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Uganda’s democratic delusions


Besigye and Bobi Wine in talks early this year.

How Museveni, Besigye and Bobi Wine are birds of a feather that only fly apart

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, the state brought out the full power of riot police to bear on opposition activist, Dr. Kizza Besigye. Using water cannons, they took direct aim at him during a procession, nearly yanking him off the roof of his car. It provided considerable grist to the anti-President Yoweri Museveni mill. I wonder whether Museveni sees these videos and what he thinks of them. For instance, do they make him feel comfortable in the presidency, seeing that he has power to subdue his opponents? Or do they make him feel embarrassed that he is acting brutally like Idi Amin?

Museveni’s long tenure has been good for Uganda because it has demystified his claims to promote democracy. It has given us an opportunity to see him repeat everything he criticised in his predecessors to wit Amin and Milton Obote. Except for variations in degree or detail, Museveni has ruled using similar strategies he accused Obote and Amin of using – violence, brutality, corruption, tribalism, nepotism etc. The longer he has stayed in power, the more he has helped rehabilitate the image of both these leaders. Yet Ugandans have learnt little from this experience.

Power is inherently corrupting; so its abuse is inevitable. Besigye and Bobi Wine, just like Museveni before them, think it can be tamed. They are wrong. Power cannot tame itself. It can only be tamed by those who are not exercising it; therefore the democratic impulse in Uganda has to be sought in those social forces and political struggles that do not seek power, but rather seek to place limits on how it is exercised – like this, your newspaper.

It is possible that Besigye and Bobi Wine are genuinely convinced that their struggle is to improve the way power is acquired and exercised. They are deluded. Power is addictive. Besigye and Bobi Wine think if they got power they would use less of it. Yet power has dynamics that are beyond the control of individual leaders. Most things we consume have a point of satisfaction: for instance the more bananas you eat, the less you will need because you reach a point of satisfaction. After that, any extra bananas you eat are likely to lead to a stomachache. In economics this is called the principle of diminishing marginal utility.

With power, just like with money, the more you get, the more you need. Therefore, whoever seeks power is on a treadmill. Museveni came to power promising to leave after four years. He is now in his 34th year as president and continuing. Consequently he has to employ ever more brutality and corruption to cling to it. Many people may think the problem is the personality of Museveni. Instead, Museveni is actually a victim of power, caught in a game whose rigid logic he cannot escape.

The same applies to Besigye. After every election he has promised not to run for the presidency again. He has thereafter changed his mind and run again and again and again. Besigye and his acolytes find many reasons to justify his continued presence at the helm of opposition politics. The more they find strong and convincing reasons why he should be the only one to battle Museveni, the more they look and sound like Museveni’s choir. Restraints on power require forces outside of power and the state. Such forces would hold both values and interests that require limits on power. For now I do not see these forces in Uganda.


  1. Power has dominated musevenis mind so he feels like is the pop of uganda. Its time ithink to Unite for the good of the country not the good to museveni .””at 80yrs lead us where to the grave ?

    • He is controlled by the Israeli House of Rothschild BANKING SYSTEM Take back your Bank for control by UGANDA and problem solved

  2. Alifunsi Rwakatogoro

    In other words we should do nothing to remove Museveni because the alternatives could be worse. Poppycock!
    Kasukaali kanoze!

  3. Dear Mr. Andrew Mwenda,
    Since 1996 when you became a journalist you have made commentaries. And at some point you made us proud by investigating real scandals of the regime. And many will recall that some where in December 2006, Yoweri Kalambo museveni lamented about you saying ”if the NRM did not bring you down in debate he would do the silencing himself by other means”. I think he succeeded.
    Mr. Mwenda, you write the now obvious and ubiquitous statement that ” power is inherently corrupting. That Museveni is so trapped in power that he cant leave! It is like you are justifying his refusal to go. Just to draw from your analogy about bananas: You have written so much about the subject and it is like you are reaching the point of DIMINISHING MARGINAL UTILITY. I mean after diasgnosing so well what should follow is a prescription. What is your prescription Dr. Mwenda? I think you would like to present yourself as the Mwenda of the decade (1996-2006), but it will be barely possible after succumbing to the threats of the regime. You gave up. You quit and that is why instead of punching the regime more with fresh evidence of murders and looting of our wealth, you are bending more and more on bedeveling an already ailing opposition, sickened by Museveni! It is unfair for you to write 2 things about Museveni and then write 16 negatives about the opposition, which by the way, you have consistently discribed as being not genuine! I may agree with you Mr. Mwenda that we dont have a genuine opposition in Uganda. But my agreement does not include the luxury to think that by attacking them over and over you will make them better! It cant work because THEY ARE NOT GENUINE IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    You know well that circumstances are forcing the Ugandan society to try everything; to throw everything at the regime. We threw Nasser Ssebagala at Museveni, he just grabbed and put him in his pocket! Before this, we had pelted him with Lakwena, Juma Oris (ignore the order), Jamil Mukulu, Evaristo Nyanzi, Aggrey Awori, Peter Otai, Kizza Besigye, etc and recently we wanted to try throwing Bobi Wine around, just to see. And a big writing is on the wall: he cant succeed where the rest failed, unless he acquires real tactics of the game. But because he is a product of circumstances, you can only blame him if you have no one else to blame. Bobi Wine may certainly not be the ideal option to satisfy you and your kind, but he is carrying a very clear message: PEOPLE ARE TIRED OF THE DESPOTIC REGIME.

    Simply put, you are at a loss trying to roast the opposition. They are already roasted please. To those who are bent on the assumption that one has to be massively known to do the job, I have a honourable message for you:ULTIMATELY, it will not matter whether the person who will marshall us out of this desolate, dark period of our history will be a known entity or not. History is awash with examples: In Liberia we saw a sergent rising from nowhere to to sit at the helm. I mean Sergent Samuel Doe. Across in Sierra Leon, we saw a corporal, just a meer corporal (Fodday Sankoh) rising to the helm of war there. Never mind that what they did later with power was largely inhuman. Back in Liberia again we saw a former security guard and truck driver rising and rising to lead people: I mean Charles Taylor. So it will not surprise many to see that after seeing hitherto respected smart people like Andrew Mwenda, KB, Mao, etc falter perennially, some little unknown man or woman will come and do the needful. That thought is strong and deepseated in me. And I have no apologies, sorry.


    • Mr Hare you criticised Mwenda for his view of the Uganda opposition boys.You did provide an alternative to his view.You seemed brilliant at story telling.

      Assuming Museveni’s grandchildren would burst into thunderous laughter at Wakayima stories.

      You might like this Mr Hare.Amin new one or two jokes.Obote always seemed sedated on local brew to know exactly what was going on in his own backyard. Chebeni put one over his head.Boom pakati pakati pakati swiiiii bwang.Enough sound bites to wake up the dead.

      It was not a like match at Nakivubo then.It was not common man’s charter declaration either.It was a grand humiliation.It was not funny.

      Now please do not make the same mistake twice Mr Wise.Up your game.If you play a victim you look weak.No mercy.The world of politics is unforgiving.

    • I have no objection to the writer, mr.mwenda webereremu sebo

  4. Ever increasing, I’m convinced President Museveni is loosing his grip on this “power”, that you talk about.
    Matter of fact, I strongly believe President Museveni is a prisoner of a few goons who over the years have amassed enormous amounts of wealth, entrenched themselves within the security circles and are currently calling the shots.
    Take for example the recent makerere University riots, a Commander in chief seemed puzzled as to who had deployed and why a low ranking officer, at the rank of captain invaded the university halls.
    Often times we are misled by “orders from above”.
    If you ever follow up with that “orders from above” bogus claim, you may be shocked to find that, it came from some chap watching Al Jazeera while at Serena Hotel.
    I mean, before this OLD MAN, ANDREW, grew old, back in the day, he would have authoritatively uncovered who was behind the orders to SHOOT the late Ronald Sebulime. And like all other cases that involve excess use of state power, and open abuse of positions of power, say Generals slapping traffic officers, likes of Kahinda Otafire a man from greater Bushenyi staking ownership claims in land officially known to be a government stoke farm in njeru, Kaka Bagyenda enslaving Ugandans on kalangala island, Attorney General publicly sending Land commission officers to hell, once he was implicated, and so on and so forth. I mean Andrew, the list would never end.
    I strongly believe, the President ONLY CONTROLS and WIELDS POWER only as vastly as he’s eyes can see.
    We could be having another Mugabe scenario happening underneath our noses.

    Tinkah Esq

  5. Mr. Andrew Mwenda, how about you and president Kagame of the Republic of rwanda who had employed you as his special advisor?

  6. Mr. Andrew Mwenda, how about you and president Kagame of the Republic of rwanda who had employed you as his special advisor?

  7. What power does Besigye hold? Am inclined to believe the academic theory you have raised in your article not until you show the power Besigye enjoys maybe Bobi Wine who is an MP now he wants to be a president that can be understandable.

  8. When truth and sanity stoops to folly, the puppy bites the tails of its fellows. Mr. Mwenda is suffering from nationalistic deficiency caused by him having been incorporated to the EATERS

  9. 1. Democracy in Africa is yet to meet international standards .The democracy we practice is so rudimentary.
    2.I have seen local celebrities being escorted by police to kwanjulas why cant they do the same to Besigye?
    3. KB is a known public nuisance and security is always aware of his movements why dont they just put him in a police car and take him to the rallies ?
    4. I believe that KB and police stage managed the recent fracas where KB was sprayed with water.Besides that the window screen of KB ‘s car is not expensive thats why he does not mind it being smashed by security.

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