Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has won another six year term to add to the 24 years he has been the country’s maximum ruler. Rioters are resisting him, but he lives above reality, boasting of new laws that will chain the opposition and deny bails to rioters. He claims he will not be forced out of office.
At 67, a senior citizen he sees himself as being relativel young. He can easily add another tenure to the current one that has placed his country on tinder.
Unfortunately, dictators are the envy of other rulers who want undemocratic control of their countries. Most of the instability in Africa is a function of both the refusal of rulers to accept democracy which for them is a word and western and arab destabilisation efforts. Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya are no lessons for him.
He is still a long shot from Omar Bongo, now gone and Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir, 67, who after 22 years is maintaining his firm grip on The Sudan.
It is not surprising that Museveni finds himself in good company, age and illnesses could have kept some of his fellow travellers – Cameroun, Paul Biya (78), 29 years in office, Pedro Verona Rodrigues Pires, Cape Verde (77), who became President 20 years ago, but had been Prime Minister for 16 years, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir (67) 22 years, Amadou Toumani Toure (63) of Mali and Idriss Deby Itno (59) of the Republic of Chad, 21 years – from attending the event.
Museveni has obliterated Apollo Milton Obote, Dada Idi Amin, Maj-Gen Tito Okello, who preceded him as rulers of Uganda, a country once predicted for greatness. Of the country’s 39 years since independence, he managed 24 years. He is still counting.
Uganda has the world’s youngest population, more than half of its 33 million people are below 14 years. HIV/AIDS ravages Uganda. Years of closing the country to ideas, except Museveni’s, have stalled development.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye, 55, a Makerere-trained medical doctor used to be a Museveni associate as well as his personal doctor during the guerrilla war that brought Museveni to power. He retired from the army as a colonel. He is leading the fight to return the country to free and fair elections.
Museveni appointed him Minister of State for Internal Affairs, then Minister of State in the President’s office and National Political Commissar. In 1991, he became Commanding Officer of the Mechanised Regiment in Masaka, and in 1993 he became Chief of Logistics and Engineering. Before his retirement from the army, ahead of the 2001 elections, Besigye was a Senior Military Adviser to the Ministry of Defence.
His tangos with Museveni have been fiercer after initial suspicions that he was meant to be the dictator’s man in opposition. After the April 28 brutalisation from the police in which a bullet shattered one of his fingers, leaving his arm in a cast, it is obvious that Museveni was no longer tolerant of his protégé.
Besigye won 26 per cent of the votes in the election in which Museveni got 68 per cent. The effort was Besigye’s best since he began running against Museveni.
Why was President Goodluck Jonathan at the inauguration? Did he consider how his presence would be seen? Museveni is a bad example for democracy. Those who associate with him embolden him and help postpone the return of civility to Uganda where the cost of his dictatorship is counted in loss of lives and an uncertain future.