Yoweri Museveni has ensured that the west is dependent on himby Richard Dowden / August 21, 2014 / Leave a comment
Yoweri Museveni once said that the problem with African rulers was that they stayed in power too long. In August he turned 70. He has now been President of Uganda for 28 years.
There is much he can look back on with pride. He took over after 15 years of military dictatorship, political chaos and civil war and brought peace to southern Uganda. The country’s economy has grown from $4.17bn in 1985 to $21.5bn today. The middle classes, who fled from President Idi Amin’s brutal regime in the 1970s and the chaos after his downfall, returned. The Asians, expelled by Amin in 1972, were offered their properties back and some, too, returned. The capital, Kampala, has more than doubled in size and today pulsates with activity. Other towns have grown too. Oil was discovered in 2006 and gas more recently.
Yet there is a question that undermines all of these achievements. Why has a president who can claim to have ended decades of instability and attracted billions of dollars in aid and investment not been able to abide by his own principles and hold a free election to select his successor? Ugandans today, especially middle class Ugandans, become angry when their government is mentioned—or, more worryingly, fall silent. In the north, particularly among ethnic Acholi people, there is a sense of “we told you so.” Ugandans no longer suffer the arbitrary brutality of the Amin years or the chaos that followed, but some are clearly frightened of being overheard talking politics. Their anger is fuelled by extensive corruption at the highest levels and the almost total control of the economy and government by a clique that enjoys exclusive presidential patronage.
Museveni became President in 1986. He ruled unchallenged, under a system he termed “no-party democracy,” until 2001 and then saw off an attempt by former allies to restore multi-party politics. But the pressure for political rights was too strong and in 2005 he was forced to hold a referendum on the introduction of multi-party democracy, which he lost. Elections were held in 2011. But…