Citizens’ Voice: How Museveni has kept himself in power for decades

President Museveni is eligible for 2021 presidential polls.

President Museveni has been passed fit for 2021 and beyond presidential polls by his party’s top decision making body, CEC.

Mr. Museveni, even without endorsement by CEC last week, was guaranteed his candidacy in the next general polls after parliament removed presidential age limit from the Constitution.

After it [constitutional amendment of Article 102(b)] faced legal battles, Justices of the Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale last year ruled that the amendment was done – legally. That done, Mr. Museveni can now rule for perpetuity.

In our Citizens’ Voice Weekly, we talked to some Ugandan politicians on what they think has kept Museveni in power for three decades, and counting, and below, are what they said.

Issha Otto Amiza – former Oyam South MP

Opportunistic and greedy behavior of most of our politicians; Majority of opposition politicians, according to Issha Otto Amiza is double dealers who pretend to the people and yet they spy for Museveni.

Hon. Issha Amiza Otto

“This act confuses the voters and leaves the ordinary voters stranded with their opposition. Look at people like Jimmy Akena, Mugisha Muntu, Beatrice Anywar, Betty Olive Kamya, Betty Amongi, and others,” former Oyam South MP, Issha Otto says.

Heavy involvement of women in high public positions and political offices is cited by Otto to be one factor that has kept Museveni in power for long. “Museveni uses women as the best tool to penetrate the public by inducing them with stolen state money and small jobs. Women pay allegiance to needs and happiness than anything.”

The personalization of military and the heavy use of state army to suppress and destroy democratic structures, to former Oyam South MP, Otto, has been Museveni’s way of staying in power.

“Use of state resources where the current state deploys national money without any break, Bank of Uganda and URA are open and direct source to fund Museveni’s politics,” he further claims.

“The super powers,” he says, adding:Museveni being a trickster plays the game of giving and doing things to the interests of the foreign policies of America and Europe and so they maintain him in power.”

Also, he says: “The politics of sectarianism; divide and rule. Divide of the South and North and empower the majority south and marginalize the minority north to create animosity and hatred so that the support is divided along regions and ethnicity.”

Asuman Odaka – former Tororo Municipality MP contestant, 2016 polls

Dissecting the five myths and five truths about President Museveni, Odaka says President Museveni is a Pan Africanist.

Asuman Odaka.

Museveni played a key role in the fight against Amin: There is no question that President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda had – and retains – an intense hatred of former president Idi Amin Dada. But his role in the fall of the self-proclaimed Conqueror of the British Empire has been grossly exaggerated.

“Museveni’s own account of his contribution to the so-called liberation is tainted by self-applauding tales that have been disputed. His Front for National Salvation, or Fronasa, fell to pieces in 1974 and gave way to other organizations like the Uganda National Movement and Peoples Liberation Party” he says, quoting Fronasa executive committee member, Yoga Adhola.

Whereas Adhola’s obsession with the Uganda People’s Congress does not make him the most credible person to assess Milton Obote’s archenemy, his version of Fronasa’s story seems to be more objective than Museveni’s chest-thumping narrative.

Even before 1974 when Fronasa ceased to exist as a serious group, Museveni had done more talking than action.

“Museveni told [Tanzanian President] Mwalimu Julius Nyerere that he had built a strong underground network in Uganda,” recalls Adhola, who closely worked with the son of Kaguta in exile in Dar-es-Salam.

“That he had trained people in the districts of Mbarara, Masaka and Busoga to fight Amin and all he needed was extra material and political support,” he added.

“In 1972, Tanzania launched an invasion of Uganda that turned out to be a disaster. Nyerere had hoped that Museveni’s trained men inside Uganda would join the attack on Amin. Of course that did not materialize; the men Museveni had talked of did not actually exist.”

Museveni’s alleged lies led the Tanzania People’s Defense Force into harm’s way, suffering a terrible massacre at the hands of the Uganda Army. This strengthened, rather than weakened, the shrewd military leader who later vowed to rule for life.

“Between then and 1979, there was little that the current president, and the Ugandan exiles in general, did to undermine Amin apart from spreading harmful propaganda that contributed to the isolation of Kampala.”

“In 1979, Museveni picked up the pieces of his broken Fronasa and joined other forces to form the Uganda National Liberation Army whose capability, without the full-scale invasion of the Tanzanian military, would have been no match for Amin’s well-trained, well-equipped troops.”

There is nothing in this concerted campaign that makes Museveni’s contribution extraordinary. With or without him, Kampala would have fallen without additional burden. Museveni’s overall contribution is negligible.

Museveni restored democracy: President Yoweri Museveni’s style of governance is a comical deformed version of democracy that modern dictators have invented.

“This system adopts some democratic institutions but ensures that they remain too weak to serve as checks and balances. It puts in place a parliament that dances to the tune of the executive, a judiciary that is dominated by ruling party cadres and an electoral commission that is unilaterally hired and fired by the first citizen. This is how Mr. Museveni has failed democracy in Uganda,” says Odaka.

The Head of State should surely not be crucified for frustrating an alien model of governance that usually degenerates into anarchy. Popular elections, for instance, often tempt politicians to resort to populist albeit wrong policies simply to attract votes. The reluctance of the government to rid the capital of the nuisance of motorbike taxis, or bodaboda, is rooted in the fear to lose votes.

“The same fear explains the continued existence of the filthy, fire-prone St. Balikuddembe (Owino) market in a place meant to be parking space for the Nakivubo Stadium. Kampala remains nasty and ghastly partly because of democracy.”

“Such cases are not unique to Uganda,” he thinks, adding: “Whereas dictatorial China can easily wipe away a slum and instantly create space for an investment that employs thousands, democratic India on the other hand, besides going through the straining bureaucracy of democracy, may hesitate to relocate the dwellers of the slum to avoid their backlash on polling day.”

There is in fact no question that China’s rapid economic growth, as opposed to India’s economic sluggishness, is partly explained by Beijing’s ability to make decisions very quickly, an advantage that often evades democracies. Museveni himself has repeatedly alleged that parliament delayed his plan to construct a dam that would have significantly reduced the problem of power shortage.

“Even western democracies attained economic growth long before they knew democracy. Europe industrialized and advanced at a time when dictators ran its affairs, from 19th Century despotic monarchs to 20th Century Nazis and fascists. The argument that democracy is a prerequisite for economic growth is just a well-packaged piece of lies.”

Even if we were to accept the myth that democratic governance is the foundation of the economic might of the west, the success of a model in one place does not necessarily mean it must succeed everywhere else.

Instead of blindly imitating alien systems, developing countries, as Pakistani scholar Ziaddin Sardar observers in The Quest for a New Science should “devise their own patterns of development tailor-made for their own needs, abilities, and aspirations.”

But this is not the spirit in which Museveni has frustrated western democracy. On the contrary, he has corrupted democracy to feed into his inglorious scheme of perpetual absolute rule.

The sudden death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda late 2012 put Museveni on the defensive, with various politicians insinuating that the young politician was poisoned. This supposition was unfounded because of four factors.”

“There was no evidence that Ms. Nabenda died from poisoning. The fact that the police prevented a pathologist from taking her body samples to South Africa for independent examination doesn’t constitute evidence that she was poisoned.”

Secondly, Nebanda posed no imminent or even distant threat to Museveni. Whereas she was vocal, by no means was she the only critic and certainly not the most extreme in her criticism of the government.

“Besides, and whereas Museveni is a notorious executioner who has slaughtered hundreds of thousands in northern Uganda and eastern Congo, he is not known to slay people for merely criticizing him. He, on the contrary, usually neutralizes critics by giving them money and jobs, rebutting their arguments or ignoring them,” Mr. Odaka alleges.

“Lastly, there was believable evidence that Nebanda used narcotics. Apart from keeping company with drug dealers, she, her former classmates and colleagues confirmed, was a drug addict, adding weight to official reports that the late died from drug-related complications.”

Museveni is a Christian: “Far from following Christianity, Museveni is a primitive African traditionalist who consults sorcerers before he embarks on any risky enterprise. Media photographs of him jumping over a carcass of a cow during the 2005 funeral of John Garang in South Sudan will not easily fade away from the memory of the world.”

Education Minister Janet Museveni and husband President Museveni in prayers recently.

Many politicians and most women in this part of the world, regardless of their exposure and education levels, remain ardent believers in witchcraft and other superstitious orders.

“Museveni is a Pan Africanist,” Odaka concludes.

Babra Akech, the Alebtong district LC5 Councilor, Secretary Health and Education

She says: “The introduction of democracy in this country by president Museveni is what has kept him or long because during elections, people sell their manifestos.”

“Presidential candidates come and show their interests, moving all over the country, and at the end of it all Ugandans discover that NRM manifestos sold by President Museveni are worth buying and that is the only reason why this government has lasted for all these years.”

“Two, after selling to all Ugandans, president Museveni always fulfills his pledges, example; in his manifesto, he talked about road networks in the country, electricity and we are all aware about Rural Electrification in the country. He talked about health, you know what is happening – the upgrading of some health centre’s to next levels and these interventions is to target Ugandans,” she added.

In education sector, she says president’s governance is doing well. “We have UPE and UCE for primary and secondary learners, up to the university and other institutions everywhere.”

“I love president Museveni – he has always targeted women and youth who are majority voters. He has created positions for them, has supported them. His intervention targets women and youth in the list of beneficiaries, women and youth are part of his government project.”

“This government has catered for every category of people. When you go to every district, Persons with Disabilities [PWDs] are benefiting from government from special grants and they are able to create their own way of living, sustain their families and these are voters,” she added.

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