Peeping Into Musevenis 3rd Term
President Yoweri Museveni with Ugandans in Washington, DC September 2005.

Peeping Into Musevenis 3rd Term

What are the must dos for Ugandans?

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: May 16, 2006

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni on Friday May 12th 2006 took oath of office as Uganda's President for the next five years. While this may be taken to be business as usual for the 61 year old who has been president of Uganda since 1986, this year's presidential swearing in as Museveni said presents a landmark in more ways than one.

After 20 years of ruling the country under a no-party movement 'system', Museveni is going to lead the next five years under a multi-party system of government. Museveni is also going to be a leader of government when the opposition (which is this time free to operate legally) claims he is leading an illegitimate government because the Supreme Court ruled that the February 2006 presidential polls were neither free nor fair and the electoral laws were not followed in conducting the elections.

The Supreme Court, which ruled 4 to 3 that the irregularities did not substantially affect the outcome of the election, also absolved Museveni of any wrongdoing. Dr. Kiza Besigye, the leader of the leading opposition group and runner up in the elections had petitioned the Supreme Court to cancel Museveni's re-elections after the Electoral Commission declared Museveni winner with 59.8% compared to Besigye's 37.9%.

Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) have been quick to point out that the Supreme Court ruling sanctified their elections victory. But with increasing political dissent against Museveni and his NRM, which in 1996 polled 75% in the elections, it will be intriguing to see how Museveni and NRM manage the next five years. There are a number of issues that are already the center of focus.

Solving the electricity/Power crisis

Uganda has in the last five months witnessed severe power shortage with daylong load shedding a norm and many businesses are crumbling and grumbling over power shortage. Prices of different products and services (including telecommunications airtime, fuel and food stuffs) have gone up as a result of power shortage, while power rates for domestic consumers have also gone up, a mixture that is making life harder for many Ugandans.

President Museveni said at his swearing in that his government will prioritize solving the electricity shortage problem, which he blames on the opposition, environmentalists and donor countries who decampained the building of Bujagali hydro electricity dam.

"We are going to build two new dams in the next 42 months with or without the participation of outsiders in financing. Any external involvement will be strictly according to our timetable," Museveni said.

Stopping corruption

Though President Yoweri Museveni won the 2006 elections, he is well aware the majority of Ugandans think and are concerned about corruption in his government. There has been growing public distrust of government as embezzlement scandal after scandal hit government projects and programmes, from the grassroots to the national level.

Museveni recently admitted that corruption was high even in his own party and vowed to crackdown on all corrupt officers in this third term. Many Ugandans will be watching keenly how he manages to do this as some of his historical allies have been implicated in one scandal or another, and access to most government services and getting government contracts has long been through a bribe of influence peddling.

Ending War and improving life in northern Uganda

The 20 year old war in northern Uganda has brought untold suffering to many Ugandans in the north and although the end of the war seems more of a reality than a dream, many people will keep their eyes open to see what Museveni and his government will do for northern Uganda. How Museveni performs on this will be a big determinant on how many Ugandans measure his 3rd term government as successful.

A few days before his swearing in ceremony, Museveni launched a reconstruction and rehabilitation programme for northern Uganda, a joint venture between government and donors. But with Kony and several Lords Resistance Army leaders still at large and killing civilians, suspicion over the north not supporting Museveni and his NRM rife, as well as the many needs in the region, Museveni will have a lot of thinking to do here.

Dealing with the opposition, especially Dr. Kiza Besigye

Museveni and his NRM must in this 3rd term deal with a free and now more vibrant opposition, especially Dr. Kiza Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change. How Museveni deals with Besigye who is facing questionable treason charges will be a big issue as the big-eyed colonel is viewed by many as a good alternative to Museveni.

Museveni and NRM could easily hand over power to the opposition if they don't solve many of the problems biting people as the free opposition will be quick to remind people about the unfulfilled promises by the government, while mishandling opposition leaders like Besigye may instead bring them more support.

Maintaining membership and allegiance within the NRM

Very soon, the cabinet list will be out. Museveni will soon also name Resident District Commissioners and a host of other offices that many NRM enthusiasts have been hoping to get. Many NRM supporters will certainly be left out, especially the many NRM ministers and MPs who lost their seats in the February elections. Keeping such NRM members who will not get positions loyal to the party and Museveni is going to be a big task that Museveni and NRM must rise up to.

Delivering on camping promises/manifesto

Even those who don't like Museveni and the NRM silently accept that Museveni had a good manifesto during the 2006 presidential campaigns. He promised Universal Secondary Education, more access to Micro-finance and entandikwa opportunities at household level, starting a housing mortgage scheme to benefit all Ugandan and prosperity for all (Bona Bagagawale). Museveni must work hard to ensure he delivers on these measurable promises, which excited many voters in the elections, or he may give the opposition a perfect opportunity to ridicule his NRM government.

This should result in more economic growth and solving the biting poverty in many parts of the country. During the swearing in ceremony at Kololo, Museveni alluded to the achievement of the proportion of people living under extreme poverty having shrunk from 56% in 1986 to 38 %, but that is still bad enough after 20 years in power. Museveni must therefore ensure his prosperity for all enters every household in Uganda.

Dealing with the donor community

More than 50% of the national budget is still donor funded, but President Museveni's relationship with donors has been far from good, not even civil. Museveni accuses donors of "external, misguided meddling" in Ugandan affairs and blames them for lack of electricity, and many other problems the country is facing. He has even said he can do without their "conditional aid" and called some undesirable names.

Many donor countries have been accusing Museveni's government of corruption and especially harassing the opposition and cut aid over concerns on slow political reform.

But with so much to deliver, Museveni will need the donor's contribution and involvement in Uganda's progress and how he manages to keep the balance between his resolve to do away with "foreign meddling" and listening to a development partner will be key on how much Museveni and NRM will mange to do in the next five years.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: May 16, 2006
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Gerald Rulekere is a Journalist and member of Ultimate Media Consult. He has written and published extensively on business and gender issues and been writing for Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd for the last two years. A professional and graduate journalist, Rulekere is always looking for an opportunity to better his writing especially for international media.