Museveni came to power vowing to end the long suffering of Ugandans. He promised independence from external domination – and blamed Obote for accepting the killer structural adjustment program imposed on Uganda by the World Bank and IMF – democracy, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms. He underscored NRM focus on quality education, healthcare, nutrition, property rights and good neighborly relations as the foundation for a new Uganda. He assured the nation that those who lost their properties would get them back and he would support a governance or federal system that would empower Ugandans to design their development policies on the basis of their specific endowments, history and cultural values.
The Asian community responded, returned to Uganda and repossessed its properties. But Museveni has reneged on returning Buganda land and endorsing a federal system which received majority support in the Odoki Commission report of 1993. Lest we have forgotten, Baganda offered their territory (Luwero Triangle) to wage the guerrilla war from and joined Museveni guerrilla force in large numbers from the highest to the lowest institution in Buganda to fight the UPC government alleged to have stolen the 1980 elections. Baganda suffered heavy losses in lives (up to 700,000 according to some estimates) and property. And some wounds haven’t healed 26 years after the war ended.
Museveni has played double standards – meeting the demands of one group and rejecting those of others including Baganda. Baganda should stick together and other Ugandans should stand with them in solidarity until the promises made to them are fulfilled. When Ugandans stood together in solidarity, British colonial authorities had no choice but to return Kabaka Mutesa II (RIP) from exile. This is a fact. It isn’t 2012 politics as Museveni surrogates are likely to argue.
Museveni has also broken the promise of ending the suffering of Uganda people. This has happened in part because he changed course from the ten-point program to structural adjustment demanded by the donor community primarily to address international financial crisis and open Uganda to forces of globalization with Ugandans benefiting through trickledown mechanism and not state intervention. Museveni has relied on external advisers and experts and is accountable to the donor community, not to the people of Uganda. Economic growth and trickledown mechanism have not worked as expected in terms of increasing economic growth and distribution of growth benefits to all social classes. Ipso facto, corruption, sectarianism and cronyism; poverty, unemployment, hunger, disease, illiteracy, slums, crime and social fabric decay have defined Uganda under Museveni presidency. He finally admitted failure by abandoning structural adjustment program in 2009 which had been his signature project since 1987.
Museveni also dropped his promise on good neighborly relations. He promised Habyarimana and Mobutu that he would not transfer his political revolution to their countries. Under geopolitical pressure, Museveni invaded Rwanda through RPF beginning in 1990 and toppled the regime in 1994. He invaded Zaire starting in 1996 through ADFL and overthrew the government in 1997. He attacked Zaire (DRC) again beginning in 1998 but failed to remove the Kabila regime because by that time Angola, Chad, Namibia and Zimbabwe had realized that Museveni wasn’t merely interested in removing dictators from power but in establishing a Tutsi Empire in Middle Africa. They opposed him militarily and Museveni and Kagame lost the war with heavy losses in human life. Since then the region sees Museveni and Kagame not as peace builders but as agents of destabilization in their efforts to create a Tutsi empire and as proxy in the geopolitical games to control or divide up the well endowed DRC into spheres of influence with chunks of Eastern DRC going to Kagame and Museveni.
The donor community has also realized that Museveni’s domestic programs haven’t worked. But because they still need him for their foreign policies in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region, they don’t criticize him on domestic failures but instead praise him for his resounding success in Somalia and the Great Lakes region. I haven’t assessed Museveni’s performance in Somalia and therefore can’t comment on it.
But in the Great Lakes region, Museveni involvement has created more problems than it has solved. Museveni intervention in changing regimes in Burundi, DRC and Rwanda has not endeared Uganda to the people in these countries. Bantu people in the Great Lakes region believe that Museveni is merely removing Bantu regimes and replacing them with Nilotic Batutsi dominated governments. This came out clearly when I visited DRC almost three years ago. If there is anything that will bring Congolese people together, it is Museveni and Kagame trying to divide up DRC. Congolese have vowed, should that become necessary, to turn DRC into another Somalia than let a piece of it be taken by Rwanda and/or Uganda. This is a common story which I believe western powers and corporations have heard. Ipso facto, Museveni cannot be credited for laying a foundation for lasting peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. In fact his presence in any deals heightens tensions and potential for instability.
Thus, potentially the Great Lakes region is more dangerous than it was before. Any continued effort to impose a minority Tutsi rule on majority Bantu in the region will in the end backfire. The region needs mature, experienced and wise civilian leaders that will negotiate differences on a win-win basis with all stakeholders rather than settle them through the barrel of the gun on a winner-takes-all basis as Museveni and Kagame are doing. The way they used and then betrayed their supporters (Museveni and Baganda; Kagame and Bahutu) is disturbing to say the least. You don’t make peace in such environment. Rather you lay a foundation for trouble when the right moment occurs and history is full of examples including the 1959 Social Revolution in Rwanda. That is what Museveni and Kagame are doing.
Western powers and corporations need to listen more to people who have lived in and studied the Great Lakes region carefully instead of relying on ideologically biased so-called academic researchers, journalists and diplomats. The period of rule by the gun which has been encouraged by some western powers or advisers is coming to an end. The region has potential civilian leaders with propensity to govern better through consensus than at gun point but haven’t caught the attention of western interests whose attention is focused on military people. They should cast the net wider.