The NRM Government and Museveni
Museveni literary righted the wrongs of the past regimes. First, he steered clear of the retributive actions and re- established the rule of law. Then he appointed a much needed Human Rights Commission, increased freedom of the press, adopted pragmatic economic policies and encouraged foreign investment and tourism the result of which were tangible in his first decade of governance with a 10% growth rate. He also invited the Asians back and gave them back their properties or compensated them for their losses. However, just as Obote abolished kingdoms to his political gain, Museveni too reinstated them and legally recognized them. This decision coupled with another allowing Ronald Mwenda Mutebi Son of Mutesa II to return to Uganda after over 20 years in exile in Britain earned him popularity among the Baganda and this popularity cut across to the kingdoms of Bunyoro and Toro which were also restored but not Ankole possibly because of the contentious six lost counties which Museveni tactfully steered clear of.
He also was in no hurry to level the political playfield so that the opposition could join in the politics of Uganda. Instead his NRA which had now become the National Resistance Movement (NRM) was the sole party and made up of mostly Bahima in senior army positions, it threatened to ethnically divide the country. Although he faced criticism all corners for his one- party government style, he remained stalwart in his decision until as recent as 2005 when he bowed to pressure both local and international to open up the political space. In 1996 presidential elections were held for the first with Paulo Kawanga Ssemogerere former DP leader and a one time prime minister under Museveni the sole challenger. NRM won by an overwhelming 74% and Ssemogerere polled 23%.
However, in 2001, Museveni polled 70% compared to 20% registered by Dr Colonel Kizza Besigye a former comrade and his bush doctor who had fled into exile soon after.
Power it’s said is intoxicating and having tasted of it, Museveni when the two term limits drawn by the NRM years earlier and specified in a National constitution expired and upon which expiry he had promised to step down instead abrogated the same constitution to lift term limits a move which is not only dictatorial and undemocratic but allowed him to stay in power indefinitely. He also fell short when he held a referendum on the question of a return to multi- party politics yet clearly this was not an issue to be put to a vote but an inherent right that the vast majority of Ugandan’s vied for.
Nevertheless, a referendum was held at the tax payers expense and an ambiguous 92.5% voted in favor of a return to multi- partism and only 47% agreed with the opposition that it was a needless waste of tax payers money.
In the build up to the first multi- party elections in Uganda, exiled opposition leader Kizza Besigye returned from exile and in what was widely believed by the opposition and Ugandans as intimidation, he was charged with treason and imprisoned to be released on bail in January 2006 only a month to the general elections. Museveni again won but this time with a considerable decline of 59% vote in what Ugandans considered a grossly unfair, violence characterised and rigged election for violence was meted out on Ugandans by an NRM youth militia group led by stalwart Major Kakoza Mutale.
And although the international observers conceded these, the supreme court also conceded that while there were incidents which amounted to these, they weren’t sufficient enough to warrant cancellation of the election results and so, Museveni became
Uganda’s first Multi- party president after having already served 20 years (1986-2006).
Museveni is still president and grapples with diminishing popularity stemming from a myriad of issues including nepotism, unbalanced regional development, lack of priortisation in resource allocation where key sectors like health leave a lot to be desired, lack of commitment in eradicating poverty and then the very thorny issue of north as regards electrification (West Nile) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that have terrorized Acholiland for almost as long as Museveni has been in power and complancency on his part is blamed for the LRA’s long existence for in spite of military deployment, the rebels were still a force to reckon with and continually engaged the military. Although he later discarded a military offensive and opted for peace talks amid international and local urging, the peace talks failed and it was back to combat.
The LRA’s over 20 years of brutality and atrocities caused untold deaths and suffering to the Acholi people who were atrociously mutilated and abused. Children were often abducted and conscripted into the rebel ranks and girls’ only schools targeted and the girls shared out as wives among the rebels who practiced polygamy. Victims of atrocities often narrated that the LRA rebels apart from horrifying killings also cut off lips, ears and hands from those unfortunate enough to fall victim. In other cases, human dignity was robbed first and then life through rape and sex as weapons of war where a man would be forced to have sex with his daughter and a son with the mother and brother with sister. Refusal fetched death which often was the case as it’s incestuous and taboo in African culture to have sexual relations with relatives blood or otherwise.
However although the Acholi mostly suffered, other Ugandans did too and lost lives and property including the Ateso who did when the LRA spilled into Teso and wrecked chaos, caused loss of lives and forcing many into Internally Displaced Persons Camps not only the Acholi suffered
Thankfully, the LRA is no more in northern Uganda is no more for they were routed out by the Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) as the Uganda army is called. Although Kony the LRA leader is still alive and at large fast in Congo, Sudan and now believed to be in the Central African Republic, peace for the first time in decades is experienced in northern Uganda and with commendation for that is the herculean task Museveni faces of resettlement and rebuilding, processes which are currently ongoing but very slowly.
Also, Museveni’s seeming lack of commitment in fighting corruption in his government has cost him a lot in terms of credence and electorate.
Uganda faces yet again another presidential election to be held on 18th February 2011 and Kizza Besigye is still in the running for the presidency and is the strongest of the opposition opponents to challenge Museveni although there are others in the race such as Olara Otunnu UN diplomat turned politician (UPC) promising a transparent government, Beti Olive Namisango Kamya Turomwe leader of the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA) and championing federalism as an answer to Uganda’s problems, Bidandi Ssali a former minister in Museveni’s government and leader of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), Abed Bwanika, a pastor and running for the second time under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Samuel Lubega the least known of them all as an independent, Nobert Mao a former parliamentarian under DP a party he leads and finally Dr Colonel Kizza Besigye under the Inter- party co- operation an alliance which would have guaranteed the opposition a definite win had they truly been selfless and put Uganda first. Unfortunately, the key opposition parties with wide spread support at grass root to national level; UPC and DP opted not to participate in preference to fielding their own candidate as opposed to a single one under IPC representing the opposition. Although the election isn’t yet won, the failure of the opposition to unite under the IPC umbrella doesn’t augur well for them because they are up against an incumbent with unlimited powers and resources at his disposal. However, February 18th 2011 rewrites yet another chapter in Uganda’s history.