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Uganda elections 2021: How ex-rebel Yoweri Museveni has stayed in energy for 35 years


By Endurance Atuhaire
BBC Information, Kampala

Composite of pictures of Yoweri Museveni

picture copyrightGetty Photos

Ugandans beneath the age of 35 – and that’s greater than three-quarters of the inhabitants – have solely identified one president.

Yoweri Museveni, who got here to energy on the again of an armed rebellion in 1986, has defied the political legal guidelines of gravity which have felled different long-serving leaders within the area.

The 76-year-old’s time on the high has been accompanied by an extended interval of peace and large developmental adjustments for which many are grateful. However he has managed to keep up his grip on energy by a combination of encouraging a character cult, using patronage, compromising unbiased establishments and sidelining opponents.

Over the past election 5 years in the past when he addressed the difficulty of him stepping down, he requested: “How can I’m going out of a banana plantation I’ve planted that has began bearing fruits?”

For this revolutionary the harvest remains to be not over.

media caption5 issues you need to learn about Uganda’s elections

My introduction to the president got here within the Nineteen Nineties within the type of a college play during which the turbulence of the Milton Obote and Idi Amin years was acted out.

The piece climaxed on 26 January 1986, with Mr Museveni’s Nationwide Resistance Military liberating the nation, bringing an finish to wars and mindless killings.

It’s this picture of the person as liberator and peace-bringer that many Ugandans have been raised on, and are reminded of at each alternative.

Presidential press-ups

He’s additionally a fatherly and grandfatherly determine.

Many younger Ugandans seek advice from the president by the nickname “Sevo”, and he fondly calls them Bazukulu (which means grandchildren within the Luganda language).

However the household man doesn’t see himself as a typical ageing patriarch, reclining in his favorite chair together with his kids and grandchildren fussing round.

In his marketing campaign for his sixth elected time period in workplace, which feels prefer it began straight after the final election, he has been traversing the nation, launching factories, opening roads and new markets.

And with a watch on his comparatively youthful challenger, 38-year-old former pop star Bobi Wine, Mr Museveni has been eager to indicate his vitality. Final April, to encourage train throughout lockdown he was filmed doing press-ups, after which repeated the trick a number of occasions together with in entrance of cheering college students in November.

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“In case your father loves you, he has to empower you. Within the subsequent 5 years, ‘Sevo’ will be sure that once we end college, we’re in a position to get jobs,” 25-year-old Angela Kirabo says, relating the difficulty of youth unemployment, which is a significant supply of concern.

The economics graduate is a proud Muzukulu (grandchild), having grown up in a household supporting the governing Nationwide Resistance Motion (NRM). She additionally served as vice-chairperson of the get together’s chapter at college and thinks the president nonetheless has loads to supply after 35 years in energy.

Presidential age limits overturned

Considered one of his closest pals and advisors, John Nagenda, says Mr Museveni’s selflessness is one cause for his capability to encourage loyalty.

“He was ready to die for Uganda. I might say that we’re very fortunate to have him,” the 82-year-old says.

“Many of the different those that I do know who’ve been presidents, they needed to do it for themselves; they needed the glory. However Museveni desires to do [it] for the nation and continent… he’s an Africanist.”

A woman in a mask in front of a mural


Uganda’s normal election

14 January 2021

  • 11candidates are working for president

  • 1of the candidates is a girl, Nancy Kalembe

  • 5elected phrases up to now for Yoweri Museveni

  • 50% plus 1votes wanted for a candidate to keep away from a run-off election

  • 529MPs may also be elected

Supply: Uganda electoral fee

Nonetheless beneath the unique clauses of the 1995 structure the president shouldn’t have run for workplace once more after 2005.

Certainly, earlier than then it was broadly understood that he was towards staying on in energy, disregarding queries concerning the concept, saying that he would somewhat return to his farm.

Journalist William Pike, who at one time was seen as very near the president and the NRA, described in his memoir how the president was genuinely upset when requested at a dinner within the early Nineteen Nineties whether or not he needed to remain in energy for the remainder of his life.

“Museveni stated: ‘After all not’, however he was clearly livid at what he thought-about an actual insult. He was not faking it. At that stage he actually was not intending to remain on in energy,” Mr Pike wrote.

However one thing modified his thoughts in 2004, although it has by no means been clear what precisely that was, and his MPs endorsed the concept that the structure must be amended to take away presidential time period limits.

He had the inexperienced gentle to face till he reached 75 years of age.

media captionChairs had been thrown through the debate in parliament

After which in December 2017, the constitutional impediment of an age restrict for a presidential candidate was additionally eliminated – a problem which led to brawls on the ground of parliament and a police raid on the constructing.

Many noticed this because the NRM’s method to enable Mr Museveni to develop into president for all times.

It isn’t for nothing that parliament felt compelled to reward the long-serving chief. The willingness of MPs to associate with the adjustments has loads to do with the truth that they felt they owed their positions to the president.

Fewer challenges to authority

The importance of patronage extends proper by society.

It generally manifests as improvement programmes for ladies, market distributors and authorities jobs. In a rustic the place 15% of younger individuals are unemployed and over 21% of the inhabitants stay in poverty, aligning with the precise get together can save a whole village from destitution.

However his supporters level to the transformation of Uganda as a constructive cause to present Mr Museveni 5 extra years.

“In the event you come from the north and east you’ll perceive {that a} huge achievement of peace has been introduced. For 20 years these areas had been engulfed in warfare,” says 28-year-old Jacob Eyeru, who leads the federal government’s Nationwide Youth Council.

Whereas acknowledging that joblessness is a fear, he provides that the NRM has “reworked the financial system to make it not simply regionally aggressive but in addition globally aggressive”.

picture copyrightGetty Photos
picture captionMr Museveni’s supporters imagine he nonetheless has loads to supply

Regardless of these adjustments he has additionally weakened the independence of among the nation’s key establishments to make sure fewer challenges to his authority.

The judiciary has not been spared, and lately has been accused of recruiting so-called “cadre judges”, who’re loyal to the federal government.

When judges have taken unbiased selections, they’ve generally discovered themselves at loggerheads with the authorities.

For instance, on 16 December 2005, extremely educated armed safety personnel raided the Excessive Courtroom within the capital, Kampala, and re-arrested members of the suspected insurgent Folks’s Redemption Military, who had simply been acquitted of treason prices.

“They turned the Temple of Serenity right into a theatre of warfare,” Justice James Ogoola wrote in a poem concerning the incident entitled Rape of the Temple.

In relation to difficult election outcomes, the result of each presidential race since 2001 has been contested in courtroom. In all circumstances, the courts dominated that the irregularities weren’t severe sufficient to warrant an annulment.

media captionPresident Yoweri Museveni and singer Bobi Wine are preventing for Uganda’s youth vote

The media has additionally had its independence threatened.

On the floor, Uganda has a vigorous media trade which has grown to tons of of personal radio and TV stations, print retailers, and internet-based providers beneath Mr Museveni.

“Within the early days, earlier than cynicism and decay set in, there was a strand of intellectualism inside the regime that tolerated dissenting views and was in a position to debate and disagree with them,” says Daniel Kalinaki, the Nation Media Group’s Normal Supervisor for Editorial, in Kampala.

However retailers have been raided and journalists detained, because the main lights within the authorities have develop into “more and more thin-skinned”, Mr Kalinaki provides.

However maybe probably the most important consider Mr Museveni’s longevity is the best way that any potential opposition drive has been neutered.

Opposition supporters shot lifeless

Because it turned clear 20 years in the past that he was going to remain in energy, a few of his former associates began to interrupt away. As they did, the safety forces, touted as a folks’s police and military, turned their weapons on these political opponents.

Kizza Besigye of the opposition Discussion board for Democratic Change, as soon as Mr Museveni’s doctor, first ran towards him within the 2001 election. He has been detained and prosecuted on quite a few prices, together with rape and treason, however has by no means been convicted.

picture copyrightGetty Photos
picture captionPresidential candidate Bobi Wine has proved a well-liked draw for a lot of younger voters

Now that Bobi Wine, a singer whose actual title is Robert Kyagulanyi, is mounting a severe problem to the president’s rule, he has develop into the most recent politician to face the wrath of the boys in uniform.

The MP, whose star energy attracts enormous crowds of younger folks, was brutally arrested throughout a colleague’s by-election marketing campaign within the north-western city of Arua in 2018. He then confronted treason prices which had been later dropped.

On the marketing campaign path for this election, the police have arrested, tear-gassed and shot at him and his supporters for defying coronavirus restrictions on the gathering of enormous teams.

Throughout two days of protests in November following Bobi Wine’s arrest, 54 folks had been killed, lots of them believed to have been shot by the safety forces.

Sticking your head above the parapet in Uganda is a courageous alternative and anybody who seeks to problem Mr Museveni must be in little doubt concerning the stage of harassment that they’re more likely to face.

By way of his 35 years in cost, he has come to take a seat on the apex of energy the place he’s in complete management. He has additionally managed to reinvent himself.

Whereas he was as soon as the political upstart in his early 40s, anybody taking over that function now dangers incurring his appreciable wrath.

Associated Subjects

  • Yoweri Museveni

  • Uganda