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Uganda’s democratic contradiction

Why I think Museveni is a liberal democrat while Bobi Wine and Besigye are potential tyrants

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Last week, police using heavy-handed methods stopped the MP for Kyadondo East, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, from holding a concert. Even President Yoweri Museveni agreed that the brutality police employed was uncalled for. To make a bad situation worse, the Uganda Communications Commission then ordered television stations to fire reporters, programmers and producers who were involved in the live coverage of this event.

There was public uproar from Uganda’s chattering elites on how Museveni has continued to “suppress democracy” and entrench a “dictatorship.” It is cool to denounce Museveni these days, the very reason many Ugandan elites are addicted to it. Naïve-minded diplomats from Western embassies (who have taken over Bobi Wine’s cause) plus media and human rights groups abroad will applaud your “courage”. All these groups look at people like Bobi Wine and project them to be fighting for democracy.

This structure of incentives has created an uncritical embrace of intolerant extremist individuals and groups seeking to grab power and establish their own fascist dictatorship. Bobi Wine and Kizza Besigye have consistently refused to stand for liberal constitutional values that make democracy work best. Instead they have consistently stood for grabbing power at any cost and in disregard to liberal values. In spite of these actions by his government, I find Museveni a more liberal-democratic leader than his critics.

Thus in their pursuit of power, Bobi Wine and Besigye have mobilised groups that are intolerant of dissent, violent and uncouth. They do not recognise honest difference of opinion. Anyone who disagrees with them has been bought by Museveni and therefore has lost his/her conscience and sold his/her soul. In pursuit of ideological purity, they have suppressed every dissenting voice in their ranks.

Armed with a suffocating self-righteousness, they descend on their opponents on social media with fanatical zeal. They indulge in unrestrained cyber bullying: hurl insults and abuses at real and presumed enemies, preach hate, promise revenge and destruction and spread false accusations to inflict psychological terror. They intimidate and physically assault everyone who disagrees with them. If they can act like this out of power, what would they do when they gain command of the repressive instruments of the state – the army with its tanks, the police with its teargas and water canons?

I appear on television often and criticise the government and the opposition. I give government credit where it is due, and credit opposition leaders like Nobert Mao and Mugisha Muntu whom I feel hold liberal values. In response, the supporters of Bobi Wine and Besigye launch petitions to the owners of these stations to block me from appearing there. It is of course their democratic right to make such petitions. But it also suggests that when in power and in control of the state, they will not allow their opponents any rights.

One could argue, perhaps innocently and/or ignorantly, that Bobi Wine and Besigye cannot be responsible for the violence and intolerance of their supporters because they have little or no control over them. Such a person can also argue that Museveni, on the other hand, has direct command and control of the behavior of the police. But Bobi Wine and Besigye have one great power they can exercise: they can consistently and loudly condemn these acts in their supporters, insisting that such behavior violets their values. And I know both encourage and organise these tyrannical strategies.



  1. Mwenda is licking his wounds after the devastating blow landed by a coalition between Kizza Besigye and Robert Kyangulanyi. Mwenda and Muntu had naively thought that they could succeed in isolating Besigye from the people power equation. They thought that this would leave Kyangulanyi with no choice but to come running seeking for an “organized” political sanctuary. Their bait towards Kyangulanyi was that of providing him with money and a “political structure.” Had Kyangulanyi fallen for the bait, then, the NRM would go on to support a bill in Parliament urging that the political party with most members in Parliament nominates/chooses the president. When this passes through, they will embark on Kyangulanyi canvassing for votes so as their chosen members make the numbers and once they have ascertained those members in Parliament then they pull the rug underneath Kyangulanyi.
    Fairness is not always about doing the right thing, sometimes it is about doing the correct thing. For instance, if have to attend school everyday, however, on my way to school I knock and injure my toe. However, along the road to my school there is a dispensary. Do I report to school first or I pass by the dispensary have the wound dressed first? In Uganda were opposition rallies are foiled by teargas, opposition leaders are chased out of radio studios, arrested and criminal charges are imposed, POMA is being applied selectively, how do you expect the opposition to restrain itself and “order” their supporters to act “rationally?” How does someone find Kyangulanyi and Besigye “obsessed with power” without finding the same with the one who metes out violence? How do we expect the opposition to act fairly in a typically violent saturated situation? If Mwenda “fairness” in the Ugandan political space, it could be then possible that Mwenda expects to find Angeles in hell!

    • Economic dependence and political enslavement are nothing but two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist without the other. To say that uganda is economically dependent, but politically free, as portrayed by some nrm/ government cadres amounts only to looking at the form rather than the essence. Politics is the concentrated expression of economics. Though there is no mechanical one-to-one relation between the two, both are intrinsically linked. To create a Chinese wall between them amounts to mere political semantics in order to dupe the masses and destroy the cutting-edge of the anti-imperialist Mr mwenda , if you know how Ugandans are struggling to servive the taxes , impunity corruption harboured by a regime you defend , you would wish to see how best the besigye and kyagulanyi are capable of doing .mwenda stop defending the government of musevwnism whose failures has turned the citizenry into an option than a priority, you would be realistic to talk of a police force , security agencies who have turned to defend the the government increasingly seen as a necessary evil doing its evils at the expense of the common man on the street

  2. Mr. Mwenda, your parents were once functionaries of Museveni’s old political party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM). Therefore it goes without saying that there is a personal bond between you and Mr. Museveni, that is why you can discuss our country’s politics with him over tea at State House. The same can’t be said of the Opposition leaders you condemn.

    • I support Mr. MWENDA. He must be a very democratic man. How comes that opposition leaders themselves do not take it positive whenever opposed? Should we take it that being an opposition member makes some one ever right? Does it mean being an angel? How can you convince any reasonable man that you are a democratic fighter while your self can not respect the majority rights? Did democracy change meaning to being the government of the minority opposers?. How do you claim to be a peace keeper by inciting violence?i believe that to oppose is to build not to destroy. If it is meant for destruction then no single leader in power would uphold it. Museveni is kind, patient and patriotic. Through his democracy that we can criticise and express ourselves. Long live NRM Long live UGANDA FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY

      • Andrew Muhangi

        What forced Museveni in the bush is what forces Besigye to incite violence! Style up Museveni has ruined our country

  3. Boot lickers of the sort, objectivity is necessary in all we just waiting the time when all his dirt is put to public.

  4. Nothing new. Another biased article as usual meant to take people away from the cause. Who is more violent than the man who took up arms and overthrew a democratically elected government killing thousands in the process? Bobi wine has never advocated for violence and maybe that is the problem for museveni because he is the master of violence so he is at a loss on hiw to stop bobi wine. And why force us to support Mao or Muntu who are weak? Is your paymaster scared of competition with Bobi Wine?

  5. Mwenda may be a slow learner just like Pharoah

  6. The article about serfdom was great:Kudos to the Baganda they are always business minded never mind of their crafty nature while the rest of the Ugandans have the colonial mentality of being employed by government.Take an example of the people from Westnile,Northern, Eastern Uganda,Ankole they are either in security or the Education sector.

    This man is on fire……….. i mean M7 he has noted that our sense of judgement is poor thats why he is preoccupied with putting in place structures like;a good constitution,development programmes and projects. so the that even if we vote Wine or Fresh Kid into power the economy will not be affected.

    Honsety what does Bobi Wine say that makes him draw crowds of people;all i have heard him say is recite the words of Mandela and Martin Luther and flash his teeth like an ape.

    The people of Zimbabwe are mature they forgave Mugabe we need to follow their example of reconsilation.

  7. “…Naïve-minded diplomats from Western embassies …” Bigots often have difficulty to understand that smart and well informed people would have an alternative opinion from theirs.

  8. Lukumbagala Lutalo

    Mwenda you are right, but this just shows the extent of desperation that Museveni has pushed our country to. You are clearly highlighting the symptoms which are secondary factors, but then fail to focus on the primary factor which is the cause of all this intolerance which is the decadent over stay in power of a coterie that has overstayed its welcome. Where was this intolerance and fanaticism in 1999? When you have an umbrella tilted on one side for 33 years, don’t ask why certain people are always wet, because they have been in the rain for far too long. Jinja and Masaka are dilapidated towns, people in Masaka buy bananas from Mbarara, did they become lazy during Museveni regime only? Yet they managed to thrive in agriculture and feed themselves during other regimes, really there are factors at work which an investigative reporter like Mwenda would investigate to explain this behavior.

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