At the recent A. Milton Obote Memorial Lecture at the Sheraton Hotel, Makerere University History professor, Ndebesa Munyaganwa, intoned that Obote was the first leader to quibble about passing on power to the next rung of the Uganda People’s Congress leaders, even when he was in exile in Zambia.
This argument was meant to bolster the hedging that President Yoweri Museveni of the National Resistance Movement, is on about, as concerns the amendment of the 1995 Constitution Article 102 (b) removing the outer age limit threshold of 75 years that would essentially make him another life president.
Uganda’s first Life President Field Marshall Idi Amin, did not prevaricate about it; he even created and assumed the title of: Commander of the British Empire. Both Obote and Amin were the past leaders whom Museveni characterized as “swine”. As such these would be certainly “fellows” Museveni cannot be seen to be imitating their leadership “styles”.
Whenever anyone is willing to listen to him, Museveni is at pains to pass himself off as a “revolutionary”. He refers to his rebel activity that brought him to power as a “revolution”. And in 2010 when he invited the late Libyan strongman, Col. Muammar Ghaddafi for Uganda’s independence celebrations, Ghaddafi feted him in his speech, saying that “revolutionaries do not give up power”.
Museveni is part of Uganda’s political tradition that has gone through a number of changes, from the colonial experience to his “revolution”. In between, there have been coups, liberations, democratic elections and a life presidency.
The practice of these styles of leaderships has also adopted ideologies ranged from socialism to dictatorship. And in their own peculiarities, there has been a characterization of some disturbing phenomena, which have gone through bloodshed, deception, rebellion to outright theft of the public resources.
Yusuf Lule, Tito Okello and Paulo Muwanga, for various reasons, can easily be “dismissed” for not leaving any mark worth adopting foreseeable on the political scene. Godfrey Binaisa is of the “tradition” of Entebbe Ewooma (the Chair is Sweet), as is Obote’s “Move to the Left” and Amin’s life presidency. And now comes Museveni’s “revolutionarism”.
In one way or another, some of these presidents, if they had no time to practice or mention it, have tried to present a case for democracy; and especially that of elections, as the tenet that gives democracy its legitimacy and their continued stay in power. Only Amin was unequivocal about his stay.
And so, when Museveni came to power, not through a democratic process, he has tried to borrow the democratic institution to bolster up his stay – up to now. It is arguable that he is now reverting to Binaisa’s assertion and moving towards adopting Amin’s tenancy, but he does not want to be seen as imitating these, thus he creates some grandiose talk and ideas about how to get there.
Perhaps unknown to many, the process of this starts in the constitution-making process that ended in the 1995 Constitution. Also, not in many people’s memories was the assertion that, if there was to be something in the constitution anathema to their political practice, it would be subject to amendment.
The first creeping move for the Entebbe Ewooma was the 2005 removal of the term limits from the constitution. The Parliamentarians, who were duped or compromised to voting for this, may have seen themselves as pecuniary beneficiaries. Their resistance is now in the ambit of developing some political cleavages and localized legacies.
On the one hand, Museveni is continuing with that political tradition that he has all along adopted. He started with communism talk and is now an ardent investment capitalist. On the other hand, he is “feeding” the people with his brand of revolution. Revolutionaries like, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong, were both ideological and adopted a high sense of integrity. The ideology and practice of revolutionaries is unquestionably communism. A revolutionary like Ghaddafi cannot be said to be in the same genre as those other two. Ghaddafi sought to make Libya’s riches as his own.
Indeed, the Libyan exiles, who did not benefit from his largesse and who were in the United States, influenced the Western powers on the “No fly zone” that ultimately was to be his downfall.
In the desperate bid to save his life-presidency, Amin recruited Ghaddafi’s services to shore up his forces in the unsuccessful fight against the Tanzanian Peoples Defense Forces, the exiles of the Front for the National Liberation and Kikoshi Maalum.
The present Ugandan political rumpus is no other than the continuation of the political see-saw that is preventing the growth of democratic liberalism as against the unfinished process of the historical state formation that the colonial forces prevented in the 19th Century. Revolution is unsuccessfully trying to fit into that picture.