Opinion: What’s common about Zimbabwe and Uganda? One, they are both African countries belonging in the Commonwealth fraternity. Two, they have had counterpart long-ranging leaders, Gen. Yoweri Museveni and now “deposed” Comrade Robert Mugabe, a man after whom I was named. Both the two leaders emerged from liberation struggles-one from the British (1980) and the former from “indigenous colonialists” in 1986.
By “long-ranging”, I mean that they have had marathon terms in office, thereby precipitating envy from opponents and the West, whose preoccupation and fixation is with short, patchy terms of service that strictly function like clock-work and no personal initiative at all. The West desires to continue running African affairs while local rivals wish to see fast transitions of power into their own hands so that they behave like those they are getting rid of. And this is what Mugabe and Museveni, besides having a similar first letter of name, have had to put up with in their so-called “paradise of power”.
Power is a hot potato. Few can manage to clasp it for extended periods of time let alone plop it into their mouths. So, at 37 years count, Mugabe cannot lose anything. He has set a record that the Tony Blairs who tried severally to overturn his reign and failed can dream of. By the way, Blair, while still British PM sponsored a coup plot against Mugabe in 2000 but it fell short at the last hour. Other “foreign democrats” have not taken to him most of the time he has been in power, imposing ruinous sanctions and therefore, precipitated a situation impossible to navigate. All this time, they have been trying and praying to wrong gods for him to crumble.
While some of us know that what’s in Zimbwabwe is not what it looks to be, the generation of Mugabe and Museveni is of no toy soldiers. These are political culture benders that will never come back and the world will always look back and wonder about their good old times. These men didn’t just stumble into liberation politics; they were molded for it. They married women on verve unlike today’s men who fall for slay queens. Those who know Janet Museveni closely, for example, will tell you that she is a lady of class and poise beyond the range of a kitchen first lady. She can independently run things, if need be. How did Museveni study these traits to be able to decide on her as a life partner?
In Zimbabwe, Grace has not been a mannequin at her hubby’s side but always stood her ground when she needed to although of course mistakes are bound to happen.
Every leader works in unique settings and different dynamics work for and against them. It’s not about strength or self-assurance; every leadership has cracks and could go down any moment. But it can’t happen before all conditions have melted together. That’s why some of us laugh hard when we encounter persons misleading public with the claim that they are responsible for any kind of change. They can only be beneficiaries or incidental actors.
The role of the military; someone may argue that Ben Ali of Tunisia, Mubarak of Egypt and Gaddafi of Libya were strong men with strong armies but it’s not strong armies that sustain stability as indeed they didn’t; it’s ideology that sells. The military is relevant as long as stability is maintained (as the case is in Harare). The rest are natural factors. Of course in Uganda the boys and girls in uniform have been at the country’s call and beck whenever some people have tried to cause manyanga. What more would anyone except of them unless that person has not prepared themselves to play their part?
It’s very easy to find fault with leaders who have been in power longer than others but that’s the fault of their critics and not themselves. We have already seen that for Mugabe, he has survived several coups before including the one of 2007; Museveni has fought more battles than most people know about and, hence, gained broad awareness bordering on the lucid on how to avoid a Mugabe or a Kabila or a Sankara-not forgetting Obote. Angola’s Dos Santos willingly retired this year yet he was a monument.
Uganda is far from Zimbabwe – if we go by the sense of a certain crop whose obsession is seeing new faces all the time with no particular mission in mind. Their view of politics is like a dress rehearsal. They want change in Uganda, want it in Zimbabwe (that they were first to declare a coup d’etat before the Chiwengas knew what was going on), want it Kenya (where President Uhuru has only been in power for a few years), they want it in America, in Great Britain, the Sudans, etc. For them, it’s just a fun run and nothing ideological. Only a stupid military outfit would take risks for them.