There are good and bad leaders. Good leaders have characteristics including persuasion that make them popular and eliminate resort to force. Leadership qualities – good or bad – are detected early in one’s life. A good leader even among children persuades, a bad one bullies. Good leaders are trusted and are well known in their communities and therefore popular. When they arrive in a village all people are eager to meet and welcome them. Bad leaders lead to debates about who should meet them because none likes them even many of those working for them.
Throughout his school days, Museveni did not exhibit qualities (intellectual and social etc) that would qualify him as a good leader. And people who know him very well including some of his teachers will tell you that Museveni was driven into politics by the desire to dominate others not to serve the interest of the general public. He wanted to dominate by impoverishing or marginalizing subjects as we have witnessed over the last 25 years of his rule. This conclusion and his actions together with uncertainties surrounding his place of birth have made Ugandans to judge Museveni as unpopular and a poor leader. That is why he has gained positions by default and/or through rigging elections (EIR 1997 and John F. Clark (2002). Consequently, Museveni has failed to win the hearts of Ugandans for the following illustrative reasons.
1. Museveni’s birth place has remained unresolved. In 1985 he wrote that he was born in Kyamate in Ankole district – present-day Ntungamo district. People have remained unconvinced and many think he was born in Rwanda and he is therefore a Tutsi. Recently, Nina Mbabazi Rukikaire wrote that actually Museveni was born in Rukungiri district but she did not give details. She has been asked to substantiate but has not responded – it is now close to three weeks since she was asked to elaborate. Shifa Mwesigye has now added a new dimension to the puzzle when he wrote that Museveni’s grandfather was born in Buyanja (in Rubabo county of Rukungiri district). He too did not give details. Dry statements like these raise more questions than they offer answers and cause the public to doubt and to distrust their leader – Museveni.
2. Museveni’s shifting party alliances makes it difficult to trust him. Museveni started off as a staunch UPC member. You must be trusted and with good connections to get a job in office of the president especially in the research department. That is where Museveni worked with Obote I regime. Because his ambitions were not served well, he quit UPC and joined DP. He had hoped to lead DP but failed. Museveni being Protestant should not have expected to lead DP a Catholic party. So when he failed he hurriedly formed his own party (UPM) weeks before the 1980 elections were held. It is not surprising that his party won one parliamentary seat and Museveni lost in his constituency. When you hear Museveni despise UPC and DP especially the former and Obote then leader, you get the impression that he never belonged there to avoid blame for what went wrong in these two parties. And people who know that he was there as an active member lose trust in him as leader.
3. When Museveni brought Baganda and Catholics together in the early 1980s to defeat Obote and his UPC government, he gave the impression that he was helping them to replace Obote. He was providing a military dimension to solve a political problem. In other words the objective was political using military as a component of the solutions. Lule a very well known political figure in Uganda was elected chairman of NRM signaling who would become president should the UPC government fall. When Lule passed away in early 1985 Museveni became interim chairman of NRM. He made sure elections were not conducted to elect a new chairman because he knew he might not be elected. When NRM captured power a year later Museveni was still interim chairman. He illegitimately became chairman of NRM because there were no elections (EIR Special report 1997) and president by default.
4. A good leader protects and promotes development interests of the people. During bad economic times, a good leader makes every effort to protect vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, lactating mothers, children, the sick and senior citizens. Museveni lacks these qualities. The 30 percent service charge across the board he imposed when the new Uganda currency was introduced showed how insensitive Museveni is. The launching of shock therapy (extremely harsh) version of structural adjustment in 1987 when there was overwhelming evidence that it had caused untold suffering of people clearly shows how bad a leader Museveni is. Here is the evidence which Museveni knew or should have known because it was everywhere: (a) In 1984 Ernest Stern, World Bank vice-president candidly stated that structural adjustment policies had failed Africa. “We … have failed in Africa, along with everybody else …. We have not always designed our projects to fit the … conditions in Africa” (New Africa February 1993). (b) In 1986 Zaya Yeeba, a former member of Rawlings government wrote that “Ghana has admitted that the IMF magic has failed to work” (Africa Concord September 18, 1986). (c) While addressing a conference in Italy in 1989 Ghanaian journalist Cameron Duodu stated that structural adjustment including devaluation that had been imposed on Ghana by IMF had caused unprecedented hardship. “Food, education, health and other services are now enormously expensive, with the result that the standard of living of the people has been eroded at a disastrous rate” (Development and Cooperation March 14, 1989). (d) Museveni was probably aware that Chile the first country to introduce shock therapy structural adjustment had abandoned it and the entire team of ‘Chicago Boys’ that had championed it had been dismissed and disgraced and a new team of pragmatists combining private and public partnership had been brought on board. It is this group (not the Chicago Boys) that is responsible for the ‘success story’ of Chile! In spite of this abundant information and domestic advice including by the minister of finance, Museveni went ahead and adopted the IMF harsh version of structural adjustment in 1987 that he refused to adjust for 24 years. Although officially abandoned since late 2009 and replaced by national development plan, Museveni and senior officials in the ministry of finance and central bank is still implementing structural adjustment as evidenced by overriding concern for inflation control, focus on growth and per capita income, refusal to introduce subsidies as recommended by the World Bank in respect of agriculture (Foreign Affairs November/December 2010) etc. The suffering of people continues to spread and deepen as evidenced by malnutrition and other diseases of poverty (but government continues to present growth statistics including per capita increase in shoes). In this environment of acute suffering a good leader would adopt real anti-poverty programs (poverty reduction action plan is good on paper not in implementation) including public works projects to absorb unemployed youth and school feeding programs. You do not see these poverty reduction projects. While Museveni claims he has no money to save lives he has confirmed that he has plenty to cover funeral expenses if re-elected. Would you expect such a statement from a good leader? Many Ugandans were and are still shocked at the level of Museveni’s insensitivity.
5. Within the context of East African economic integration and political federation, a good leader would be negotiating hard to maximize net (positive) benefits for citizens. Museveni is pushing the political federation negotiations so hard because he wants to be the first president. He has virtually ignored all other aspects including the very important issues such as foreign land ownership and competition in Uganda domestic labor market. Based on present negotiations trajectory Ugandans will lose land and jobs. Museveni’s liberal immigration policy especially when combined with birth control of poor Ugandans will lead to indigenous Ugandans outnumbered by immigrants and create the sad political situation as in Ivory Coast.
6. For these and other reasons Museveni has failed to lead Uganda well and has been unpopular right from the beginning. He has ruled by force, tricks, broken promises and above all overreliance on foreign support that brought and has sustained him in power. In exchange for this protection Museveni has handed over Uganda’s economy and its management to foreigners (Sebastian Mallaby 2004 and New African September 1992). The only thing remaining is land. Ugandans should therefore fight to the last man or woman to prevent Museveni from selling or leasing Uganda land should he get re-elected. Otherwise Ugandans will end up penniless and landless. Ugandans must take this advice on land very seriously including rejecting East African federation debate in its current form that will lead to loss of land and jobs among others.
7. Development partners who continue to praise Museveni should put their remarks in a proper context. Ugandans are puzzled when they hear and/or read foreigners praising Museveni for reducing poverty, keeping the country politically stable (at gun point) and maintaining macroeconomic stability that has killed Ugandans through cut back on health budgets etc. They should pay more attention to biodiversity loss as a result of cultivating cut flowers for export etc, children wards turning into hospices, children studying under trees, children born underweight, increasing insanity, jiggers and malnutrition etc that are killing Ugandans and disfiguring survivors. This is the reality on the ground. Diplomats who live and work in Uganda and file reports to their capitals should focus on this reality to facilitate appropriate decision making and protect their credibility.