Museveni changes tune on longevity
06 June 2013, 08:17
Kampala - Uganda's president came to power in 1986
as an idealistic former Marxist rebel who denounced power-hungry African
leaders. Nearly three decades later, President Yoweri Museveni is now
accused by some in the opposition - and others who served prominently
under him - of becoming the type of politician he once despised.
travels the world in a private jet paid for by taxpayers and recently
added two new Mercedes Benz limousines to his convoy. Some say he wants
to rule for life, while others worry that Museveni, in the style of some
other African strongmen, is trying to groom his son as the country's
That charge was given credence by the
defection last month of an army general who urged an investigation into
reports of an alleged plot for the first son to succeed his father.
David Sejusa, who is in London and faces arrest if he returns to
Uganda, says he is fighting the use of state institutions such as the
military to keep Museveni in power. Sejusa is a member of the army's
high command and a decorated hero of the bush war that brought Museveni
His case has focused attention on the political
evolution of a president who promised many years ago that his government
would bring what he called "fundamental change" to Uganda.
problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular," Museveni said in
a speech in 1986, "is not the people but leaders who want to overstay
In What is Africa's Problem? - a collection of
Museveni's early speeches as president - he warns against official
corruption, saying: "How can we hope to convince anyone of the rightness
of our cause if our own people are violating our stated goals, thereby
undermining our programme? Corruption is a problem which, if not
checked, will hinder progress in all sectors of society."
said at the time that he despised African leaders who wasted taxpayer
money on things like luxury cars and he urged public officials to
"realize that social property is, in many ways, even more important than
In 1996, a year after the promulgation of
Uganda's constitution, the country held national elections widely
praised as free and fair, boosting Museveni's growing reputation with
Western donors as a reform-minded progressive leader. In 1998, while
travelling in Africa, former US President Bill Clinton put Museveni in
the club of what he said was a "new breed" of African leader.
But some critics now say it's tough to imagine Museveni giving a passionate speech on corruption.
At all costs
think Museveni's determined to stay in power at all costs," said
Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a professor of political history at Uganda's
Makerere University. "He genuinely believes that he's the only one with
the vision to run this county. Is this project sustainable? My answer is
no. If he doesn't change this position he's taking this country to the
Museveni, who is in his late 60s, has now held power in
Uganda for 27 years, making him one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.
In 2005 he had lawmakers remove term limits so could run again. He has
won two elections marred by irregularities or violence since then.
Tumwebaze, a government minister who speaks for the president, said
Museveni's early criticism of long-serving leaders had been taken out of
context by activists who fail to acknowledge that elections are held
regularly in Uganda.
"For us as [the ruling party], we are
convinced that if we front Museveni in 2016 he will give us better
winning chances than any other person," he said. "Museveni has been
winning elections. We know where he is popular and why he is popular."
who was last re-elected in 2011, is praised by many here for presiding
over a growing economy and restoring political stability after years of
dictatorial rule. That view, however, is being disputed by some who say
he has slowly transformed Uganda into a quasi-military state.
Rights Watch, which says the government increasingly harasses civic
groups, accused Uganda's security forces of "using lethal force" to
quell anti-corruption riots on the streets of Kampala in April 2011. At
least nine people were killed.
"Uganda has had militarism for
quite a bit of time," said Frederick Jjuuko, a political activist and
law professor at Uganda's Makerere University. "But it is this regime
that has perfected it. It handles matters political using military
As an example, Jjuuko cited
the seizure last month of Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper by security
officials looking for evidence against Sejusa, whose concerns about an
alleged plot to assassinate officials opposed to the rise Museveni's son
had been published by the newspaper. The daily's printing press was
disabled for 10 days.
A government minister said the authorities
allowed the newspaper to resume operations after its bosses agreed that
security stories are "a no-go area" for its reporters.
set to become a major oil producer by 2016, when elections are due. Many
here believe Museveni will seek another five-year term in office.
analysts say the country's unpredictable political transition threatens
the oil sector even before the first drops of oil flow, with Museveni
exercising tight control of it.
Sejusa charges that Museveni is
plotting to keep power within his family - the same allegations made
over the years by opposition leader Kizza Besigye, a retired army
colonel who fell out with Museveni over what he said was the president's
rejection of the ideals for which they fought a guerilla war.
"Typical African story," Sejusa said in an email to The Associated Press.