Museveni: Uganda's Would-Be Emperor at the United Nations

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"Emperor" Museveni at the United Nations. UN File photo.

On Tuesday Uganda's dictator of 31 years now will address the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Who is this man Yoweri Kaguta Museveni whose regime is propped by $750 million each year by the United States? Many Ugandans have questioned whether in fact he is Ugandan. Former president, the late Dr. Milton Obote emphatically declared in a BBC interview that he was not.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=l_4iZ_rqDLw

Might that explain his ruthlessness to Ugandans and his disregard for those who have died in massacres under his regime? Lacking a reliable base, might that explain why he promotes ethnic chauvinism to divide-and-rule?

Let me synthesize for public information and necessary action what has been written and said about Museveni since the 1960s when he entered politics while at Ntare School in then Ankole kingdom, in Uganda.

As a Prefect at Ntare School, I knew Museveni fairly well.

Up to now not many Ugandans know where Museveni was born or his clan. He has been described as Tutsi, Hima or Hororo (Muhororo). Increasingly and in part because of the way he is treating or neglecting Ugandans many people believe he was born in Rwanda -- Obote stated that he was not a citizen because his father was born in Rwanda.

Museveni's intentions and preferences began to show after Gen. Idi Amin captured power in 1971. He, like other young men and women, wanted to oust Amin from power by military means. Some of us volunteered to join with him in this noble effort for our country but he sidelined us from carrying the gun, a preserve, we later learned, for ethnic Tutsi people. He focused on recruiting from camps where Tutsi refugees lived. He had obtained information about their locations in Uganda when he worked in President Obote's office as an assistant in charge of refugees before Amin seized power.

As Museveni became more visible in the public arena people began to ask what he had studied at the Dar-es-Salaam campus of what was then the University of East Africa and why he didn't study at Makerere University in Uganda.

Stories circulated that he was not a Ugandan citizen and couldn't qualify for Makerere education. Purportedly Museveni had come from Rwanda with his mother and they lived in various places including in present day Ntungamo and Mbarara districts.

His education at Dar-es-Salaam also became problematic. Up to today no one knows what he studied and graduated in. In 1991 he reported in an interview that he studied political economy (Africa Forum 1991). Apparently there was no such subject taught at Dar-es-Salaam at that time. Ipso facto his country of birth and university education have cast a thick shadow around him --made thicker by the fact that according to the 1995 Uganda constitution the president must be qualified to become a member of parliament inter alia with a minimum formal education of Advanced Level standard or its equivalent (high school diploma).

Ugandans have therefore traditionally insisted on someone with a clean record on country of birth and at least a university degree. People believe that it is for this reason, inter alia, that Museveni relies on foreign experts particularly in economic matters. Economists are few in his administration. At home and in Uganda missions abroad, Museveni has relied more on human and animal doctors and lawyers.

When he launched the guerrilla war in 1981, Museveni's reason was that he wanted to restore the Catholic-dominated Democratic Party (DP) that in his view won the 1980 elections but was robbed by Obote's Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) party.

Professor Yusufu Lule an ethnic Muganda and DP supporter became chairman of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) with Museveni as vice chairman. Lule passed on a year before Museveni and his guerrilla fighters captured power.

Attempts to elect a new chairman were thwarted by Museveni, then the acting chairman. Baganda and Catholics believe he became president by default and then promised he would step down shortly thereafter so a Catholic and/or a Muganda would succeed him. That didn't and hasn't happened.

Museveni knows how unhappy these two groups are and he is not yielding but suppressing them instead. In fact Obote's first administration before the Amin coup had more Catholics in top positions including ministers than Museveni has appointed. Obote also had two Muslim full cabinet ministers.

Museveni had wanted to contest the 1980 elections as leader of DP but was not allowed by DP supporters and other leaders especially in Ankole who thought in part that he was a foreigner and Protestant..Late in the game, Museveni co-founded the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM) but other members didn't want him to lead in part because of his questionable nationality and doubts about his education.

Ankole ethnic politics of Bahima/Bairu also played a part (A.M. Kirunda-Kivejinja 1995). Museveni finally made it as leader of UPM but he didn't forget how he was treated by native Ugandans especially those where Tutsi/Hima and Bairu rivalries are still strong. For example, no one from Bairu of Rujumbura/Rukungiri district has held a high profile post in Museveni's government yet the best educated and experienced come from this group.

Museveni contested a parliamentary seat in Mbarara part of former Ankole kingdom but lost to a DP candidate, Sam Kutesa, who is now minister of foreign affairs and the government's mouthpiece. Museveni didn't forget that and it is believed that when the hereditary kingdoms were restored that's why Ankole was denied its kingdom.

When Museveni lost the election in 1980 and his arch-rival Obote won, Museveni resolved to get him out by military means. He tried to use Ankole as his base but apparently was refused. Baganda who were eager to get rid of Obote, as a result of his ouster of their king the Kabaka Mutesa II in 1966 offered him the Luwero Triangle as his base of military operations.

Baganda and Catholics joined Museveni in the war to oust Obote but he relied on his ethnic Tutsi commanders which created a sectarian problem. As fighting progressed Baganda were unhappy because of the atrocities committed against them and began to withdraw support from Museveni. "Some Baganda turned against the refugees because of the terror tactics that the NRA employed to recruit the Baganda into its ranks and to eliminate opposition to its presence in the Luwero Triangle." (Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke 2000).

Museveni was saved by the support he got from some Baganda leaders who it is reported called on their subjects to support Museveni over other military leaders. Museveni didn't forget how Baganda mistreated him and ethnic Tutsi refugees. That explains the land-grabbing; their land is now being used by foreigners from neighboring countries and beyond.

When Museveni first captured power in 1986, he appointed Baganda and Catholics to high profile positions but progressively he has marginalized them considerably. The vice president from Buganda has very limited power if at all.

Baganda generals and other senior military officers who were regarded as potential opponents of Museveni have been eliminated (Howard Adelman and Astri Suhrke 2000).

During the guerrilla war Museveni worked with Gen. Tito Okello's group in the national army on the understanding that once Obote was gone, Museveni would serve in the new government under the presidency of Okello. Instead, after the two signed a power-sharing deal after Obote was overthrown, Museveni ousted Okello and became president.

Okello supporters expressed disappointment. "We paved the way for the NRA by overthrowing Obote", several Acholi explained, " and Museveni paid us back by betraying us"(Robert Gersony 1997). And Museveni apparently fearing that Acholi and other soldiers from the northern and eastern parts of the country might settle scores, he preempted that possibility by waging a war that lasted over 20 years with massive loss of human lives and properties.

All these developments have raised opposition against Museveni and his regime throughout the country, leading to his defeat in the 2016 elections. Many believe he simply stole it with the support of his hand-picked electoral commission and the supreme Court.

Those in the opposition at home and abroad have declared defiance against Museveni's authoritarian, sectarian and corrupt regime. Native Uganda citizens are being killed as happened in the Kasese massacre, jailed, tortured, exiled, dispossessed of their properties --especially land by foreigners from neighboring countries and beyond-- and increasingly by refugees and immigrants disguised as legal mobility by East Africans under the customs union arrangements.

The demographic composition is changing and soon outsiders may exceed in numbers the native population that is being coerced into adopting birth control that the authorities prefer to call family planning as if the latter will not reduce population size of families and the nation.

The current land bill before parliament gives the Museveni regime powers to seize private land. It is feared that if it goes through native Ugandans will become landless, rootless, powerless and voiceless and a potential political threat to peace and security in Uganda and beyond.

Museveni's plans to remove the 75-years-old age limit for Uganda's presidents from the constitution is intended to keep him in power for life. He removed term limits in 2005.

Like the late dictator of the Central African Republic, Jean Bedel Bokassa, Gen. Museveni too is Uganda's "emperor."

He is an absolute monarch and dictator lacking only coronation. He is also as despised as Bokassa was at the time of his demise after he too had carried out massacres including of children.

A "fake news" story during the U.S. presidential election campaign claimed that Donald Trump declared that if elected president he would arrest dictators, including Museveni. The story went viral which is an indication of the low esteem in which Africans hold Museveni.

The dictator will be angling for a photo-op with Trump to dispel the hopes of some Ugandans who still believe the fictitious story.

This is the sign of a man who knows tyranny has its limit.

Kashambuzi is an international economist and
Human rights activist.

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