In the article, “Museveni hits out at Monitor columnist,” President Museveni attempts to rebut Alan Tacca’s argument that Museveni has no vision. I would like to join this debate. The ground upon which I join the debate is that Tacca doesn’t know Museveni to the extent I do.
My knowledge of Museveni begins in the early 1970s. When the 1971 coup took place I was at the University of Nairobi. Instead of coming back to Uganda, I went to Dar es Salaam.
Vision can mean the means of seeing which in this sense could be ideology. It can also mean the ability to see. It can further mean a direction into the future which has been charted.
I had been active in student politics at the University of Nairobi. I was also well-read in politics. I had, for instance, read all the published works of Julius Nyerere.
However, when I got to Dar es Salaam, I found myself far less informed than my agemates such as Yoweri Museveni. They had the advantage of going to the University of Dar es Salaam which at the time was teeming with left-wing academics. These guys would support their arguments with quotations from Regis Debray, Franz Fanon and Walter Rodney -- authors of whom those of us from Nairobi and Makerere University were ignorant of.
Realising my short-comings, I embarked on serious studies. I soon came to feel that the path Yoweri Museveni was advocating was the right one and I joined Fronasa.
However, as I studied further, I soon realised that Museveni did not really understand what he was mouthing. This realisation was particularly driven home when I read the book, “New Theories of Revolution” by Jack Woddis. The book is a critique of the revolutionary theories of Regis Debray, Franz Fanon and Herbert Marcuse.
Museveni was basing his strategy for the struggle against Idi Amin on the writings of Regis Debray, particularly the book, “Revolution in Revolution”. On the other hand, Debray himself based his theories on an erroneous reading of the Cuban revolution.
Debray thought that the Cuban revolution began with the attack by Fidel Castro and his comrades on the Sierra Mistra, a thought which greatly influenced Museveni. Museveni also thought that to bring about a revolution all you need is imitate Fidel Castro by attacking Kabamba barracks with his 27 comrades and the revolution will have began.
What Museveni did not realise is that the Cuban revolution took 100 years to incubate. No less an authority than Fidel Castro has gone on record arguing that the Cuban revolution took 100 years to incubate.
“What does October 10, 1868, signify for our people? What does this glorious date mean for the revolutionaries of our nation? It simply signifies the beginning of 100 years of struggle, the beginning of the revolution in Cuba, because in Cuba there has only been one revolution: that which was begun by Carlos Manuel de Cespedes on October 10, 1868, the revolution our people are still carrying forward.” (Fidel Castro’s speech in October 10, 1968.)
Debray thought that in a revolution it is the armed struggle which gives rise to the revolutionary party. This is another thought which greatly influenced Museveni. Remember the NRA first came into existence and later the political wing, the NRM was grafted on it.
This is not only different from the Cuban experience, but is theoretically wrong. During the 100 years when the Cuban revolution was incubated, people of Cuba had organised themselves into various political parties to wage the struggle.
From Fanon, Museveni got his theory of violence. For his undergraduate studies, Museveni wrote a thesis: “Fanon’s theory of violence and its application in Mozambique.”
In this thesis, Museveni wrote: “Hence in Mozambique, it has been found necessary to show peasants fragments of a Portuguese soldier blown up by a mine or, better still, his head. Once the peasant sees guerrillas holding the head of the former master, the white man’s head cold in death..., he knows, or at least begins to suspect, that the picture traditionally presented to him of the white man’s invincibility is nothing but a scarecrow. Once the ‘native’ peasant in Mozambique and, I am sure, elsewhere has discovered that the oppressor can be destroyed, he moves with great speed engineered by the hatred for the enemy long in him.”
In other words you do not need any political work; all you need to do is unleash violence. It is this theory of violence that Museveni was later to implement, first in the struggle against Idi Ami and later in the Luweero Triangle.
Contrary to what Museveni was doing, revolutionary theory requires that the people have to be politically prepared before launching armed struggle. This did not matter to Museveni. In his book, “Sowing the Mustard Seed”, on page 78 Museveni recounts how he took his comrades to Mount Elgon and expected them to start guerrilla warfare without doing any political work to prepare the area for such a thing. Museveni admits that they were easily flushed out by Idi Amin.
On page 76 of the same book Museveni also recounts going to the forests of Bunya in Busoga and starting a guerrilla camp there without doing any preparatory work. Again he admits Amin easily found out and flushed them out.
When it came to his so-called liberation war in Luweero, Museveni carried out no political work. All he did was take advantage of the raw feeling of the Baganda against Obote and UPC.
How can Museveni reconcile his then apparently left-wing position and seeking to bring about a Cuban-type of revolution in Uganda with his basing his struggles on the reactionary ideology that was then driving the Baganda in Luweero?
The most accurate name we can give to what Museveni was engaged in is militarism. All Museveni wanted was mercenaries to fight his war. The ideology and politics did not matter. And this is what Tacca is talking about. The arrival of Museveni in power was totally unexpected and unplanned for.
The accession to power put Museveni in a situation well-characterised by Friedrick Engels in chapter six of his essay, “The Peasant war in Germany”. In that essay Engels argued that the worst thing that can happen to a left-leaning leader is to arrive in power when the situation is not yet ripe for what he stands for.
In 1986, Museveni arrived in power when the situation in Uganda could not give rise to the Cuban-type of revolution he had been aiming at. Just as Engels had explained, Museveni found himself in a situation where he had to carry out policies which were against the political position he had held up to then.
When Museveni arrived in power, he found himself facing two political parties (UPC and DP) which had been on the scene for a considerable period and had social bases as well as organisational structures. There is no way Museveni’s NRM could compete with the two parties.
In the circumstances, Museveni resorted to massive deceit. He immediately banned the political parties. To rationalise this ban he gave the excuse that the political parties were sectarian.
He also came out with the scam that he had invented a new form of democracy suited to the Ugandan situation called no-party democracy and individual merit. This was a device meant to maintain him in power. It was a device which would emasculate the political parties.
The eventual failure and abandonment of the device is further proof of what Tacca is talking about that Museveni lacks vision. How could Museveni not see that this so-called “no-party” democracy was unworkable? How could he not see that mankind has already evolved a democratic process based on political parties and he comes around claiming to have invented democracy based on individual merit?
Mr Adhola is a UPC ideologue.