How an ex-rebel has stayed in energy for 35 years


Composite of images of Yoweri Museveni

Ugandans below the age of 35 – and that’s greater than three-quarters of the inhabitants – have solely recognized one president.

Yoweri Museveni, who got here to energy on the again of an armed rebellion in 1986, has defied the political legal guidelines of gravity which have felled different long-serving leaders within the area.

The 76-year-old’s time on the high has been accompanied by an extended interval of peace and large developmental adjustments for which many are grateful. However he has managed to take care of his grip on energy by way of a mix of encouraging a persona cult, using patronage, compromising impartial establishments and sidelining opponents.

Over the last election 5 years in the past when he addressed the problem of him stepping down, he requested: “How can I am going out of a banana plantation I’ve planted that has began bearing fruits?”

For this revolutionary the harvest continues to be not over.

My introduction to the president got here within the Nineteen Nineties within the type of a faculty play through which the turbulence of the Milton Obote and Idi Amin years was acted out.

The piece climaxed on 26 January 1986, with Mr Museveni’s Nationwide Resistance Military liberating the nation, bringing an finish to wars and mindless killings.

It’s this picture of the person as liberator and peace-bringer that many Ugandans have been raised on, and are reminded of at each alternative.

Presidential press-ups

He’s additionally a fatherly and grandfatherly determine.

Many younger Ugandans discuss with the president by the nickname “Sevo”, and he fondly calls them Bazukulu (that means grandchildren within the Luganda language).

However the household man doesn’t see himself as a typical ageing patriarch, reclining in his favorite chair together with his kids and grandchildren fussing round.

In his marketing campaign for his sixth elected time period in workplace, which feels prefer it began straight after the final election, he has been traversing the nation, launching factories, opening roads and new markets.

And with an eye fixed on his comparatively youthful challenger, 38-year-old former pop star Bobi Wine, Mr Museveni has been eager to indicate his vitality. Final April, to encourage train throughout lockdown he was filmed doing press-ups, after which repeated the trick a number of occasions together with in entrance of cheering college students in November.

“In case your father loves you, he has to empower you. Within the subsequent 5 years, ‘Sevo’ will be sure that once we end college, we’re capable of get jobs,” 25-year-old Angela Kirabo says, bearing on the problem of youth unemployment, which is a serious supply of concern.

The economics graduate is a proud Muzukulu (grandchild), having grown up in a household supporting the governing Nationwide Resistance Motion (NRM). She additionally served as vice-chairperson of the social gathering’s chapter at college and thinks the president nonetheless has loads to supply after 35 years in energy.

Presidential age limits overturned

Considered one of his closest buddies and advisors, John Nagenda, says Mr Museveni’s selflessness is one motive for his means to encourage loyalty.

“He was ready to die for Uganda. I might say that we’re very fortunate to have him,” the 82-year-old says.

“Many of the different folks that I do know who’ve been presidents, they wished to do it for themselves; they wished the glory. However Museveni desires to do [it] for the nation and continent… he’s an Africanist.”

However below the unique clauses of the 1995 structure the president shouldn’t have run for workplace once more after 2005.

Certainly, earlier than then it was extensively understood that he was towards staying on in energy, dismissing queries concerning the thought, saying that he would relatively return to his farm.

Journalist William Pike, who at one time was seen as very near the president and the NRA, described in his memoir how the president was genuinely upset when requested at a dinner within the early Nineteen Nineties whether or not he wished to remain in energy for the remainder of his life.

“Museveni mentioned: ‘After all not’, however he was clearly livid at what he thought of an actual insult. He was not faking it. At that stage he actually was not intending to remain on in energy,” Mr Pike wrote.

However one thing modified his thoughts in 2004, although it has by no means been clear what precisely that was, and his MPs endorsed the concept the structure must be amended to take away presidential time period limits.

He had the inexperienced gentle to face till he reached 75 years of age.

After which in December 2017, the constitutional impediment of an age restrict for a presidential candidate was additionally eliminated – a difficulty which led to brawls on the ground of parliament and a police raid on the constructing.

Many noticed this because the NRM’s option to permit Mr Museveni to turn into president for all times.

It’s not for nothing that parliament felt compelled to reward the long-serving chief. The willingness of MPs to go together with the adjustments has loads to do with the truth that they felt they owed their positions to the president.

Fewer challenges to authority

The importance of patronage extends proper by way of society.

It typically manifests as improvement programmes for ladies, market distributors and authorities jobs. In a rustic the place 15% of younger individuals are unemployed and over 21% of the inhabitants stay in poverty, aligning with the precise social gathering can save a complete village from destitution.

However his supporters level to the transformation of Uganda as a optimistic motive to provide Mr Museveni 5 extra years.

“Should you come from the north and east you’ll perceive {that a} huge achievement of peace has been introduced. For 20 years these areas have been engulfed in conflict,” says 28-year-old Jacob Eyeru, who leads the federal government’s Nationwide Youth Council.

Whereas acknowledging that joblessness is a fear, he provides that the NRM has “reworked the economic system to make it not simply regionally aggressive but in addition globally aggressive”.

Museveni supporter

Mr Museveni’s supporters consider he nonetheless has loads to supply

Regardless of these adjustments he has additionally weakened the independence of a few of the nation’s key establishments to make sure fewer challenges to his authority.

The judiciary has not been spared, and in recent times has been accused of recruiting so-called “cadre judges”, who’re loyal to the federal government.

When judges have taken impartial selections, they’ve typically discovered themselves at loggerheads with the authorities.

For instance, on 16 December 2005, extremely skilled armed safety personnel raided the Excessive Court docket within the capital, Kampala, and re-arrested members of the suspected insurgent Individuals’s Redemption Military, who had simply been acquitted of treason prices.

“They turned the Temple of Serenity right into a theatre of conflict,” Justice James Ogoola wrote in a poem concerning the incident entitled Rape of the Temple.

On the subject of difficult election outcomes, the result of each presidential race, besides the 2011 one, has been contested in courtroom. In all circumstances, the courts dominated that the irregularities weren’t critical sufficient to warrant an annulment.

The media has additionally had its independence threatened.

On the floor, Uganda has a energetic media trade which has grown to tons of of personal radio and TV stations, print shops, and internet-based providers below Mr Museveni.

“Within the early days, earlier than cynicism and decay set in, there was a strand of intellectualism throughout the regime that tolerated dissenting views and was capable of debate and disagree with them,” says Daniel Kalinaki, the Nation Media Group’s Common Supervisor for Editorial, in Kampala.

However shops have been raided and journalists detained, because the main lights within the authorities have turn into “more and more thin-skinned”, Mr Kalinaki provides.

However maybe essentially the most vital think about Mr Museveni’s longevity is the way in which that any potential opposition drive has been neutered.

Opposition supporters shot lifeless

Because it turned clear 20 years in the past that he was going to remain in energy, a few of his former associates began to interrupt away. As they did, the safety forces, touted as a folks’s police and armed forces, turned their weapons on these political opponents.

Kizza Besigye of the opposition Discussion board for Democratic Change, as soon as Mr Museveni’s doctor, first ran towards him within the 2001 election. He has been detained and prosecuted on quite a few prices, together with rape and treason, however has by no means been convicted.

Bobi Wine campaigning

Presidential candidate Bobi Wine has proved a well-liked draw for a lot of younger voters

When it turned clear that Bobi Wine, a singer whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, was mounting a critical problem to the president’s rule, he turned the newest politician to face the wrath of the boys in uniform.

The MP, whose star energy attracts big crowds of younger folks, was brutally arrested throughout a colleague’s by-election marketing campaign within the north-western city of Arua in 2018. He then confronted treason prices which have been later dropped.

On the marketing campaign path for the 2021 election, the police arrested, tear-gassed and shot at him and his supporters for defying coronavirus restrictions on the gathering of huge teams.

Throughout two days of protests in November 2020 following Bobi Wine’s arrest, 54 folks have been killed, a lot of them believed to have been shot by the safety forces.

Sticking your head above the parapet in Uganda is a courageous selection and anybody who seeks to problem Mr Museveni must be in little doubt concerning the stage of harassment that they’re more likely to face.

By means of his 35 years in cost, he has come to sit down on the apex of energy the place he’s in complete management. He has additionally managed to reinvent himself.

Whereas he was as soon as the political upstart in his early 40s, anybody taking up that function now dangers incurring his appreciable wrath.



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