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

In his early years (the late 1980s and early 1990s), President Museveni was well aware of this. The NRM government then actually gave up control of most economic activities and drastically reduced the size of cabinet. However, when Museveni joined electoral politics in 1996, he adopted the strategy of political patronage by rewarding areas and individuals in exchange for support. And as Mwenda observes, “Museveni’s success at consolidating his power and stifling democracy flows from his knack for integrating large chunks of the political class into his vast patronage empire … patronage, typically in the form of government contracts, tenders, and jobs, is his preferred tool and the one that he used to render parliament ineffective.”[10] There is particularly strong evidence that President Museveni has indeed used the creation of new districts to create “a raft of new jobs, each one a patronage opportunity.”[11] This is the very reason, many other critics argue, why many countries across the world, especially in Africa, and in this particular case Uganda, have created many new local administrative units.[12] Museveni’s obvious intentions therefore are contradicted by his allegations on Al-Jazeera.

It can also be argued that the unprecedented multiplication of districts out of the existing ethnicities is intended to weaken the historically existing political structures of these ethnic units in order to bring them closer to the grip of political power from the central government. It will be recalled that one of the major political reforms of the Museveni era was the creation of a new constitution which allowed, among other things, the restoration of Uganda’s traditional kingdoms and chiefdoms as cultural institutions. These were strictly restricted from any political activities, and they are largely no threat to centralized state power.

Another major reform, as explained above, was the introduction of the Local Council (LC) system of local government by which the central government “had both created a system of regular and direct elections at the local level and reassigned local government power from centrally-appointed technocrats to locally elected politicians.”[13] One can assume that these people-chosen local leaders, unlike the restored cultural chiefs and kings, eventually became a threat to the centralized power of government. This could be the possible reason for the diminishing powers of the LCs and their being usurped by government-appointed Resident District Commissioners (RDCs) and Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs). The constitutional highlight of reassigning local government power to locally elected politicians had been reversed. Now the most powerful persons in the district are answerable to the most powerful man in the country, not to the people. District leadership jobs, Mr. President, are not truly democratically competitive.

It can be argued that such political patronage affects government institutions, and the values of the people at local and national levels. The net institutional effect is that state institutions have become “personalised” or “privatised”. “Power and authority are situated in the person, not in the office.” [14] There are also cases where the creation of districts in Uganda has split one ethnic group into four or more districts for the first time,[15] “with the consequence of psychological separation of people and in some cases conflict, as was the case of the undecided location of the headquarters of Tororo, Terego and Maracha districts in the Bugisu region. In both cases the creation of districts re-shapes the local people’s perceptions of socio-cultural values and loyalty. The districts also become more dependent on the central government, and the client-patron relationship is created and re-enforced. [16]

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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