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Mwenda comparing Obote, Museveni

By Yoga Adhola

Museveni is a military leftist guided by illusion, the direct opposite of Obote who was a nationalist

In his article titled, «Inside Obama’s vision of Museveni” (The Independent, Sept27-Oct.04, 2013), Andrew Mwenda made a comparison between former President Milton Obote and President Yoweri Museveni. I would like to comment or reinforce some of the points Mwenda made. He wrote:

“It is coming close to 30 years and there is not much of a fundamental change that Museveni has brought. I am not saying there has been no change under Museveni. There has been; but it has been change of a slow and incremental nature, not rapid transformational change that he and his allies envisaged.

On the contrary, on almost every issue where Museveni criticised Milton Obote (corruption, tribalism, militarism, dictatorial tendencies, East African integration, cronyism, etc), he has performed worse or the same and rarely better than the man from Lango. What happened?”

The simple answer is nothing happened. I mean the difference between the two does not rise from something that happened; rather, it can be traced to the ideologies that guided each of them.

Museveni was guided by an infantile leftism. While this leftism sounded superior to what was guiding Obote, and Museveni and other NRM supporters felt they were superior because of that, the reality is that the infantile leftism could not help them read the situation correctly. It also could not help them come up with the correct strategy to handle the situation.

An aspect of the infantile leftism is the failure to appreciate the teachings of Lenin that revolution only occurs when the situation is ripe for it. With their reading (and poor reading at that) of Regis Debray, the Musevenis thought they could bring about a Cuban-type revolution in Uganda.

They went ahead and copy-cat style launched their so-called war for revolution in exactly the same way Fidel Castro and his men launched their struggle in Cuba. While Fidel Castro landed near the Sierra Maestra Mountains with 80 people,   Museveni attacked Kabamba with 27 people.

What they did not appreciate is that the situation in Cuba was ripe for revolution; the one in Uganda was not. It had taken Cuba 100 years to incubate the situation. None of that had happened in Uganda.

This attempt to bring about a Cuban-type of revolution was a monstrous failure. They were defeated in the war and only opportunistically took advantage of the 1985 coup. They manipulated history to pretend that their misguided war was the cause of the coup.

Unfortunately for them, that manipulation could not rectify the ideology that was guiding them. Nor could it change the situation in their favour. They ended up suffering what Fredrick Engels described in his essay, “The Peasant War in Germany.”

In that essay, Engels wrote that the worst thing that can occur to a left-leaning party/movement is to get into power when the situation is not ripe for them to be in power. The result of getting into power when the situation is not ripe is what they got.  Obote on the other hand did not suffer the guidance of an unrealistic ideology. He was guided by simple practical needs. Obote’s situation is somehow similar to what Fredrick Engels noted in his analysis of The Paris Commune when he observed that much as the commune was led by people with the wrong ideology, the commune took a very correct line.

Engels wrote: “It does the commune the greatest honour that in all its economic measures the ‘driving spirit’ was not any set of principles but simple, practical needs.”

In his comparison of the two, Mwenda also wrote: “Like Obama, Museveni’s idealism met Uganda’s reality. Where he said he would leave power in four years, Museveni has clung onto it for 27 and counting. Where he denounced corruption, it has become the bedrock of his presidency.”

What Mwenda here calls idealism, was actually illusion. There is a distinct difference between illusion and idealism, much as sometimes the two look very similar. Idealism is when one cherishes or pursues high or noble principles, purposes, goals; and illusion is when one is operating in a distortion of reality.

As we have already explained Museveni was operating on a non-existent situation, an imaginary situation, which had no relation to reality.

Mwenda further wrote: “Where he (Museveni) scorned militarism, he has survived because of it.” This statement is not accurate. Museveni has not simply survived by militarism, because he had not done any political preparation nor was the situation ripe for the changes he was aiming at, he had no option but to operate on the basis of militarism during the Luwero war.

The ideology which the people of ‘Luwero Triangle’ were operating by had nothing to do with the infantile leftism of Museveni at the time. They were operating on the basis of what the great English Marxist historian Eric Hobabawm called “social banditry.”

In his book, “Bandits,” (New York: Delcorte Press, 1969) Eric Hobsbawm wrote: “Social banditry is unusually prevalent at two moments in historical evolution: that at which primitive and communally-organized society gives way to class-and-state society, and that at which the traditional rural peasant society gives way to the modern economy. At such times, the desire to defend the old and stable society against subversion of its values, the urge to restore its old, threatened, disintegrating norms becomes unusually strong.”

It was this reactionary urge that Museveni exploited to get the necessary military support. There is no doubt this was militarism through and through.

Although not mentioned by Mwenda, the other criticism Museveni made of Obote was in regard to Obote not being anti-imperialist. Over the years, Museveni castigated Obote for not being anti-imperialist or rather for being an agent of imperialism.

And this is where Obote comes clearly superior to Museveni. The reader may wish to remember that imperialism using Idi Amin overthrew Obote in 1971. Imperialism cannot overthrow you unless you are a real thorn in their flesh. On the other hand, over the years Museveni has moved from being anti-imperialist to becoming an outright agent of imperialism.


Yoga Adhola is a leading ideologue of UPC. He can be reached at


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