Saturday February 15 2014

Uganda still needs Museveni to grow into a fully developed State

By Moses Byaruhanga

The media has been awash with the news that NRM MPs at their annual retreat at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi have asked President Museveni to offer himself as the NRM flag bearer come 2015 in preparation for the February 2016 general elections. The President did not respond to this call. As he has always said, leadership is carrying olubengo, meaning that it is a national sacrifice. It’s now the wish of a majority of NRM MPs for him to stand. The President as an individual has to weigh the request of the MPs and other Ugandans then make up his mind.

For the greater part of his life, Mr Museveni has sacrificed himself for the greater good of Uganda. While many of his age mates in the early 70s either chose to stay in Uganda and work under Amin or chose to go into exile and obtained jobs, he chose to work for the overthrow of Amin.
In her book, My Life’s Journey, 2011, Janet Kataaha Museveni, points out that most of the time, her husband was not with the family because of his involvement in the struggle. He took and trained young people, some of whom include Generals Salim Saleh, Ivan Koreta and others; a majority of whom have died, to the liberated zones in Mozambique.

After participating in the overthrow of Amin in 1979, Mr Museveni worked briefly under presidents Binaisa and Lule and later under the late Paul Mwanga, who was the Chairman of the Military Commission to which, he (Museveni) was the Vice. After the rigged elections of 1980, Mr Museveni led a group that launched a war in Luweero Triangle to rid Uganda of dictatorship. This war saw the fall (indirectly) of the Obote II regime in July 1985, which was followed by the fall(directly) of the Gen Tito Okello regime. That’s when Museveni took on the mantle of leadership as the President.

Since then, apart from restoring peace and stability by getting rid of various rebel groups the latest being LRA, he has brought back democracy.

Today, people are free to talk about replacing him. This is part of democracy to remove a leader through elections, but that doesn’t stop any leader including the incumbent from vying for the presidency. The Museveni-led government has also reduced poverty from 56 per cent in the 90s to 28 per cent today. He has invested in social programmes like Universal Primary and Secondary Education. With the proposed introduction of a student bursary scheme, the foundation of free education in Uganda will be complete.

Other social programmes include access to clean water. President Museveni has embarked on investment in infrastructure mainly roads, power generation and distribution with power lines seen crisscrossing villages in Uganda.

On the international and regional scene, president Museveni has been a strong advocate of integration of East Africa and formation of other regional blocks. On Pan-Africa, he was instrumental in the liberation of South Africa by offering ANC military training facilities in the late 80s, when other countries apart from the frontline states feared to associate with ANC.

He helped in bringing peace in the region by helping RPF in Rwanda and SPLM in south Sudan no to mention the recent deployment of the UPDF to bring sanity in South Sudan. He also led other African countries in deployment of troops in Somalia, which is now stabilising.

It’s against this background that the NRM MPs are calling upon this old man who is still useful to offer himself as an NRM presidential candidate come the next general elections. In him they see a charismatic leader internally, a regional and continental peace contributor.

In regard to the issue that Mr Museveni has been in power for a long time, how come when he was involved in the struggle to get rid of dictatorship from 1971 to 1986, a period of 15 years, nobody complained that he had spent a lot of time fighting for Uganda?

In Japan since World War II, they had one party in leadership for 50 years while leaders like Lee Kuan Yew led Singapore from 1965 to 1990. As long as people have a choice to elect a leader, longevity of a leader or a party should not be a big issue. If the MPs’ request is endorsed by NRM in 2015 and Ugandans in 2016, that will give Mr Museveni up to 2021, a time which in my personal opinion will be ripe for Ugandans who are now younger than the Museveni generation to take up the mantle of leadership.

Mr Byaruhanga is a senior presidential advisor on political affairs.