How our country is caught between Museveni’s frying pan and the opposition’s fire
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Ugandan activists, intellectuals and “intellectuals” hostile to President Yoweri Museveni get scared when one presents evidence that change can produce undedsirable outcomes. And so it was that on Thursday February 11, I tweeted an article in the Financial Times. It argued that a decade since a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the country has not improved in anything but retrogressed in everything. This let lose the gods of intellectual, but mostly emotional, war.
To these Ugandan elites I was just defending Museveni’s long, corrupt and inept stay in power. The merits of the botched change in Egypt did not register on their mental radar. I find this intriguing even though understandable. Ugandan (and African) elites talk loudest about how our continent’s biggest problem is leadership. Yet when given a chance to select leaders, they do not consider their values, competences or the social forces behind them. They are so married to change that they ignore the quality of change.
Let me be very clear. I strongly believe and even desire that Museveni and his confederates leave power. This is because the president personally and most of his government generally are physically, intellectually and ideologically exhausted. They have nothing new or novel to offer our country. They are now mired in political intrigues and have resigned themselves to holding power for its own sake. They may represent a great past for our country, but they don’t represent its future.
Museveni and his confederates are so hopelessly out of depth on what Uganda needs to move forward, so inept at doing the little they plan to do, and so lacking in energy, enthusiasm and moral purpose that the best they can do for this country is to just leave power. I say this without bitterness because I feel privileged. I am an outsider-insider to this government, with good and deep contacts in it. So I know much more about the rot, ineptitude, fatigue and lack of a moral purpose inside the government than its critics do.
This is where my agreement with our activists, intellectuals and “intellectuals” ends. My disagreement with them begins on the quality of change. As someone who has read Africa’s post independence history widely and intensely, I am aware that our continent has had many changes of government without much change in governance. From Nigeria, which has had 15 changes of government in 50 years, to Ghana, which has had 13, neither has transformed into anything fundamentally different from a typical African country.
Our own country perhaps represents the pitfalls of change for its own sake more than the rest of Africa. In 1971 Idi Amin topped the government of Milton Obote amidst mass celebrations. It led to the worse tragedy in our history. In 1979, Amin was removed by Tanzanian troops whom we called liberators. But our country immediately degenerated into state and economic collapse; anarchy and poverty reigned. The return of Obote did not solve the crisis of the state but only led us to civil war. In the 24 years from independence in 1962 to January 1986 when Museveni took power, we have nine governments, an average of 2.6 years per government.