How Museveni has manipulated national politics to enable him rule for life

President Yoweri Museveni who is accused of having dodged the numerous questions about the rationale (or irrationality) of clinging to power beyond his legitimate mandate during his recent interview on Al Jazeera TV
President Yoweri Museveni who is accused of having dodged the numerous questions about the rationale (or irrationality) of clinging to power beyond his legitimate mandate during his recent interview on Al Jazeera TV

Decentralization gone wrong

The current National Resistance Movement (NRM) government has over the years made efforts at decentralisation by increasing the number of districts from a mere 33 in 1986 to 116 to date,[2] with six more to be born on July 1, 2017. Six and seven more will become effective on July 1, 2018 and 2019 respectively. Thus by July 1, 2019, Uganda will have 135 districts.[3] The rationale was to empower the people and bring services closer to them. However, just like the Local Council (LC) system, the initial NRM administrative model which had originally “won the admiration of a large section of the population, especially in the rural areas where the poorest and most exploited live,”[4] the decentralization model has been overtaken by politics.

In this model, power vaguely lies in the hands of politically appointed administrative personnel who are accountable only to the appointing authority. The creation of an unprecedented number of districts and the subsequent increase in electoral constituencies has been criticized by political observers as just a tool for consolidating political support for the ruling party prior to an election.[5] Critics see this as a distinct strand of neo-patrimonialism based on a culture of rewarding and mobilizing for political support.[6] They also see it as far from being capable of ensuring sustainable integrity for the local units – their identities, cultures and traditions. “The result is that local government’s capacity to deliver services effectively is being seriously compromised. This inability to deliver services is leading to growing public disenchantment that could ultimately lead to the undoing of Uganda’s attempt to achieve democracy through decentralization.”[7]

Moreover, the new districts, and subsequently big numbers of National Assembly representatives, are not only an added financial cost and supervision burden,[8] but they also fall short of the desired sizeable, freely elected and population related criterion. On the outset, there is no denying the theoretically positive reasons for creating new districts, main among them being making social services more accessible to millions of rural people who feel marginalized. However, such a progressive increase, as an editorial in a local newspaper lamented, “has had no meaningful impact on the lives of the local population because they have always been created as a result of presidential pledges prior to or during elections.’’[9]

Critics argue that the current NRM Government has survived the three decades of her regime by rewarding political loyalists and entrenching economic inequalities. They would argue that both the oversized body of elected representatives and the extremely big size of government are detrimental to national development and transparent governance. For the five-year term beginning 2016, President Museveni appointed 31 full cabinet ministers and 49 ministers of state. Given the big body of local administrators mentioned above in the government’s drive towards decentralization, this looks like a big contradiction in terms and practice. One would think that such a big number of local representatives would require only a small cabinet to enable quick decision-making at the central level, and subsequent quick implementation of policies and services at the ground.

3 thoughts on “How Museveni has manipulated national politics to enable him rule for life

  • May 7, 2017 at 1:03 pm

    The time is now for Africans to admit that independence was a mistake. Every post colonial leader has demonstrated that they are unable to lead a nation whether big or small. 60 years is a long time not to learn a thing or two. Before African independence was called for, if those leaders organizing the resistance had any understanding of what a nation state was/is all about, they would have taken time to study and understand the many tribal and ethnic groups in their own countries before telling colonial administrators to pack their bags and leave. Secondly, they should have worked with the colonial administrators to learn their techniques of ruling people whose languages they barely understood. Countries such as Uganda which did not spill any blood in the name of independence, should have worked hand in hand with colonial administrators in preparation for self-rule. After all, struggles in other parts of the continent such as Ghana, had triggered awareness in colonial administrators that they may not last long as rulers. A polite request by an aspiring African leader such as Apollo Milton Obote would have been entertained particularly if the Buganda king, Edward Mutesa was involved in that dialogue. Since none of this was done, Africa has found itself with selfish leaders from Cape Town to Cairo and from Abuja to Addis Ababa. With the exception of perhaps Botswana, no African country can claim success and enjoying the fruits of independence. Africa may do itself a favour and invite their former colonial masters back to take care of business. After all, through the welfare checks they hand to African leaders every year, they are still in charge. It is the same welfare check which has turned Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni into life president. Before Europeans return to take care of business, Ugandans should forget about party politics. It does not take 60 years to develop party politics.

    • June 26, 2017 at 7:16 pm

      An interesting article. However, first ask yourself, who helped Amin to come to power in Uganda?
      Who killed Patrice Lumumba in Congo? Who kept Mobutu in power? Who made sure that Gaddifi is killed?
      Who supplies and makes sure there are endless wars in Arab countries? Sincere answers to these questions may make the writer think twice,

    • July 2, 2017 at 1:56 am

      Mr. Peter Magosi,
      Thank you for appreciating this brief article. In your response you did mention Amin, Lumumba and Ghadafi as representatives of external power. True to some extent. However, one thing that students of colonialism as well as intellectuals and academics have failed to point out over the decades, Africa was colonized at a time when the world was divided on ideological lines Marxism, Socialism, Communism and Capitalism if you will. Africans did not understand any of these terms until education opened their eyes and minds, The type of education early Africans received was not directed towards the development of their societies, but an image of Europeans in a far away land. By the time people such as Jomo Kenyatta, Kwameh Nkrumah, Abdel Nassar, Patrice Lumumba and Julious Nyerere to mention a few realized that what was being taught had nothing to do with transformation of their societies, it was already too late. In the end, these leaders who had very little understanding what the interest of Europeans was, they took arms to get rid of them without knowing what they would do next. Unknown to these leaders was that Colonialism had already brainwashed a few of them such as Mobutu. What these leaders failed to understand was that the wars they were fighting were proxy wars representing the interest of the very same people they are fighting. Due to lack of this understanding, African leaders turned against their own people by denying them every fundamental human rights and instead continue the policy of divide and rule. When the ordinary people organize themselves to get rid of these leaders, they call these people rats as Ghadafi did until he was found hiding in a water pipe this time becoming a rat himself. To address your concern, had African leaders truly fought for the freedom and rights of their, leaders such as Lumumba, Ghadafi etc would have not died the way their did. Africa is still very far away from achieving independence if at all that is even possible. African leaders have invested too deep in external interest to break away from it being causing civil war as a payout.


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