By Stephen Twinoburyo
So the Ugandan electoral commission has declared incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni, the ‘winner’ of the recently concluded presidential election, with 68% of the vote? That Museveni would ‘win’ should never have been in question. Matters, conduct and events leading up to the polls all indicated one thing – a Museveni ‘victory’.
The whole campaign was so steeped in his favour that even a mosquito placed in his position could have won. First of all I must acknowledge the lack of violence that had characterised the previous elections. In fact most of the pre-election violence we saw was between NRM candidates themselves that fought bitterly to have a seat on the plunder-train that the NRM has become. Never in the history of the country have we seen state plunder that is a simple matter of course as we have seen under the NRM. Never before have we seen the state president have absolute control and misuse of state resources as we have seen Museveni do. This then is what played in the elections.
Throughout the campaigns, Museveni has been physically giving out state money to all and sundry as he pleased. Newspapers reported that all government ministries had run broke midway through the financial year and all payments had been put on ice because all the money had been diverted to president Museveni’s re-election campaign. The Minister of Finance later confirmed the financial paralysis in government. Reports from Bank of Uganda (BOU) indicate that some officials have indicated their intentions to resign and that the governor himself has become a broken man because of the way the president has turned the institution into his money purse. It is alleged he ordered the bank to release all the money available and divert the rest from designated projects against the will of the BOU managers, and that even some in the institution who have traditionally supported him feel let down. This brings to memory the way Iddi Amin run the institution. However in Iddi Amin’s case, he used the money, without planning, to add to the country. Museveni instead has been reducing value from the country. What a pity! It’s this money that has been used to bribe people massively, right from parliamentarians going down. In a country where 84% of the population is rural – and living on presidential handouts – this works very well.
The situation has also not been helped by the army, which has indicated on many occasions that it can only serve Museveni. During the campaigns, as hospitals run without medicine, we saw scores of armoured riot vehicles and trucks being imported from China, all on display to box people into fear. The army also became very visible. All this, together with talk of chaos if Museveni were to lose, was designed to intimidate people into fear and make them choose ‘stability’ over delivery. The army has thus been portrayed as a machine of Museveni’s sustainance rather than an institution for the people. This played very well during the campaigns and elections. However events in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia have shown that the army is made up of brothers and sisters of the common man that they also suffer under the same disrepair and poverty as their kin.
Just like has happened in many African countries where long-serving despots entrench their positions in power, I think Museveni and his supporters have pushed for extension to his 25-year rule more out of fear and individual opportunistic needs rather than what he has to deliver. Few, if any, expect him to deliver anything to the country that he has not done in 25 years. When one looks at North Africans making changes in their countries, one wonders what planet we in black Africa live on. Those North African leaders have delivered far more to their countries that we can ever dream to receive from the likes of Museveni even if he were given another 50 years, yet we seem to be in a slumber of ‘comfort’. Whenever the international TVs would briefly turn to Uganda to report on the elections, the scene would appear like it had been taken from a pre-history channel. The brown, muddy and dusty environment didn’t seem to be from a country that has been boasting of “the largest economic growth in Africa” for the last 25 years, and least of all a country on the same continent where Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia are. Ugandans should wake up and realise that they are living in a country that is one of the poorest and least developed in Africa, and not getting any better. Uganda should also be ranking among the most poorly managed countries on the continent, and there is a lot in the country to affirm this.
There were times when I wondered whether an election boycott would have made more sense despite the fact that I am generally not in favour of boycotts. However I think the campaign gave us an opportunity to learn more about Museveni. I generally think Ugandans are now more aware that Museveni is going nowhere peacefully and few genuinely expect anything positive from him. Campaign euphoria and living happily under the ‘elected’ government are two different things. As the reality sinks in, there will be greater realisation that we are deeper into the abyss than we have ever been in our history. I am more than convinced that each day longer that Museveni stays in power is a greater loss for the country. Already the country is likely to bleed from massive inflation due to the money that has been withdrawn from the country’s coffers and misused. To this, will add projects that will no longer be undertaken or essential supplies that will no longer be acquired.
I must also point out that the opposition had their failures too and did not help themselves sufficiently. The fact that they spent more time fighting each other at the beginning than tackling their opponent must have made Museveni sleep so soundly. These fights also demoralised many Ugandans that could have voted for them. That almost half of the registered voters didn’t vote says a lot. The opposition to be frank, was not inspiring. They focused more on Museveni’s failures rather than what they can deliver. Many seem to be in politics for the same reasons we want those in the NRM out. I have been involved in many facebook debates and we invited the opposition groups to briefly tell us what their programmes were so that we could debate them but none came forward. Up to this day, post-elections, I don’t know what most of the opposition groups stood for. It’s in fact people from the ruling NRM that came in to argue and debate on behalf of their parties. if the opposition thought such forum are not helpful, they then have not caught up with the latest communication methods – and politics is about communication. Uganda definitely needs a new political space, most preferably among our youths. Uganda needs leadership that see real value for the country and are determined to make a difference. Leadership that has an upright moral mindset.
Yes, Museveni has ‘won’ but the mood in the country seems to be that of uncertainty than celebration. I was young then but to me this increasingly resembles the post-1980 elections period. Nothing, and not least the recently concluded elections, convinces me that Museveni should still be our president. I will continue to argue, debate and ally myself with those who say he shouldn’t.