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Lessons for Museveni from Mugabe, and for Uganda, from Zimbabwe

Mugabe in Uganda last year for Museveni’s swearing in

COMMENT: Lessons for Museveni from Mugabe, and for Uganda, from Zimbabwe

COMMENT | Andrew Mwenda | The fall of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has been welcomed by many Ugandans with excitement. For many people tired of President Yoweri Museveni’s long rule, Mugabe’s fall gives hope that their nightmare is about to end. That a long serving president who had ruled his country like a colossus can fall from power must be encouraging to many anti Museveni Ugandans and worrisome to Museveni’s supporters.

Yet Mugabe fell not because he ruled for long but because of what I would call “family overreach.” Contrary to the sentiments of many Ugandans, those who have taken power in Zimbabwe – the army and most likely with former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa behind it – have not raised Mugabe’s longevity as an issue. Instead the attempts to purge ZANU-PF of its “historicals” precipitated the military intervention.

Thus Mugabe has been sidelined (I am avoiding using overthrown) because his wife was wrecking the foundation on which her husband’s power rested i.e. the old guard of ZANU-PF in both the political and military sphere. Indeed Mugabe has not been overthrown by the army. He had already been overthrown by Mrs Grace Mugabe.

The old man had been reduced to acting merely in the interests of his wife rather than the interests of the political and military structure that was a repository of his power. This is a coup against Grace, not Robert. In sidelining Mugabe, the political and military structure of ZANU-PF has reasserted its power.

Mrs Grace Mugabe has been ambitious, brass, reckless and arrogant. Yet she knew little about the dynamics of power. Like most people, she thought power in Zimbabwe resided in Mugabe. She did not appreciate that Mugabe, like any other leader in the world, cannot hold power singly.

Leaders act as representatives or faces of power. Their personality compliments and reinforces that power but it is never the foundation of it.

Once the structural foundation on which that power rests shifts, the face of that power loses it. Leaders wield power by making a series of bargains with the most powerful social forces in their societies.

An effective leader is not the absolute ruler who decides singly on the destiny of a nation (as western media and academic propaganda on personal rule in non western societies posits) but one who is a good referee to the competitions among powerful interests.

That is the source of Museveni’s or Vladmir Putin’s power, not their personalities. Personality does not create power, it buttresses it.

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8 comments

  1. Its not very often that I agree with MWENDA, so for me to agree with him two times in a week is like the proverbial thunder striking twice.
    I, likewise have scoffed at those who suggest that what has happened in ZIMBABWE should be a lesson for UGANDA. At the end of the day, the only person who will have learnt a (useful) lesson from the events in Zimbabwe or things that have happened to MUGABE , is M 7.
    M 7 came to power and has managed to stay in power by being ruthless and cunning and in most cases cleverer than those who come up against him as was proved by the case with AMAMA MBABAZI.
    For everything that happens, M 7 takes time to study it and assess its impact. This he did with the Arab spring, what happened to Gaddafi , even people do not realise the big lesson that M 7 learnt from UHURUS case with the ICC.
    Like with my posting in the pages of this paper on the TOGIKWATAKO article, the opposition have to do alot more to out think the HYENA.

  2. Andrew: As long as Museveni continues to hang on to power, by all means, his end is unpredictable. It can be the Mugabe way or the Gadaffi way since he seems determined to die in power. Either way, it will not end well.

  3. Grace Mugabe ‘s character and excessive greed for power has swiftly accelerated mugabe ‘s fall from power and has sparked off his collapse of which none could imagine before 2014.
    Museveni must understand that any factor however mighty he may be can ignite a downfall. he should just be prepared for life after presidency and should re- orient his army to stand by him and respect him and the citizenry even at the worst moment of his regime as Zimbabwe defense forces have done.surely the ZDF is a very mature army unique in character on the African continent.

  4. It’s quite simple here Andrew or the readers. Rather than trying to explain the DNA of each preferred persons, it is very easy to conclude that each person has their unique last or final days. Revolutionary leaders are meant to simply prepare a country for when this happens.

    Museveni’s end will be absolutely unique like no other president’s and not even a mosquito in the state house will be ready. That’s what is so similar to Mugabe , Gaddafi, Arab spring, Assad and many more. Let me salute Mandela and Nyerere here for putting country before self egos.

  5. Abbey Alb, you forgot Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, who has found a useful life for himself after presidency. He followed the constitution and retired after his second term as required by their constitution.

  6. There is this thing they call “BOUNDED RATIONALITY” which really means that only God is ALL KNOWING and can therefore be expected to maximize utilization of that knowledge in His actions/decisions. Mortals, because of boundedness of their rationality, are certain to err even when they intend to maximize their benefits as they control costs. So each leader in their respective contexts is bound to make fatal mistakes especially as time goes on, at the same time exposed to different forms of pressure. I think that is why we studied the rise and fall of empires. So those who aim for regime change must persist in prodding those in power to stretch their rationality and success surely comes. Mugabe lost legitimacy long time ago though kept rigging elections and the military knew that. It is no surprise that yesterday and indeed today they (military) have made it explicit by allowing massive demonstrations. All along they knew he had lost support and were propping him up for their own interests.

  7. Mulingirizi Ronald

    So funny how people reside comfortably in denial.. no matter how much or how good you may mask something, its nature never disappears completly.. I’m amazed how people today people put infrastructure before their own provision…if anything doesn’t cater for the desire of the human soul… it’s not required of us to have in our world.. what people NEED is not nice English speaking politicians. .what people NEED is the awakening and satisfaction of their DESIRE.. Call it fantasy but I tell you it’s the foundation of human life..

  8. Mwenda is trying to tell us that in order for M7 to fall it has to be the same way as Mugabe. I do not think so. Each system or leader has weaknesses unique to it that leads to downfall. M7 has his own and his end would come in one form or another. It is just a matter of time

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