This week, the British monarch sent invitation letters to world leaders considered to be of high reputation to attend the last funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, but declined to send one to the Ugandan President, Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. The embarrassing aspect of it all was that the leaders of our neighbors in the region that included Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya were all invited.
This comes at the heels of the hefty praise which was heaped on the Ugandan President by the newly elected Kenyan counterpart William Samoei Ruto, who described him as the father of the East African Region. Why then was our father of the region not invited to the Queen’s funeral? Uganda commands a lot of socio-economic and political weight in the region to the extent that when it sneezes, the entire great lakes region caches cough. Uganda has political leverage, it’s very hard for any leader to emerge in any of the East African countries without the blessing and goodwill of the regime in Kampala. President Museveni has managed to get involved in regime change projects of Rwanda, Congo, and was deeply involved in the self-determination struggles of the people of Southern Sudan who broke away from the bigger Sudan.
He has outlasted three of the previous Kenyan Presidents in Daniel Arap Moi, Mwai Kibaki, Uhuru Kenyatta, outlived four of the past Tanzanian Presidents in Julius Nyerere, Al-Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa and John Pombe Magufuli. He has been central in the stabilization of Somalia, Central African Republic, Sudan, Rwanda, Burundi and Congo. With all this massive regional profile taken into account, the man deserves some respect as the father of the great lakes’ region-as captioned by President William Ruto last week. But although he has been very active and influential in the politics of the region for the last 36 years, he has failed to command the necessary respect at the global level. And there are several reasons to account for his dismal profile at the global stage.
His first blunder was to ignore the role of the public relations in building a cohesive and respectable international reputation. At one time, he bragged that ‘the son of Kaguta did not need anyone to whitewash his image.’ He seemed to suggest that propaganda is only used by weak entities to propagate lies. He also has the deluded view that his works can speak for themselves. He does not seem to fathom the reason why other countries invest heavily in public relations machinery. Being a student of political science, he should have known that regimes survive 60% on propaganda and 40% on military might.
There is a truism that wars are won or lost depending on the quality of propaganda at play. It’s propaganda that scares enemies from making incursions into your territory. It’s this PR that pre-empts the need for war. President Idi Amin was not educated at all, but was well schooled in the art of propaganda. His regime actually survived for longer than it should have because he created an impression of being a super power, whereas not.
Historic accounts reveal that Adolf Hitler managed to prolong his survival in power because of the work of his spokesman Joseph Goebbels who ably pulled the strings of public relations. There are quite a good number of examples of the benefits of good public relations machinery to any regime. Otherwise, his colleagues are outshining him at the global stage because of this reason.
Besides the lack of public relations, the NRM has committed a lot of blunders that have dented the public image of the country before the international community. Some few months ago, President Museveni met a group of officials of the European Union who were questioning the 2nd November 2021 killings that arose from the impromptu arrest of NUP Party President Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi.
Although the official figure of the killed protestors rotated around 53, the President could only account for 33! He tried to reason that those 33 were trying to disarm the security force, which was a lie of serious magnitude. Once he realized that he couldn’t sustain those arguments, he resorted to berating them for not fighting Amin! During that meeting, it was clear that the European Union officials were going to take some punitive action.
That’s how the likes of Gen Abel Kandiho and other UPDF officers ended up getting sanctioned with travel bans. It’s shocking that even the late Gen Elly Tumwine, who passed on last month, was on the list of the sanctioned UPDF officers. The way the NRM reacted to the emerging force of PEOPLE POWER pressure group damaged the global image of the whole regime. During the campaign trail, President Museveni had told the people of Hoima that he was going to finish off all those NUP supporters. And he lived to his word.
Today, Uganda is in the league of pariah states like Venezuela, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Belarus etc. In fact, there was no way the Britons could invite the Ugandan President to attend the Queen’s funeral after the human rights abuse, they witnessed in the run up-to during and after the 2021 general elections. Those human rights violations will continue to haunt the Museveni regime to the end. As of now, the NRM government is one mistake away from getting direct sanctions from the international community. The NRM needs to get back to the drawing board and correct the mistakes that have made Uganda turn into a pariah state. Otherwise, president Museveni will continue to be disregarded by the global actors from the international community.
- Fred Daka Kamwada is a seasoned journalist, blogger and political analyst for over a decade in Uganda
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