In the World of Two Musevenis
A scene at the Kibuye rotary in Kampala.

In the World of Two Musevenis

Henry Kiiwa Musoke gives a brief background on who Museveni is and examines why this man is so loved and yet passionately hated. He ends the article by asking us to stop and take a look at the meaning of the word "democracy".

Where do you stand on the issues of "Democracy" and "Museveni"?

By Henry Kiiwa Musoke
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First published: May 24, 2005

Many people outside Uganda are confused by the conflicting reports they hear about Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. On the one hand they hear news of praise of this man, inside and outside of Uganda, and yet, they also read about a man despised by many to the point of donors, such as Britain, recently deciding to hold back aid to Uganda when previously Uganda was a favored destination for such aid.

In fact there are two Musevenis. There is one that we love because no one can deny that he did bring some stability to Ugandans way back in 1986. Except for much of Northern Uganda, he did rescue Ugandans from civil war (defined as a war between factions in the same country). For sure he and his army did rescue Uganda from those days when store keepers hid sugar so that one could only buy sugar on the black market, days when we were afraid to go out at night (right now Kampala is crazily alive in the middle of the amazing how those people don't sleep anymore). Inflation is under control, stable currency, better, though not perfect, implementation of law etc. The second Museveni is one that, after 19 years in office, is reluctant to hand over power.

Uganda in the past had a bad record with implementing "democracy", noteably in the early eighties. So when Museveni came into power he suspended multi party politics, implementing a unique system where the country was ruled under one party, within which there were various organs and positions where people could still vote for certain leaders. The office of the President came up for grabs in the 1990s when a new constitution was made limiting an elected President to two terms in office as we have here in the States. Slowly over time he has allowed the participation of other parties but the past two elections were a clean sweep for Museveni because of his overwhelming popularity especially in the villages where plenty of people simply enjoyed the relative peace and quiet, increased education opportunities, the ability to invest and own property without fear...etc.

This same popularity, especially in the villages where people have less education than the thinkers in Kampala, has created a move to change the constitution so that Museveni can rule for a third term. Museveni himself has not said whether he wants to run for office again but his continued statements such as "the people must decide"... or something to that effect, and his support for a re-examination of the constitution seem to indicate that he wants to remain in power.

People, inside and outside of Uganda, have equated this to the good ‘ol Museveni becoming infected with the all-African-leaders disease- "the reluctance to hand over power".

Many Ugandans, especially the educated, want to see another leader have a go at the office of the President, claiming that Museveni is tactfully limiting the participation of other parties to weaken them and make it seem that there is no other good choices to replace him. They want to see a new leader with a new energy that will take Uganda to the next step in its growth.

Other Ugandans would love to see Museveni rule till he becomes senseless because for them, they are living in peace and economic stability. Uganda had the highest economic growth rates in the nineties in Africa (and most places in the world I might add) and that is all these Ugandans care about. Anyone who travels back and forth to Uganda can see the rapid changes over the years for themselves. The thing is that these "Other Ugandans", which include a good portion of the educated, form the majority.

So what now? Do we re-write the constitution? Is Museveni as power hungry as they make him seem, like the past African leaders? Is he trying to hide behind crimes of his family by being in Office as the former American Ambassador Johnnie Carson claims? Will he or won’t he go for a third term or is he truly simply neutrally examining the “two-term” limit arguing that certain countries such as Britain do not have that rule? Is Museveni’s limitations towards multi-party politics in Uganda the real reason why the majority of Ugandans fear or do not see an alternative leader?

As we try to answer these questions we should also critically analyze the meaning of “democracy”:

  • The doctrine that the numerical majority of an organized group can make decisions binding the whole group.
  • The political orientation of those who favor government by the people or by their elected representatives
  • A political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them.

With that I innocently ask:
If the majority of Ugandans, be they less-informed or not, chose to support the President’s decision to re-examine the constitution, at which point does this become undemocratic?

Related links:
A Moment of Political Truth

By Henry Kiiwa Musoke
more from author >>
First published: May 24, 2005
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