To understand President Museveni the politician, one has to study and understand the dynamics of a chameleon in the animal kingdom.
While addressing a rally in present-day Wakiso District in 2000, the President said a good politician, that he is, should keep changing tactics to outmanoeuvre adversaries the way the reptile shifts colour to suit the surrounding.
“A wise politician should be like a chameleon to change colour when necessary. When I am at Wakiso I have no problem, I can be like a dove. But when facing my enemies and murderers, I turn into a lion,” Museveni said.
That was 15 years ago, and that metaphorical reference has played out in reality in the Museveni’s approach to statecraft and political management of Uganda and beyond since then.
When he wanted more years than was permitted under the 1995 Constitution, he engineered the lifting of the presidential term limits to contradict his 1986 position, on assuming office, that Africa’s problem was not the people but “leaders who overstay in power”.
Now making three decades on Tuesday, Mr Museveni is Africa’s fifth longest-serving president.
He has revised his inaugural January 29, 1986, narrative to justify his changed position by arguing that what he castigated at the time was “leaders who overstay in power without election”.
The President’s changing positions has prompted critics to suggest a possible shadow boxing between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’ Museveni if the two versions, which they say contrast, met.
The ruling NRM party chairman and presidential flag bearer a fortnight ago told journalists at a press conference in Ntungamo District that he cannot leave power now, especially when all that he planted is starting to bear “fruits”.
“We can’t be in the middle of a forest and want the old man to go. This is not right. We must concentrate on development, my time will come and I will go. I don’t fear going because I have where to go, but we must first see where we go,” he said.
And true, talk of where to “go”, throughout his campaign trail for a fifth elective term in office, Mr Museveni has been promising that the next term, running up to 2021, is to steer the country where it should be.
“After the liberation struggle, recovery phase and building foundation, Uganda is ready for take-off. NRM will stick to prioritisation in development planning to address Uganda’s challenges,” he says.
Indeed, the one thing he cannot be accused of having failed to do is provide grand plans and visions for Uganda, a habit that dates way back to when he was still a guerrilla fighter.
His recent proclamation came on the heels of another he made last November in Arua District, again at a press briefing, that he is willing to hand over in case he lost power.
“I have got my job; I am a cattle keeper. I am not power hungry, but mission hungry. So I have got a mission of economic transformation of Ugandans,” Mr Museveni said.
‘New breed leader’
On Wednesday, January 26, 1986, President Museveni stood on the front porch of the Parliamentary Building before a rudimentary desk and took the oath as the 9th president of Uganda.