In his address after being sworn in for the first time on January 29, 1986 President Museveni made the famous statement that “…I think what has happened today is not a mere change of guards. It is a fundamental change…”
There have been numerous changes for better and for worse ever since that day, in the political, security, and the social economic spheres of Ugandan life.
But what has changed fundamentally about the Museveni era is the fact that Museveni from the onset dismantled the State as we knew.
He then fabricated a version to serve his perpetuation. This was modelled along the lines of Louis XIV, who ruled France for more than 72 years (1643-1715).
Louis XIV and a small circle of advisors wielded enormous power, including supreme legislative and judicial authority. He reigned so long that he was succeeded on the throne not by his son or his grandson, but by his great grandson.
It was the longest reign in the history of any major European throne, and it took place at the height of belief in the “divine right of kings,” to rule as solely and autocratically as they chose. The famous catch phrase attributed to him is “L’État, c’est moi”—literally, “I am the State.” (www.google.com)
In Uganda, Museveni is the State.
With ‘only’ 28 years under his belt and still going strong, literally everything starts and ends with Museveni. He is the fulcrum and the cotter pin.
He is the ‘owner’ of the party (NRM) with the majority in Parliament and as such controls the legislative arm of government and he occasionally advises the electorate to elect members who sleep there and only wake up to vote for his wishes. Their effort is enhanced by the 10 MP’s from ‘his’ army the UPDF (where he promotes and demotes at will) who are there as ‘listening posts.’ He occasionally ‘invites’ these MP’s to ‘guide’ them on how to vote on issues in Parliament.
Museveni has made it clear that he has a preference for ‘cadre judges’ who understand the history of his Movement. This influences his choices of judges and as such has great control over the Judiciary.
He appoints all the crucial officials of State from the governor of the Central Bank, electoral commissioners, the police chief, the DPP, the heads of departments, permanent secretaries on his terms. All applicants for crucial government jobs go through ‘security vetting’ to be sure about their allegiance to Museveni.
The government contracts and serious deals must have the nod of State House. Perennially State House spends money beyond what is budgeted and then asks Parliament to ‘approve’ supplementary budgets for what it has already spent. Most of what would pass as institutionalised capacity to support the State superstructure from schools, to hospitals, to roads, housings, etc have been deliberately left to waste away.
Then a method of giving for patronage comes to play. In this power relation those who are compliant are rewarded with contracts, jobs, and access to public finance and those who resist his autocracy are punished and economically destroyed.
To receive medical attention abroad, (for locally the health system is a death trap) one needs the contribution and approval of State House just like having access to State sponsorship in the education sector for he controls the money. This personalisation of the State is the backbone of Museveni’s 28 years in power. It is the hallmark of the fundamental change. It is the fundamental change.
Mayuge District in Busoga sub-region where I am told the 28th anniversary celebrations took place, is one of the places with a jiggers epidemic. This is 28 years and more than three aircrafts purchased after Museveni ridiculed African Presidents who fly in personal jets yet their citizens cannot afford shoes!
Nicholas Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues. firstname.lastname@example.org