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Why is Museveni always right and others wrong?

Ramathan Ggoobi

Why is Museveni always right and others wrong?

You will find yourself leaving Fidel Castro style

Mr. President, now that you have sacked the last comrade of your struggle, why should anyone doubt speculation that you are preparing to hand power to your son?

In August 2010, following the eventful and dramatic NRM Party Delegates Conference at Namboole Stadium, I wrote in these very pages a piece that predicted nearly everything we are witnessing today.

At that historic conference, Patrick Amama Mbabazi, then Security Minister, was overwhelmingly voted to retain the office of NRM Secretary General (SG) that he had served for the previous five years. To retain his big position, Mbabazi defeated then Vice President, Prof. Gilbert Bukenya and Gen. Kahinda Ottafire.   

Under the title, “Mbabazi won, NRM lost”, I wrote here that it was illogical for you, Mr. President, to embroil yourself in revitalising the political potency of individuals at the expense of the pedigree of the NRM party. In the campaigns for the SG position, you did not only openly campaign for Mbabazi, you literally let him manipulate the process to his own advantage. Ottafire and Bukenya complained that it was irregular for you to allow Mbabazi’s family to be in charge of the election process (preparation of the Register, accreditation of voters, etc). You simply ignored them!  

In the same piece I wrote in 2010, I also predicted that your failure to address the succession question could only worsen the disunity that had started to crop up in NRM. I based my prediction on the fact that the person whom you favoured was the most unpopular candidate. So when I saw him winning an internal election I knew the NRM delegates were voting not for Mbabazi but Museveni. And because I knew you were also on borrowed time since you had started to show signs of insensitivity and intolerance — the two weaknesses that used to be your biggest strengths — I feared for the future of the NRM party.   

I went ahead and predicted that the events at Namboole might work further to alienate your bush-war comrades. “After glorifying Bukenya for nearly a decade to the extent of alienating your bush war comrades, you have now picked from where you had left the ‘Mbabazi veneration struggle’ against the feelings of your Luwero colleagues,” I wrote back then.

The ‘Garuga summit’ of 2007

Mr. President, I am one of the very few people who did not get moved in any way on learning that you had sacked your friend Mbabazi. Reason? I knew, right from the time you appointed him Prime Minister, that your relationship was bound to suffer an irreparable breakdown. Why? Perhaps only me, not even Mbabazi who has been with you for five decades, had taken trouble to study who the real Museveni is.     

In May 2007, I wrote a piece in these pages entitled, “The great Garuga summit” (see The Sunrise February 23rd–March 2nd 2007). This piece followed an interesting incident when Prof. Gilbert Bukenya hauled you to his residence at Garuga to dispel a media rumour that you were going to sack him as Vice President!

Bukenya invited you to chair a caucus meeting for MPs from Buganda to discuss a sack rumour! All daily newspapers of Friday February 16, 2007 had, as their lead story headlines along the lines, “Museveni dispels VP sack rumour”, or “I am not sacking VP, says Museveni”.

Whatever I wrote in response to that drama is on the shelves. I said, it was so un-Museveni to find you responding to media speculations, more so speculations engineered by a paper as abysmal as the one that published it. And as if that didn’t astonish enough, you had to travel to the residence of the person whom you were rumoured to be preparing to sack to explain yourself.

I found this very un-Museveni because the Museveni I know enjoys his power to the fullest so much so that he owes no one any explanation especially in public. I am sure even Mbabazi disregarded my opinion of the true Museveni I knew, until he read the wording of his own sacking letter last week.

So, Mr President, I knew that the only reason you had got embroiled in Bukenya’s war against the “political mafias” he had identified in 2005, was because you were then looking at him as your political ally not potential opponent.

Bukenya sacked, jailed!

In June 2008 Bukenya penned a book, “Through Intricate Corridors to Power,” and invited Kabaka Ronald Mutebi to launch it at a time when Mengo, owing to the land amendment bill debate, had declared “war” against your government.

In the book, Prof. Bukenya had written thus, “Buganda culture is very interesting and trying to erase it from people’s minds would be futile. It would be like trying to end a lineage…President Obote had tried his best to remove this living history, and his overthrow was the climax of getting rid of a reviled being.”

The following year, the then VP Bukenya went to Lubiri to attend the coronation anniversary of his ‘best friend’, the Kabaka. At the function he, contrary to what you had announced on WBS TV that there were no more negotiations between Buganda and central government over federal system of governance, assured the Baganda that he was ready to negotiate with them on the issue of federo and other grievances. It didn’t require one to have a PhD in political science to tell that from that moment, Bukenya had ceased to be your political ally but an opponent.   

His mistakes restocked the armory of his political rivals, notably Mbabazi, to finish him off. I knew that now Mbabazi had found it easier to persuade you to join hands and finish off this sectarian, self-serving feudalist. That how you joined Mbabazi at Namboole to fish-off Bukenya. After Namboole, you did not only sack him, but jailed him for a couple of weeks as well.  

Mr. President, I had thought that since you and Mbabazi have been close friends for decades you knew each other well. I thought that each of you would pick lessons from the Bukenya experience. On your side, I thought that you would learn that it’s not politically strategic to concentrate on revitalizing the political potency of individuals instead of building a strong NRM party. Instead, you went ahead and elevated Mbabazi over and above everyone else.

Mbabazi should’ve known better

On Mbabazi’s side, I expected him to learn one key lesson from Bukenya’s downfall — Museveni can only keep you close and powerful on condition that you don’t show any ambition of replacing him. Mr. President, we have read media reports before alleging that you promised, first Bukenya, and later Mbabazi that you would pass the mantle to them at a certain stage.   

One may absolve Bukenya for having taken it literally and started positioning himself to take over from you. First, Bukenya was a newcomer to the NRM, having joined the “struggle” in 1990s. But Mbabazi! Surely the Kanungu heavyweight should have known better who the real Museveni was. Secondly, Bukenya had every reason to believe that you were serious about having him as your successor. This was perhaps the first time you were making such a promise to someone. Your propensity to renegade should have taught Mbabazi a lesson.           

Mr President, all the above notwithstanding, and like I have written in these pages before, you have put our generation in a deep tragedy. You have failed to do what Walter Lippmann called, ‘The final test of a leader.’ “The final test of a leader….the genius of a good leader, is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully,” Lippmann said 118 years ago.  

After twenty-eight uninterrupted years in power you have not arranged for us a situation which commonsense can deal with to save the future of the country you fought so hard to liberate. The writing is on the wall that your exit time is naturally closing in. Even if you wanted to continue indefinitely, some factors are crystal-clear that you will be leaving power in the near future. For example, you are steadily ageing that even if you were to maintain your popularity (which itself is highly questionable now) you will find yourself leaving Fidel Castro style. Yet you don’t want to address the succession question.     

This is not statesmanship. Statesmen prepare other men and give them the space to rehearse their leadership qualities early enough before they are handed power. My damn feeling is that you are the one who confused both Bukenya and Mbabazi into thinking that you had finally identified them and was mentoring them to take over sooner or later. Otherwise, why did you give Mbabazi a lot of power that he publicly exhibited? Mbabazi was appointing cabinet; he was flying the Presidential Jet; he had a mega convoy of military escort; he was running NRM like a personal firm; you always convened caucus to defend and protect him from all sorts of investigations (Temangalo, CHOGM corruption allegations; oil corruption allegations; and OPM scam).

You had also pampered Bukenya nearly the same way before you turned against him when he started positioning himself for the Presidency. Surely, why would one blame the two for thinking that they should get ready for the imminent take over? Finally, Mr. President, now that you have sacked the last comrade of your struggle, why should anyone doubt the ongoing speculation and rumour that you are preparing to hand power over to your son?



Ramathan Ggoobi

Ramathan Ggoobi is Policy Analyst, and Researcher. He lecturers economics at Makerere University Business School (MUBS) and has co-authored several studies on Uganda's economy. For the past ten years, he has published a weekly column 'Are You Listening Mr. President' in The Sunrise Newspaper, Uganda's Leading Weekly

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