Mr President, here is why you should give others a chance to lead Uganda

Sunday January 24 2021
By Musaazi Namiti

President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Kaguta Museveni was clearly not happy when he addressed the nation on January 16 just hours after the Electoral Commission declared him the winner of the 2021 presidential election, setting him on course to extend his rule to 40 years.

One of the things Mr Museveni was angry about is sectarianism, and he said that Opposition politicians who are promising a new Uganda were instead introducing an old Uganda, which discriminated against Ugandans on the grounds of their tribes and religion.

We probably would not have heard the President grumbling about sectarianism had he performed well in Buganda in the January 14 elections. But his performance in the region, which served as a launch pad for his armed rebellion in the early 1980s, and where he enjoyed support for decades, was a total disaster, a rout (it would seem) to end all routs.

Mr Museveni’s main challenger, Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine of the National Unity Platform (NUP), literally chased the ruling NRM out of Buganda by picking up nearly all parliamentary seats, leaving NRM ministers who had won some of those seats in political wilderness.

As Mr Museveni ground on about sectarianism, I remembered comments by his critics who have appeared on local TV stations several times to say that he should practise what he preaches.

The critics claim that there is sectarianism in the UPDF, which is supposed to be a national army. They have singled out the Special Forces Command (SFC), an elite unit of the army headed by Lt Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba, the President’s son, which they say has never been led by soldiers who are not from Mr Museveni’s tribe.


They also say — and they are right — that Gen Muhoozi has had the best military training in the UPDF, with courses at Sandhurst (UK) and Fort Leavenworth (US), arguably the world’s most prestigious military academies. A pertinent question to ask is why a president who is against sectarianism (and perhaps nepotism) would do this.

Mr Museveni’s address was mostly about his achievements in 34 years, and some of them, such as UPE and immunisation, are commendable. But there is a problem. The President seldom, if ever, looks at life in Uganda in the eyes of an ordinary Ugandan who has zero connection to state power and does not have state privilege.

The President should imagine life in a Uganda where he is not President and try to see how he can manage. Let us say he earns Shs2m a month, which is a good salary by Ugandan standards. His wife has a serious medical problem and is rushed to Mulago’s Specialised Women and Neonatal Hospital, where patients pay Shs80,000 per day (standard). The patient is going to be hospitalised for, say, 10 days.

The bill will leave Mr Museveni with Shs1.2m. He has children to fend for and lives in rented accommodation because the government’s agency responsible for housing only builds homes for the rich, and the homes cost anywhere between Shs800m and Shs1.5b, out of reach for the vast majority of Ugandans, even if they work for 100 years while saving every shilling.

Mr Museveni should also imagine that he is a teacher on a salary of Shs500,000. Can he really enjoy the Uganda that was described in his address? And if, in 34 years, Mr Museveni has not been able to provide affordable medical care and housing, how will he succeed in just five years?

Mr Namiti is a journalist and former
Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk @kazbuk