- Yoweri Museveni was re-elected for a sixth term.
- Museveni took power in Uganda in 1986.
- While his political opponents claim he is older, Museveni, 76, says he is fighting in good shape.
Yoweri Museveni has been president longer than most Ugandans have lived, and his controversial victory in Saturday’s election consolidates his place among the world’s longest-serving and most authoritarian leaders.
Shortly after Museveni took power in 1986, ending years of bloodshed and chaos under murderous tyrants, the young president thought that leaders left without a welcome were at the heart of Africa’s problems.
But almost four decades later, introspection is gone and Museveni, once hailed in the West as a role model for an African leader committed to good governance, has joined those he once criticized and won a sixth term.
His genius face and penchant for folk parables believes in the past as a shrewd guerrilla fighter and a ruthless political survivor.
In his 35-year rule, Museveni has so effectively united the state and the party and so steep a political opposition that any serious challenge to him or his national resistance movement has been thwarted.
These elections were no different. One of the most violent campaigns in the last memory took place, and Museveni’s besieged rival Bobi Wine dismissed the process as installed “virtual”.
Museveni will thus continue his rule over a population where three-quarters are under the age of 30 and have never known anyone in charge.
At 76 – although some opponents say he is older – Museveni says he fights in good shape, occasionally exercising in front of crowds and running in his office.
In 2020, he joined Instagram and added the baby name Tibuhaburwa to his official address.
Without the Ugandan Constitution, which has been amended twice to abolish the presidential term and age limits, many believe Museveni, who never speaks publicly about succession and has not fulfilled past resignation promises, intends to rule for the rest of his life.
– stay in place –
“He won’t leave until he fulfills his mission of liberating Uganda and Africa … Of course it’s an illusory and delusional mindset. But he sees himself as a kind of messiah,” said Moses Khisa, an assistant professor of political science at North Carolina State University. .
In long, winding speeches, often intertwined with peasant folklore – raised by cattle shepherds in western Uganda – Museveni called even more during the campaign and compared himself to a farmer who left the plantation just as it began to bear fruit.
Rarely, too, the “old man who saved the country” misses an opportunity to return to his heroism in the bush wars – sometimes replacing his protective safari hat and yellow shirt with camouflage suits to take the point home.
This is a popular reference for a proud military man – but a declining currency, as most Ugandans are not yet old enough to remember the relative peace and stability that followed the horrors of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.
British journalist William Pike, who interviewed Museveni in 1984, described the man he admired well at the time with “a distant look in his eyes when he spoke, the appearance of a dreamer, a revolutionary”.
Museveni studied at Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in the 1960s, when the university functioned as a kind of revolutionary schooling of anti-colonialists.
“He was very serious, but he showed flashes of humor. He encouraged debate, even though his officers were respectful,” Pike wrote in his 2019 book, “Combatants: A Memoir of the Bush War and Press in Uganda.”
“Museveni’s trust has infected everyone.”
This also extended to the international community, which was promising in Museveni’s early steps in terms of economic growth, poverty reduction and the fight against HIV / AIDS.
– Moving away from dictatorship –
A shrewd strategist, Museveni also positioned himself as a senior statesman and peacemaker in a volatile region – even though his forces were looting in eastern Congo and supporting rebels in other war-torn corners.
His deployment of troops to fight jihadists in Somalia and the open door policy for refugees are in favor of foreign donors, whom critics say have turned a blind eye to his abuses at home and warfare abroad.
“Museveni was always raw, but he always had to play this game with the West, so he continues to receive support,” Helen Epstein, author of “Another Beautiful Confusion: America, Uganda and the War on Terror,” told AFP. .
But as the years marked by a thoughtful young rebel leader gave way, to an increasingly volatile and uncompromising leader of the country.
“Museveni used to be convincing people. I would win you over ideologically and with discourse. He doesn’t do all that anymore. He has to rely more and more on money and force,” Khisa said.
Museveni once promised to withdraw to his esteemed herd of long-horned Ancola cattle, but instead surpassed all the rulers at the mainland bar, Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Paul Biya of Cameroon.
We know this has been a long read and that your time is precious. Did you know that you can now listen to articles? Subscribe to News24 to access this exciting feature and more.