Uganda Elections 2006: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's Long Road Ahead

Uganda Elections 2006: Yoweri Kaguta Museveni's Long Road Ahead

The arrest of Dr. Besigye seems to have woken up many Ugandans to Museveni’s stand on who can lead Uganda: only himself.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: December 28, 2005

Uganda is headed for the first multi-party elections in the last more than 25 years with six candidates competing for the country’s top post. The Electoral Commission has set February 23rd, 2006 as the date for Presidential elections.

The Candidates are: incumbent Yoweri Museveni for the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O), John Ssebaana Kizito for the Democratic Party (DP), Dr. Kizza Besigye for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Miria Obote for the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC), Alhajji Nasser Ntege Ssebagala and Dr. Abed Bwanika who are standing as independent candidates.

We promised to bring you an analysis of the candidates, who they are, their stakes and their manifestos. Today, we bring Yoweri Museveni of the National resistance Movement Organsiation (NRM-O).

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is the current President of the republic of Uganda and is believed by many capable of winning the February 23rd 2006 presidential elections.

Museveni was born in 1944 in Kyamate, Uganda to Amos Kaguta and Esteri Kokundeka (RIP). He is married to Janet Museveni with whom they have four children, all married.

He went to Mbarara High School, Ntare School in Western Uganda before joining Dar Es Salaam University, Tanzania in 1970 from where he graduated with a BA in Economics and Political Science.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni became President of the Republic of Uganda on January 29, 1986 after leading a successful five-year Guerrilla war against the government of Apollo Milton Obote (RIP).

A political activist since his early school days, Museveni had been one of the leaders in the anti-Amin resistance of 1971-1979 that had led to the fall of Amin.

After Idi Amin's coup in 1971, Museveni was instrumental in forming Fronasa (the Front for National Salvation). Fronasa made up the core of one of the Ugandan fighting groups which, together with the Tanzanian People's Defence Forces, ousted Amin's regime in April 1979.

In the governments that succeeded Amin, Museveni served briefly as Minister of Defence, Minister of Regional Cooperation and Vice-Chairman of the Military Commission.

In December 1980, the country's first general elections in 20 years were held. This election is believed to have been rigged by Milton Obote's Uganda People's Congress Party. During the election campaign, Museveni who was standing on the ticket of the newly created Uganda People Movement (UPM) had warned that if the elections were rigged, he would fight Obote's regime and on February 6, 1981, he launched the guerrilla struggle. He went to the bush with only 26 guns and organized the National Resistance Army (NRA) to fight Obote's regime.

His National Resistance Army eventually took power in January 1986 and introduced the “Movement” system of politics - described as a broad-based, alternate system of democracy in which people compete for political office on individual merit.

Many people have hailed Museveni for being a visionary leader and forming a broad-based government that demonstrated to Ugandans that although they had different political, social and religious backgrounds, they had a lot in common and a common destiny, contrary to the divide-and-rule tactics employed by previous politicians under multiparty politics.

That was when the country was still being ruled under the no-party movement system and some people growingly got tired of preferring political pluralism. Museveni argued that political party activity split underdeveloped countries like Uganda along ethnic and religious lines.

Though originally opposed to the idea, after insurmountable pressure from donors and opposition groups, Museveni finally gave in to multiparty politics and led the YES side in the July 2005 referendum that voted for a return to multi-party politics.

Today, he is a presidential candidate of the National Resistance Movement Organisation (NRM-O), a party many people equate to the movement system with allegations that it has been holding other parties at bay as it organised and mobilised for the last 20 years. Being an incumbent, Museveni is expected to reap all benefits of an incumbent President, which find him with more financial resources, and being more known than other candidates.

There is no doubt that many ordinary Ugandans, especially in rural areas, still support Museveni, saying he has brought peace, stability and economic prosperity as people no longer live in fear of the army. Museveni has also been praised for liberalising the economy and he appealed to the Asian business community expelled by Idi Amin to return and invest in Uganda.

He was also one of the first African leaders to face up to the challenge of HIV/Aids. Uganda is one of the few countries where the rate of infection has fallen and is a global example of an appropriate response to the aids pandemic.

But corruption has remained a serious problem in Uganda and Museveni continues to face criticism for not taking a stronger line against corrupt government officials. This is one of the increasing difficulties that are turning many former allies from Museveni. In August, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, suspended some grants to Uganda, citing alleged financial mismanagement.

Having been involved in toppling two presidents and winning two landslide presidential elections, Museveni has riled many with his not-so-secretive belief that he is the only person to lead Uganda.

In his 2001 election manifesto, he stated he wanted a second and last term in office - and one of his tasks would be to choose a successor.

We are headed for another election and he is the candidate of the ruling party and with no term limits, meaning he can rule as long as his party keeps him as chairman. This is a strong possibility since it is difficult to separate Museveni and NRM. A political architect and manipulator?

Museveni can win the 2006 elections through clean grassroots support. He has the majority of support in rural Uganda. Or, some say he may win by other means as demonstrated in the last election which the Supreme Court found to be highly fraudulent though the 5 Judges failed to agree 3 to 2 that this could have substantially affected the results of the elections. That victory for Museveni however, can only count for 2001.

The challenges on Museveni seem to be increasing by the day. Donors who finance more than 50% of Uganda’s Budget seem not impressed by Museveni’s performance especially in governance matters and fighting corruption. This has been exacerbated by last month’s arrest and detention of his most credible challenger, RTD. Col. Dr. Kizza Besigye who has been charged with Treason and Rape Charges as well as Terrorism and possession of illegal arms by the Military Court Martial.

Many critics have said the charges against Besigye are politically motivated and the deployment of military personnel during Court proceedings on the case as well as trying Besigye in two Courts at the same time even when he is not a serving army officer has not helped to convince anyone otherwise.

Many donor countries have as a result cut aid. Belgium, Canada, the United Kingdom; the Netherlands have all cut aid citing unconvincing governance issues. Museveni has in turn questioned their “interference in the local matters of our governance”.

He believes strongly that Africans must be left to decide their governance. The force of the president's convictions is both his strength, as it enables him to get things done, and his weakness, as it has led him to find it increasingly hard to get him new allies.

His stance against Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the north is also criticised, with an emphasis on military action rather than negotiation.

The brutal conflict has dragged on for as long as the president's term in office and driven more than a million people from their homes. The people living in northern Uganda IDPs have never and are unlikely to vote for Museveni.

Museveni has also spent a reported $1.2m of tax-payers' money to enlist the help of a London-based public relations firm to counter the growing criticism. It has launched a drive to bring in the tourists under the slogan: "Uganda: Gifted By Nature." But even on that website is the admission: "Branding a country is a formidable challenge."

Despite employing the PR firm, some analysts suggest Mr Museveni's actions give the impression he does not care as much as he used to about his international image as staying in power is his primary objective.

The recent International Court of Justice Ruling obliging Uganda to pay for unlawfully invading and plundering the Democratic Republic of Congo to a tune of over 18trillion shillings will continue to hammer a negative effect on Museveni.

While he has been hailed for revitalising the economy and bringing prosperity to many Ugandans, poverty levels are on the increase in Uganda. While 33% of Uganda’s population was chronically poor in 2001 when Museveni was last elected, 38% of Ugandans are chronically poor as he seeks another mandate.

"I became a good man after I'd been a bad man for 20 years," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme in November 2005.

"When I was a guerrilla fighting the regimes, I was always being called a vagabond - being called all sorts of names, until my usefulness showed up much later. Therefore, if I'm being reviled now this is one of the phases of being misunderstood because the people have not seen what you're trying to do," a confident Museveni said.

After all, how many of his core supporters, the peasants, understand these issues? So don’t be surprised if the man wins the election in the first round. But that will be giving him too much credit given the fact that the opposition is this time free and mobilising against him, and the arrest of Dr. Besigye seems to have woken up many Ugandans to Museveni’s stand on who can lead Uganda: only himself.

A recent opinion poll by the government owned The New Vision showed Museveni trailing the jailed opponent Besigye by more than 7%. But the campaigns have just begun.

By Gerald Rulekere
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First published: December 28, 2005
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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.