By Henry D Gombya
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni was left squirming and looking for answers in London on Thursday after Stephen Sackur, a veteran BBC journalist who anchors a BBC current affairs programme HARDtalk asked him hard-hitting questions regarding his lengthy stay in power, the behaviour of his security forces with regards to demonstrators especially during the Walk to Work demonstrations, the overruling of his own national parliament over oil contracts, the endemic corruption eating away his quarter of a century administration, whether he was happy to be in the company of African leaders like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Equatorial Guinea’s Nguema Mbasogo and Senegal’s Paul Biya, all of whom have outlived their welcome in power, and whether he would consider not seeking another term of office in 2016.
Sackur introduced his programme by telling millions of viewers worldwide that sitting in front of him was a man who in the 1990s the West had held as a key figure in a new era of African leaders capable of delivering political and economic progress. He went on to say that since then, the gloss had worn off the Museveni presidency especially when he made a much-criticised intervention in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which his soldiers pillaged leaving Uganda with a big debt to pay after the International Court of Justice ordered Uganda to repay compensation to the DRC.
The BBC anchor went on to explain to his viewers that at home, Museveni’s era now faces serious scrutiny after campaigners for democratic reforms, gay rights and clean government, had now all fallen foul of Ugandan security forces. Having been in power since 1986, Sackur reminded his viewers again that soon after coming to power, President Museveni wrote a book ‘What is Africa’s problem’ in which the president seemed to have reached a conclusion that Africa’s problem emanated from leaders who overstayed in power. Sackur then turned to President Museveni and asked: “After a quarter of a century in power, have you forgotten your own words?”
Looking rather bewildered that anyone would dare ask him such a question, the Uganda leader replied: “I’ve not forgotten my words. What I meant was, people who stay long in power without being elected. And the quarter of a century you are talking about I’ve been in government I’ve been elected all the time.” To be precise, Mr Museveni came to power in January 1986. He immediately banned all political parties and it was not until May 9, 1996, just over ten years after he had started his reign, that he organised elections and strictly under one-party rule, the National Resistance Movement.