Updated: Jan 31, 2021
On the 29th of January 1986, Yoweri Museveni was sworn in by British-born Chief Justice Peter Allen as the 9th president of Uganda. After being sworn in, he walked outside the Uganda parliament, and gave a speech saying:
“The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a favour from any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not the government.”.
Little did the world know that Yoweri Museveni would turn Uganda into an authoritarian fascist regime, where he is still president after 35 years.
Yoweri Museveni‘s youth influence
Museveni was born on the 15th of September 1944 in Rukungiri, Uganda. He received good education throughout his youth and university life. One might argue that his university education played a large part in making him who he is today.
In 1967, Museveni studied economics and political science at the he University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. It is believed that this is where he learnt radical ideologies and got himself involved in pan-African politics. This was evident when he formed the University Students' African Revolutionary Front activist group and led a student delegation to Mozambique, where he received guerrilla warfare training.
Museveni‘s university thesis was on applicability of Frantz Fanon's ideas on revolutionary violence to post-colonial Africa. It was evident that in Yoweri Museveni's university days, he had radical ideologies about post colonial Uganda and didn’t mind using force to implement them. If history serves me right, this is exactly what he has done in his 35 years as president.
Uganda before Yoweri Museveni
For this article to be objective we must look at both sides of the coin. Before Museveni took office, Uganda was not better off. The country had been through a number of coups, the Uganda Bush civil war and was one of the poorest countries in Africa.
Uganda produced one of the world‘s most notorious military tyrants in Idi Amin. Idi Amin became Uganda’s president in 1971 after overthrowing the then civilian president Apollo Milton Obote. Idi Amin would later be ousted from office in 1979 and went into exile.
In 1980, Apollo Milton Obote became president again for a second time and was in office till 1985. During his second term in office, Uganda was thrown in civil war.
By July 1985, the Amnesty International estimated that Obote‘s regime had been responsible for more than 300,000 civilian deaths across Uganda. President Obote was ousted from office for a second time by his own military general. The military briefly held power before Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army seized control of the country. Fast forward 35 years later, Yoweri Museveni still has control of the country.
The new generation of African leaders
During Museven’s early years in office he was celebrated by the western world as part of a new generation of African leaders. Others on this list included Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, Sub Saharan African countries held multi party election, which resulted in this new generation of African leaders. The west believed that these leaders would push for democracy and social economical reforms in Africa. The west looked forward to an economically stable Sub-Saharan region which would promote trade between themselves and African.
Unfortunately, most of these new generation of African leaders failed to live up to the expectations of their people and the wider international community. They became intoxicated with power and refused to let go of it. In a bid to make the role of President a life time job, most of these new generation of leaders adopted their own version of democracy. A version that is characterised by fascism, human rights violations, election rigging, manipulation of their country's judicial system to extend the limit of their presidency and most notably, the silencing of any opposition leaders that would threaten their presidency.
For example, Museven is still president of Uganda after 35 years in office in 1986, Paul Kagame has been president of Rwanda for the last 20 years and Isaias Afwerki is the first and current president of Eritrea for the last 28 years, he is also the leader of the only political party that exists in Eritrea.
On the other hand, Joaquim Alberto Chissano, the former president of Mozambique has been credited for transforming the war-torn country of Mozambique into one of the most successful African democracies, after serving as president from 1986 to 2005. He didn't hold on to power like Museveni, Kagame or Afwerki and should serve as an example for future African leaders.
Timeline of Yoweri Museveni six terms as president
We have put together a timeline of key events in President Yoweri Museveni’s 35 years in office as the president of Uganda:
On the 29th of January 1986, Museveni is sworn in as the president of Uganda. Museveni states he considers the idea of a Head of State clinging to office for “15 or more” years ill-advised. He also promises a new era of peace and economic stability in Uganda.
Uganda joins IMF‘s Economic Recovery Program in 1987.
In 1989 Amnesty International releases a human rights report on Uganda which highlights that Museveni’s NRA troops committed gross human right violations.
Museveni is commended by the international community for his initiatve used to tackle the spread of HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
Museveni was elected chairperson of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1991 and 1992.
In 1994 Museveni appoints Africa’s first female vice president Specioza Naigaga Wandira Kazibwe
Uganda’s 1995 constitution is created and provides for a two-term limit on the tenure of the president.
In 1997 Museveni introduces free primary education.
In August 1998, Museveni supports Rwanda in invading the DRC again during the Second Congo War, to overthrow Kabila.
Museveni Wins the presidential election for a second term in office from 2001 - 2006. He then proceeds to change the two term limit on the tenure of a president to a life time presidency, allowing him to run for office again in 2006. International community including the US, withdraw all aid from Uganda.
A referendum to restore multi-party politics was held in Uganda on the 28th of July 2005 and was successful.
In 2005, the International Court of justice ruled that Uganda must pay compensation to the DRC for human rights violations during the Second Congo War.
Museveni runs for president in the February 2006 elections, in a bid to get a third term in office, after stating in 2001 that this was his last term in office.
In October 2011, the annual inflation rate reached an 18 years high of 30.5 %, causing food and fuel prices to increase.
In 2014, Museveni signed an anti-homosexuality bill into law. This act was widely condemned by the western world and the former US President, Barack Obama.
Museveni wins a fourth and fifth term in office spanning from 2011 - 2021. Both election results were challenged by his opposition and Museveni was accused of election rigging. Ugandan Courts agree the elections had misappropriations but still vote to uphold the results.
On the 27th of December Museveni signs the Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 2017, commonly known as the "Age Limit" bill . The bill removes the age limit cap of 75 years for a presidential aspirant. This allowed Museveni to run for a six term in office from 2021 - 2026.
In January 2021 Museveni wins his sixth election or seventh term if you count when he seized power in 1986, but for legal reference let’s stick to sixth term in office. Once more his opposition Bobi Wine accused him of wide spread voter fraud and opposition intimidation.
Uganda’s economy under Yoweri Museveni leadership.
Let’s start by comparing Uganda’s economy to the rest of Africa. Africa comprises of 54 countries and Uganda has the 18th largest economy in Africa as shown in the table below.
When Museveni seized power in 1986, Uganda was one of the poorest countries in Africa. Since then Uganda’s GDP grew from $7.93 billion in 1986 to $118.69 billion in 2019 as shown in the chart below.
Uganda’s economy has been growing at a slow rate due to flooding, Ebola and locust invasion. The chart below shows the GDP growth rate of Uganda’s economy since 2015. It is forecasted that Uganda’s economy will contract in 2020 due to the COVID 19 outbreak. That said, Statista.com also forecasts that Uganda’s economy will rebound and grow at a faster rate between 2021 and 2025.
Let’s look at where Uganda ranks in terms of the poorest countries in Africa. GDP per capita is a measure used to determine the wellbeing and quality of living in a country. Uganda’s GDP per capita has improved since 1985. It grew from $396.29 per person in 1985 to $915.25 in 2020. These stats show that poverty levels have been reducing since Museveni took office.
The last economic statistics to look at is Uganda’s national debt. The chart below shows Uganda’s national debt as a percentage of GDP. This indicator tells investors how likely a country is to pay back borrowings in the future. What the graph below shows is that Uganda’s debt has slowly and steadily started to trend upwards in relation to their economic growth. Uganda's Debt to GDP percentage was 46% in 2020, this percentage is considered reasonable within the context of Uganda being able to pay back its debt. It is also a massive improvement when compared to Uganda's Debt to GDP percentage between 1997 to 2006, which at one point was at 70% as shown in the chart below.
In terms of actual numbers, Uganda’s actual debt went from $6.06 billion in 2014 to $16.41 billion in 2020. It is forecasted that this figure will increase to $25.21 billion by 2024. This only means that Uganda is spending more money than their economy is capable of generating.
It is undeniable that President Yoweri Musevini has been responsible for bringing Uganda out of the thresholds of poverty in the 80’s and growing their economy to what it is today. Yet, you cannot ignore the alarming rate at which Uganda’s national debt has increased in relation to their economic growth, which has slowed down. The World Bank points out that about 700,000 young people are reaching working age every year in Uganda, yet only 75,000 jobs are created each year. More than 70% of Ugandans survive by creating employment through agriculture. Uganda faces economic turmoil in the future. Musevini has to diversify Uganda's economy, increase manufacturing and export. The current unemployment levels in relation to population growth will only expedite rebellion among the youth in Uganda. This could lead to a collapse of Uganda's economy and send Uganda back 40 years to a time of political unrest and civil wars.
Museveni’s new opposition Bobi Wine
I find it disconcerting when people rile up rebellions and resistance in Africa without weighing up the economical and social consequences in the aftermath. Only a mad man will do the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome and young politicians like Bobi don’t understand that. When you incite your followers instead of calling for calm, you don’t show leadership, you show immaturity. Again, look at Libya are they better off now? A lot of people died during Uganda’s 2021 elections and this could have been prevented by a single tweet.
A combination of youth, unemployment and protests in Africa is always a recipe for riot, rebellion, destruction and deaths of innocent lives.
We can't say if Bobi Wine has the knowledge, competence, leadership skills and most importantly, the cool head to lead Uganda. It is often the case that young African political leaders try to garner strength by riling up the unemployed frustrated youth in their country.
Would Bobi Wine do a better job than Museveni? We will leave that up to the Ugandan people to decide. While Museveni is tarnishing the good reputation he has garnered for bringing Uganda out of poverty and tackling HIV/AIDS, Bobi Wine has yet to achieve anything on the political landscape for Uganda or the international community. He campaigns around youth and his political party is all about empowering youth, which is not bad but it definitely isn’t what Uganda needs now. Uganda needs a political leader with experience, someone who is capable of navigating the political landscape and international community, someone would can align Uganda with better foreign policies.
In the last 35 years, President Yoweri Museveni as been accused of numerous human rights violations from the use of child soldiers, silencing and intimidation of political opponents, rigging of elections and inappropriately influencing Uganda’s judicial system and constitution. While Museveni will no doubt try and dispute these allegations, one allegation he can’t dispute is that he has intentionally manipulated Uganda’s constitution twice to extend his stay in office. Firstly, when he changed the two term limit in Uganda’s 1995 constitution and secondly when he changed the President age limit in the Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 2017.
There is no doubt that he has overstayed his time in office and needs to step down. The greater concern is he risks destabilising Uganda’s fragile economy and decades of peace, all in the name of holding on to power. There are even rumours he wants to hand power to his son.
History has shown the danger of holding on to power too long. Libya is a perfect example, when Gaddafi was ousted, Libya was plunged into chaos and still have not recovered to date. It is now a cesspool for terrorism. We fear the same fate may await Uganda and Museveni if he doesn’t relinquish power.
Our recommendation is as follow;
The African Union need to adopt an EU model of governance which will allow legislation passed by African Union to supersede legislation passed by any member of African Union. Museveni’s key strength has been his ability to influence Uganda’s legislation and constitution. If AU had the authority they could supersede this and protect the democracy of Ugandan people.
Museveni should step down and a new election should be held, one that is governed by African Union and monitored by EU.
Bobi Wine should pacify his followers and not make the mistake Donald Trump made in inciting rebellion and violence. Innocent people will die and in death there is no hope.
Bobi Wine's website