President Yoweri Museveni’s 2016 election manifesto is an easy read for one who has read previous editions. The language has been tweaked here and there and a few new promises have been made, but the story is basically the same.
I am not interested in the unfulfilled fiscal and developmental promises of the past 20 years. I accept that many politicians cannot resist the urge to promise rain even in the Sahara desert.
What I am interested in are the more fundamental matters of principle that speak to the integrity of the man that has ruled Uganda for 30 years.
His promise to entrench democracy, made in 1986, and his anti-democratic conduct in 2015 are as far apart as Christianity and Voodoo.
He who launched a guerrilla war on account of a stolen election in 1980, now oversees a privatized political party that has taken electoral violence and fraud to a new level.
He who condemned the dictators of yesterday, has criminalized internal party challenge to his rule.
Museveni, of course, is a beneficiary of perennially fraudulent elections. Justices of the Supreme Court told us so in 2001.
In 2006, the election was stolen using an illegal, parallel electoral commission that fed fake results to the official Electoral Commission. Gen. David Sejjusa, the chief of that operation, has come clean about it. We find no reason to doubt him.
Then there was Section 14 of Legal Notice No. 1 of 1986 that promised that the National Resistance Movement Government would hold interim power for a period not exceeding four years.
In late 1989, the Proclamation was rescinded, with persuasive reasons given. In what would become a recurring theme over the next three decades, Museveni told the NRM National Executive Committee on October 24, 1989: “It ought to be clear that some of the objectives of the NRM interim administration have not been achieved in the time we prescribed.”
Twelve years later, Museveni, seeking re-election in 2001, assured Ugandans that it would be his last and final term as president. He just had a few loose ends to tie up.
As if to affirm his promises, he assured Ugandan MPs on May 9, 2001, two days before being sworn in for the fourth term, that this would be his last term. “ When I retire, as I will do after these five years, I may have to help these people (the UN) because they do not know what they are talking about,” Museveni said.
In 2006, with term limits lifted, Museveni sought re-election to another last term, his reasons a mere variation on those he had offered in 2001.
By 2011, nobody remotely believed that Museveni was seeking his last term again. The man who had announced in July 1995 that he would retire at age 55 was now 67 years old, with no plans to quit.
The man who had told The East African newspaper in 1999 that he would retire at age 61 to look after his cows, was no longer talking about serving a last term. Instead he was already thinking 2016.
Today, the man who diagnosed Africa’s problem as partly due to rulers staying in power beyond ten years, seeks re-election after 30 years on the throne.
That Museveni has clung to power is less bothersome to me than his repeated utterances of untruthful statements and promises. That is why I found it rather striking to hear him declare last week: “Unless Ugandans are mad, why should they vote for Dr. Kizza Besigye and Mr. Amama Mbabazi who are telling lies?”
Clearly Museveni’s view is that Ugandans should not vote for a candidate who has told them lies. I agree with him.
Meanwhile, the president needs to be told that in fact Ugandans are mad, but not in the sense that he used the word.
Ugandans are mad at being lied to and manipulated; at numerous unfulfilled promises and commitments; and a bloated patronage system that has sucked all life out of the state’s social obligations to citizens.
Yes Ugandans are mad at being denied basic health care and quality education, while a chosen few enjoy first world services in India, Kenya and elsewhere at public expense.
Ugandans are mad at their money being used to sustain a luxurious presidential lifestyle and to buy votes, with presidential bribes dished out to clergymen, musicians, a clan chief and other parasites.
Ugandans are mad at the hijacking of state institutions and the violence used to sustain the ruler on the throne.
They are mad at the personalization of the state, complete with claims by the ruler that he owns their treasury, their army, their oil and their destiny.
Ugandans are mad at the ruler’s claims to be a fighter against corruption when, at best, he is the chief enabler of the plague.
Ugandans are mad and they are right to be mad. To paraphrase the main character in the 1976 American movie “Network”, every Ugandan should stand on the mountaintops and at the polling stations and shout: “”I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Where they place their votes is entirely up to them.
Letter to a Kampala Friend
By Muniini K. Mulera