How Obama smashed Museveni ego in Ethiopia


Africa Leaders Summit

President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986 following a military take over.

In his innagural speech he said that: “Africa’s problem is leaders who overstay in power” before promising that he would rule for a four year interim period.

At the expiry of the four years, he extended the interim period for another five years.

The new 1995 Constitution clearly stipulated that a President of Uganda was to rule for only two five year terms.

In 1996, he sought a re-election and again in 2001.

In 2005, he amended the constitution to scrap off the two term limits before seeking re-election in 2006.

In 2011, he was elected for another five years term that is ending in May 2016.

Already, he is seeking re-election in the upcoming March 2016 general elections.

For the last 30 years his reign has been characterised by gross abuse of human rights, widespread corruption and worst political repression.

He has destroyed all institutions of government and replaced them with a rule by a clique.

He has privatised the security forces to serve as his power base for his life presidency scheme.

The economy is in the hands of a small clique while education and health is in an appalling state.

He has used development funds to close off nearly every peaceful means of loosening his grip on power.

In the early 1990s, Museveni jumped from the Marxist orientation and took advantage of USA President Clinton’s concern to halt the spread of militant Islam.

The Clinton administration entered into military alliance with Museeni before describing him as a new breed of African leaders.

Since then, Museveni has held the west at ransom by posturing to be at the forefront of the fight against global terrorism.

He has had his troops in Somalia since 2007 and has no intention of accomplishing the assignment and leave lest he loses the support of the west.

He has used the fight against terrorism to suppress political dissent at home.

He has often said that his forces have succeeded where the USA failed – in Somalia. He has often warned the west against lecturing him on democracy.

In 2011, he acquired six Shukoi fighter jets from Russia worth $700M that he got from the Bank of Uganda without parliamentary approval.

The following year in December 2012, he visited Russia and met President Putin before being awarded Russia’s highest award for being one of the eminent military-political leaders in Africa.

This was shortly after he posted a military attache to the Uganda embassy in Moscow.

In February 2014, while commissioning the Russian built Shukoi-30 military jet fighter simillator at the Airbase in Entebbe, he said that he would work with Russia because they dont meddle in the internal affairs of other countries; “Russia has worked in Africa since 1917………I will work with Russia because they dont mix up their politics with other countries’ politics.”

That warning came at a time the Obama administration had announced that it was to re-consider its relations with Uganda following Museveni’s threats to accent to the Anti-gay law.

To that effect and during the same occasion, Museveni directly hit at Obama thus: “This is my home. You cant find a man with a bald head like mine in his home and tell him what you want. Go back to your home.”

Later on he was more direct thus: “I would like to discourage the USA government from taking the line that passing that law will complicate our valued relationship.”

He went ahead and assented to the law but only to withdraw it shortly after.

In March 2014, the Chinese Ambassador to Uganda, Zhao Yali, while on a tour of the regime media outlet – the New Vision reaffirmed his government’s commitment to support Uganda.

He disclosed a US$3.2M aid that it had extended to Museveni’s army peace keeping operations.

The Ambassador cited the countries who had threatened to cut aid to Uganda because of the Anti-Gay law and said that his country does not interfere with the internal affairs of other countries thus: “it is a policy of the Chinese government to give lectures in Africa.” In October 2014 China provided US $10M loan for infrastructure development and since then a number of other financing has continued to flow from China.

Recently, the regime announced plans to have Chinese language taught in schools as a compulsory subject.

As President Kagame once told the Tanzanians; “I wait for the right time and strike you”, President Obama’s right time was this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and he did strike Museveni to the marrows.

His message to Africa’s military dictators was simple and precise: “Africa’s democratic progress is also at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their terms end. No one should be President for life. I dont understand why people want to stay for so long especially when they have got a lot of money. Sometimes you will hear leaders say “I am the only one who can hold this nation together” if that is true, then that leader has failed to truly build the nation. When journalists are put behind bars for doing their job or activists are threatened by gas governments crack down on civil society then you may have democracy in name but not in substance.”

The Obama direct strike came at a time when Museveni had just reaffirmed his resolve to hold on to power at all cost.

He had told Ugandans that he has his army and the national treasury that will help him not to hand over power to wolves.

He had told Muslim at Masaka Central Mosque during Eid-El-Fitr that those who want him to go are after grabbing his oil.

Uganda has oil reserves that may start flowing in 2018 but whose extraction contracts have been kept secret.

Museveni had just also told Ugandans that: “Your President is one of the least paid on the continent. Although I earn little from your government, I am a rich man from agriculture.”

The west has been partly responsible for Museveni’s overconfidence but now that it has made its position very clear, its upon Ugandans to make good use of the new found ally in their democratic struggle to regain their country.

Unfortunately, the national leaders in the opposition are bent on legitimizing Museveni’s hold on power through preparing to take part in a sham electoral process in which Museveni is the organiser and the the competitor.

Why bother with electoral reforms when the fundamental issue is restoration of term limits now?

What other gift do Ugandans need from Obama’s presidency?

Sarah Nalukenge, the author, is a social and political commentator

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