaves one ally – the security forces particularly the army and police. Security forces are made up of people who have their own interests. They will protect you as long as you protect them. We have shown in a separate article on how the Ethiopian Imperial guard looked on when young military officers stormed the palace, arrested the Emperor and forced him into a beetle Volkswagen and drove him away and was never seen again.

In Zaire when the army discovered that Mobutu was trying to escape into exile and leave them behind, out of desperation his relative nearly assassinated him as he flew out of Kinshasa airport for the last time. Mobutu’s presidential guard also shot at the cargo plane that flew him out of his home town of Gbadolite into exile where he died a few months later. This too was an act of desperation. The message being conveyed here is that the army’s behavior may be determined by what is happening around them. When they hear that their commander-in-chief is having trouble with his western backers, his party members and his Baganda and Catholic allies, the troops, as human beings, could behave in ways that were not anticipated.

For these reasons – and given that unlike in the past other parties are determined to have smooth voting and counting votes – it is fair to conclude that the president must be having sleepless nights.