What Ugandan President's Opponents Say of His 30-Year Rule

Kampala — President Museveni’s uninterrupted 30-year reign is pegged to a citizenry tired of violent transitions, a cocktail of false promises, his ability to ensure stability and his successful engineering of the 2005 removal of term limits, according to seven candidates challenging him in the February 18, election just 23 days away.

 In Interviews ahead of celebrations to mark Mr Museveni’s 30th year in power today, seven candidates challenging his bid for a fifth term – including three of his former close confidantes – argued that fear of a return to the turbulence that rocked Uganda in the post-independence days has triggered a sense of fear about violent change.

Maj Gen (rtd) Benon Biraro, who participated in the bush war that brought the NRM to power but has since fallen out with the regime, and is contesting for the presidency under the Farmers Party of Uganda, says Mr Museveni’s long stay is solely down to his ensuring of security, especially in the latter years of his rule.

All post-independence governments were undone by insecurity in most parts of the country.

Maj Gen Biraro, who served in senior positions in the Army like commandant of the Senior Staff College in Kimaka and Chief of Staff, says the “philosophy” of the NRM has been to ensure that stability prevails.

“The UPDF. That is all. It is not the economy, it is not democracy,” is his instant response to why he thinks Mr Museveni has managed a record 30 years. “It is the UPDF and that is what has saved him [Museveni]. All the past regimes had problems with the armed forces. He changed the character of the army and it has been able to deliver and that is what has saved him. People say twebaka otulo [we sleep],” Gen Biraro explains.


Speaking for the FDC presidential candidate Kizza Besigye, party spokesman Semujju Nganda attributed Mr Museveni’s long stay to the chaotic times that Uganda went through before 1986 that forced Ugandans into a state of desperation.

“Museveni seized power when Uganda had gone through a lot of turbulence and people were tired and willing to put up with anything that was better than what they had seen. And at the same time, Museveni came in at a time when armed rebellions were becoming outdated and people thought that maybe he could be voted out through elections,” Mr Semujju said.

Asked at a press conference in Mbarara to give his thoughts on today’s 30th NRM anniversary, former premier Amama Mbabazi, said the day “renews the faith” in the ideals he [Mbabazi] stands for.

Mr Mbabazi was a member of the external wing of the National Resistance Army that helped mobilise resources for fighters during the 1981-86 bush war. “I congratulate the NRM on its anniversary and it just renews our faith in what we stood for,” Mr Mbabazi said.


Mr Joseph Mabirizi, who is running as the candidate for The Independents’ Coalition – alongside Maureen Kyalya, says his interactions with contemporaries who worked closely with Mr Museveni and have since fallen out point to a dishonest man.

“According to people who have deserted him, he is someone who can tell you that he is going to Kampala and takes another route. That is how he has managed. We are also saying that we restore term limits,” Mr Mabirizi said.

Independent candidate Venansius Baryamureeba says the ban that was slapped on political parties in the early 1990s helped Mr Museveni entrench himself. He, however, does not downplay the role the army has played.

“One thing is that when he came, he killed all the political parties and put them in the Movement which he had total control over. He has also had total control over the army,” Mr Baryamureeba says.

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