Uganda: A Country Where Yoweri Museveni Has Ruled ‘Forever’

President Yoweri Museveni

Mr Obasanjo stepped down after the expiry of his two terms in office, he is quite at a loss on how to describe the near 4-decade reign of NRM in Kampala

By Special Correspondent

Former Nigerian military ruler turned civilian president General Olusegun Obasanjo in a light-hearted banter that “a fool at 40 is a fool forever”! He remarked during the celebrations marking Uganda’s 40th independence anniversary from colonial Britain at Kololo airstrip a few years ago.

 Although the audience erupted in laughter, this remark would have far reached ramifications in the days ahead. General Obasanjo said that Uganda had come of age from a dark past of political turbulence and economic decline. Mr Obasanjo stepped down after the expiry of his two terms in office, he is quite at a loss on how to describe the near 4-decade reign of NRM in Kampala. With the long-ruling President Yoweri Museveni entering his fourth decade in power, Obasanjo who is among Africa’s imminent sons could well be mulling over whether his remarks 19 years ago could somehow apply to NRM.

As Museveni navigates his 4th decade, he has few peers on the African continent. He can only take comfort in Cameroon’s Paul Biya who has grossed 42 years in power. Others are in Gabon and Congo Brazaville. In East and Central Africa Museveni is the longest-ruling with a whole generation that has grown up under his NRM regime

 In Kenya, the county’s former vice president Kijana Wamalwa under President Mwai Kibaki who died in 2004 aged 60 once said “life starts at 40”! The magical number 40 is also well depicted in the Holy Bible. Jews roamed the desert looking for the promised land for 40 years, led by Moses the reluctant prophet said to have been the only recorded human being who “saw” God! Jesus Christ the only son of God spent 40 days praying and fasting in the desert where he was tempted by the devil.

 As Museveni navigates his 4th decade, he has few peers on the African continent. He can only take comfort in Cameroon’s Paul Biya who has grossed 42 years in power. Others are in Gabon and Congo Brazaville. In East and Central Africa Museveni is the longest-ruling with a whole generation that has grown up under his NRM regime. NRM has in recent years faced a fierce backlash from the opposition fronting much younger popular figures fed up with the “one-man” rule. Many have compared Museveni who captured power in 1986 to the brutal dictator of the 1970’s Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada.

 Amin reigned for a nightmarish 8 and half years, driving the once-thriving economy into the dust with his semi-literate cabinet. He at the same time slaughtered 400,000 Ugandans many tortured in dungeons around Kampala. At least 80 per cent of the current population who are below 35 have only read about Amin, Obote, Mwanga, Lule and Binaisa. It is this segment of young and innovative who are largely tired and fed up with a regime that has long outlasted its welcome!

 Populist youthful MP and Kyadondo East MP Robert Kyagulanyi (aka Bobi Wine) is widely thought to have won the January 2021 presidential elections. Museveni is alleged to have rigged the poll using the army and police. On the eve of the election, as observers predicted a Bobi Wine victory, Museveni poured military personnel on Kampala streets. Other elections in 2011 and 2016 are also said to have been heavily rigged in favour of the incumbent. Even before votes were cast, counted and tallied Museveni is said to have been handed a “winners’ certificate” by officials of the electoral commission!

In the run-up to the 2021 poll, Museveni used the Covid 19 safeguards by constantly harassing the opposition, derailing voting in their strongholds. He also barricaded Bobby Wine in his home, putting him under house arrest making little secret that he was ruling by the barrel of the gun. But time could be running out for Kampala’s ruler of nearly four decades, the longest in the landlocked former British colony. Many say the fatigued ageing strongman may not possibly rule past 40 years, the magical number few have had the luxury of exceeding.

His son Muhooze heading the army has come out of the shadows to assume some political clout but many dismiss him as lacking leadership qualities. But Museveni recently warned his detractors fond of insulting him that his son would “avenge” the wrongs!

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