Fresh from the bush, rebel leader Yoweri Kaguta Museveni stated how he was going to hold power for only four years and go back to his village to look after his cows. The young leader in town had diagnosed the problem of Africa to be leaders who were overstaying in power.
As such, he declared, his overriding intention was going to be putting right, things which his power-hungry predecessors had messed up completely. After doing that, he stated publicly, he was going to be left with no more business in town and hence, would hit the road to the village and look after his animals. In short, his time was going to be limited to fixing things and then leave. Such seemingly nice assertions would end up trapping into Museveni’s government, tens of hundreds of politicians from across the political divide.
This is how the new leader in town would end up winning over a good number of polished, as well as well-established politicians. Talk here, of people like DP`s Dr Paulo Kawanga Ssemogerere, Sam Kuteesa, Abu Kakyama Mayanja, and UPC`s Yonasani Kanyomozi, to mention but a few. The new politicians would then go ahead to market the new leader in town and his government, free of charge both locally and to the entire world. And thus, they gained Museveni and his nascent regime the much-needed acceptance plus the goodwill capital.
His resolve to willingly leave power not only did excite the locals who had grown tired of power-hungry leaders and destructive wars, but also very much endeared him to the development partners. Describing Museveni as the new breed of enlightened leaders, the development partners would end up opening up the cash taps as well as giving him arms, thus helping him to rebuild the economy and, most importantly, to consolidate his much-cherished power.
But what excited the Bazungu later on was Museveni’s change of stance from pursuing the socialism system of economy to that of the capitalist economy. Museveni had had this change-of-heart with an eye at consolidating his power. He had realized where the power and money lay. So, he had to quickly adjust in order to accommodate the wishes of those who had money and power. No matter that by doing so, he was going to end up doling away the country’s strategic assets. And also cause the country all sorts of financial problems which comes automatically with the blind enforcement of the World Bank and IMF dictated structural adjustments.
Before then, the rebel leader had engaged President Arap Moi of Kenya and the junta of the two Okellos into useless peace talks in Nairobi. As he thus kept wasting the precious time and resources for both Moi and the Okellos, the rebel leader would be on the other side capturing territory upon territory on the way to the final assault on the city.
Remember the President had earlier on before his successful coup, won over the big support from Buganda by telling to them how he was fighting in order to return to them their much-cherished federal system of governance which Dr Apollo Milton Obote had banned in 1966 complete with the kingship itself. Museveni told each and every disgruntled party how he was going to fix the past injustices, much so the political processes, human rights, the economy, the infrastructure, the army… name it.
This is exactly, how each and every one there ended up getting very, very, very excited. And excusably, this is how each and every one ended blindly joining his bandwagon without bothering to ask any question. As the four years were threatening to come to the close, Yoweri then changed the story from quitting to look after his cows, to staying on in order to gift the country with the wonderfully enviable as well as a case study Constitution.
Such marketing maneuver was too compelling to reject. Sure, taking into consideration that guys like Dr Obote, Idi Amin and the two Okellos had previously made a mockery of the country’s past supreme laws. Yoweri’s such sugar-coated talk was, honestly speaking, too appetizing to ignore. Small wonder, not only did majority of locals end up buying into what he was putting across, but also, the entire world embraced what was seemingly his worthwhile venture.
Consequently, the entire country and almost the whole world henceforth blindly and wholesomely kowtowed to what Yoweri was telling them in the belief he was going to render to Uganda a new wonderfully Constitutional order. Yet and as, it has been turning out over the years, the young leader was merely looking at using the added years to consolidate his power the more.
Contrary to his foregoing stated broad day vow and following the promulgation of the Constitution, the leader would go ahead and seek to stay on for more years to come. For all this time following his coup, the President had gone ahead to legally conscript each and every Ugandan, regardless of their political beliefs, into what he had styled as the movement political system.
To convince everyone to accept to be herded into the movement, the President had sold the idea as being the solution to the fractures which had existed between Ugandans prior to his coup. He had gone on to contend how the fractures he was talking about had been purportedly occasioned by the differences in political beliefs which had existed among the population prior to his coup. But let the truth be told. The President was merely using the movement system as a tool of expediency. This notion, in order to weaken the other political parties.
For, no sooner had he placed the other parties away in political limbo than he quickly proceeded to use their own leaders to market his future NRM Party just that he was disguising it as an all-embracing movement. Having finally woken up to the reality that the leader was using the movement to lock them out of power, Dr Ssemogerere would stage a walk-out of government.
Ssemogerere was right. Talk had by now started to ring out of the corridors of power about how the movement system was destined to rule the country for fifty years. Curiously, the peddler of that message had been none other than Eng. Winnie Byanyima, the latter-day wife of Dr Warren Kizza Besigye Kifeefe. Having freed from the trap of collective responsibility as it is used in governments as a trick to curtail divergent views, Ssemogerere would quickly proceed to demand for the unconditional return of the multiparty dispensation.
Not one to undermine any competition, Museveni would reject flatly what his former minister was demanding of him. Kaguta was right. Returning the political parties there and then, prior to putting in place counter measures, had the potential of rocking his power surely. But Ssemogerere was determined to have his demand met by the President. Consequently, he would end up going to the courts to get what Museveni had refused to give to him in peace.
To his joy and reprieve, the courts would end up declaring the movement a Political Party. But yet which it had always been, barring the President’s disguise of the same. All the same, Kaguta had used the time Ssemogerere would spend in court to reorganize himself for the looming fight ahead. Hence no sooner had the courts pronounced themselves on the matter than Museveni himself stepped out to popularize the ‘tubeggyeko’ (let’s get rid of them) campaign.
After all, the President had been made aware by his legal team about how the judgement was going to serve his ends right. Thanks to Ssemogerere, Kaguta was now legally free to stand again and earn his long-held desire of ruling the country for fifty years. But to do so, he had to resign from the army first. Not a big deal either. Since he was the one in charge of making that one to happen. And after all, he was still going to remain the one in charge, by being the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
So, Kaguta would go ahead and jump out of the army uniform. But he was merely doing this as a matter of formality. That one done; he would proceed to change into a Kanzu. Even that one was but a theoretical gesture. It was simply a formality to indicate how he had purportedly resigned from the army. How was he supposed to resign from his own army? After all, he has had no qualms to state as and when he has felt it worth making it known.
Having put Ssemogerere to his level in 1996, Kaguta returned again in 2001 to seek for yet another stint at the helm. This time round, he had changed the story to professionalizing the army. He publicly stated, this one was going to be his final assignment. After all, his cows had been missing him a lot for all the previous years he had spent volunteering to put Uganda right. But Dr Besigye rejected to be taken for a ride. Bidandi Ssali and his group couldn’t have any of Besigye’s defiance. They asked him to patiently hold on as Museveni went about the job of professionalizing his army and then hand them over to any civilian President.
Besigye retorted how he had examined Kaguta for several years. And how he had come to see in him, a man fond of gluing to power. But as a midpoint, Besigye was ready to forego his own bid if Kaguta was also ready to step down from power. Well, the two stood for power. And Kaguta was able at the end of the day, to put Besigye too to his level. Bidandi and his group have since hailed Besigye as a prophet who detected what they had failed to detect many years before.
Come 2006, Museveni, and contrary to his last vow, would return to ask to continue in power. Besigye stepped up once more. Prof Gilbert Baalibaseka Bukenya tried to come up to try his luck. But he was quickly shouted down by Museveni as a spoiler. The President would even mock Bukenya for trying to overtake Amama Mbabazi who was purportedly next in the queue to State House. Mbabazi got excited by what was seemingly Kaguta’s nice words about him!
Having been thus excited by Museveni’s rhetoric, Mbabazi would go ahead to do all that was in his power to stop Besigye from jumping the queue. But above all what he did, Mbabazi is credited (or is he?) for having sponsored the publication of the Public Organization Management Act (POMA). The same piece of law has since been used by Museveni to effectively disorganize the campaigns for his rivals, fortunately enough, including those ones of Mbabazi himself.
Other than leaving the floor for Mbabazi, Museveni would in 2011 step up again to ask for another rap. Besigye came up again and Museveni trounced him to hold the forte again up to 2016. Tired of waiting forever to stand for power, Mbabazi finally decided to step up and compete with Museveni for power. All hell would end up breaking loose for Mbabazi. First, Museveni asked him to stand down and wait for the next election where he was going to be helped to win power. Mbabazi refused. He had been taken for a ride already. He was hence not going to accept to be fooled again.
He pronounced how he was going to embark on visiting the countryside to hold consultations about the suitability of his candidature. Yet he was lying. Nothing was stopping him from standing for the president. So, what was he going to consult about then? He would later be dropped from the Cabinet as the Prime Minister before the police was set upon him to deny him an opportunity to defeat his immediate former boss.
Apart from the above, the President has been election after election, making many a campaign pledge after the other. The same but which have remained unfulfilled more years later and are now thought to be worth trillions of Ugandan shillings and counting. As I wind up, and while stating what one doesn’t mean, is an undesirable thing to do ideally speaking, it has nevertheless in the case of the President helped him to secure and consolidate power.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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