26 September 2017

Uganda: 'Project Museveni' Is Now Dead Argument, It Must End

Photo: Alex Esagala/Monitor
MPs fight in Parliament after trading accusations of smuggling a gun in the House during plenary on September 26, 2017.

For the last 31 years or so, President Museveni has reigned supreme as a colossus. During most of this time, he has been largely unchallenged. Back in 1986 when he arrived on the scene, the then dominant party, UPC led by Apollo Milton Obote together with the remnants of UNLF/A (which was the stop-gap measure after Amin was overthrown,) had all lost credibility.

Uganda was characterised by insecurity and uncertainty. The Democratic Party led by Paul Ssemogerere had seemingly lost the argument of how to manage Uganda's future after the disputed 1980 election. They stayed in Parliament and were indicted for complicity in the government of Obote and the short-lived junta of Gen Tito Okello.

As victors, NRM re-wrote Uganda's history, painting a dark picture of the past and presenting a blue print for a new deal.

Uganda, yearning for change, embraced Museveni and inestimable good-will flowed his way. Museveni, the revolutionary, had the 'correct line' that would deliver Uganda to the Promised Land.

NRM enjoyed a free reign as most Opposition politicians were co-opted into its broad-based government.

That began the death of serious political organisation.

People with contrary views were derogatorily dismissed as 'multipartyists' who wanted to return Uganda to the dark days of Obote and Idi Amin. They suffered harassment at the hands of State operatives.

The international community/donors provided billions of dollars in aid and direct investment to support the reforms of one of the new breed of African leaders.

It was to advantage Museveni.

Because of lack of serious political opposition, almost every policy he wanted would go unchallenged in what people describe as a 'rubber-stamp Parliament.'

He manned the Judiciary with judges of his choice many of whom were buddled under the epithet 'cadre judges.'

A good number had served as Cabinet ministers and NRM politicians. He built an army (which he called his army.) Many have accused this institution as well as the police of being staffed basing on nepotism, favouritism, and partisan considerations. It is these security agents that are used to disrupt Opposition political activities.

The Electoral Commission is handpicked by Museveni to organise elections which he always wins, but are disputed by the Opposition. (Those in favour of a referendum on Article 102(b) beware.) These elections are characterised by huge spending of money.

Minister Beti Kamya once made a well-documented argument in a little pink booklet (whose title I forget) published by the Uganda Federal Alliance. She noted that President Museveni appoints almost all the influential leaders of State and government, which makes it almost impossible to challenge him. Yet for all these efforts at perpetuation and entrenchment, Museveni has a huge army of people who oppose him. It is easy to see why. After 31 years of sustained economic growth, greater tax collection, and huge aid inflows etc, you have high unemployment rates, children still study under trees and public hospitals without drugs are common. A huge part of fertile Uganda is food insecure with people dying from hunger and starvation.

Now Article 102(b) of the Constitution bars Museveni from standing come 2021. He will be above the cut-off age of 75 years.

He who said he would not vie for power after clocking 75 is now leaving it to MPs and the people to decide. If this is not duplicity, then what is it? In comes State minister for Investment Evelyn Anite who goes on national television and warns those who resist the attempt to amend Article 102(b). She says that the army will be part of the team (making a hard sell and marketing the amendment.) Anite is the sort of person who makes one feel sorry for Museveni.

Museveni is a good student of history and as we have been informed, is cleverer than the entire Cabinet he leads. History tells us that every scheme, including the greatest political con tricks of ancient and modern times begins, runs its course and finally comes to a halt. What has come to be known as Project Museveni where the man; a one off God-send, seen only once in an epoch and his great vision for Uganda, which reigned supreme, has come to an end. That is why it now needs an even greater dose of the aphrodisiac called State-inspired violence and coercion to help it stand from its limp position (no pun intended).

Trouble is, there is no army in the world that can resist an idea whose time has come. None.

Even if Museveni and his army urged on by the empty self-seeking sycophancy of the Anites, forces through the amendment of the Constitution to help him rule for life, it will not be a peaceful and prosperous journey.

This is simply because it is based on the same principle that a rapist uses to win over the love of a captive and take her hand in marriage. The body is present, but the heart and mind are not there.

Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues.

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