Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How Museveni won the fifth presidential term

UGANDA’S President Yoweri Museveni has extended his three-decade rule after winning a fifth term, as regional observers urged the country to re-assess the essence of removal of presidential term limits in the electoral system. The recommendations were made by the East African Community Observer Mission (EAC-OM) in Uganda led by former president Ali Hassan Mwinyi. The polls were, however, rejected as fraudulent by Museveni’s closest rival Mr Kizza Besigye, who was under house arrest. Museveni (71) won 60 per cent of the vote in the sometimes chaotic elections, far ahead of the 35 per cent garnered by detained opposition leader, whose house was surrounded by dozens of armed police in riot gear. “The commission declares Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the elected President of the Republic of Uganda,” Election Commission chief Badru Kiggundu said as he read out results. NRM spokesman Mike Sebalu said. “Behind their vague claims of change, there were no policies and no chance of progress -- and people saw through these empty claims.” In a statement issued last week in Kampala was quoted as saying. “It is important to note that the electoral system for presidential contest does not provide for term limits.” Alhaj Mwinyi also urged Uganda to consider introduction of a legal framework to regulate campaign financing to promote an equal playing field for all parties and candidates. “The absence of a legal requirement for disclosure of campaign income and expenditure makes accountability difficult and promotes negative influence of money in election competition,” he noted. It was also observed that youth groups allied to parties remained an issue of security concern; therefore legal mechanisms for controlling negative use of youth in the electoral process should be explored. The EAC-EOM appreciates that the February 2016 General Elections was one of the most competitive in the history of Uganda. He commended the people of Uganda for turning out in large numbers and peacefully participating in the electoral process and encouraged all stakeholders to pursue constitutional and legal reforms in order to improve the electoral process in the country. As the electoral process is still on-going, the EAC-EOM shall make final announcement at the end of the process. “I encourage the people of Uganda to remain calm and peaceful during the remaining time,” he said. Museveni once said leaders who “overstayed” in power were the root of Africa’s problems, but 30 years later has been elected for a fifth term. The veteran former rebel leader seized power in 1986, ending years of brutal and murderous rule under Idi Amin and Milton Obote. “Those who say, ‘let him go, let him go’, they need to know that this is not the right time,” Museveni said before the elections. “This old man who has saved the country, how do you want him to go? How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?” Museveni successfully changed the constitution in 2005 abolishing a two-term limit. Other African leaders have since followed suit, changing or redefining laws to stay in power. 

Uganda's President General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Museveni is officially 71, although activists have previously accused him of lying about his age to circumvent the country’s laws imposing an age limit of 75 on presidential candidates. This will therefore be his last term in power, unless another change is made. But Museveni has made clear he has no intention of handing power to anybody, dismissing criticism from Western donors over graft and moves to grant sweeping powers to regulate civil society groups and non-governmental organisations. He has also shrugged off criticism of a tough anti-homosexuality law, later overturned on a technicality. Now entering his fourth decade in power, Museveni remains one of Africa’s most wily and tenacious rulers. He studied in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the 1960s when the university acted as a kind of revolutionary finishing school for anti-colonialists. His wife Janet is a devout Christian, MP and cabinet minister. The promise of oil wealth from crude discovered beneath Lake Albert has yet to be realised. Museveni has welded state and party and undermined political opposition so effectively that any serious challenge to either him or his NRM is impossible. A proud former military man, much of his authority still rests on his sway over the army which he uses to maintain control domestically and project power regionally. During Democratic Republic of Congo’s regional war between 1998-2003, Ugandan soldiers fought with their Rwandan allies. More recently Ugandan troops were instrumental in preventing a rebel takeover of the South Sudan capital, Juba, and shoring up Salva Kiir’s government after civil war began in late 2013. Uganda’s intervention in Somalia has been more warmly welcomed with its troops forming the backbone of an African Union mission that has battled the Al Qaeda-linked militants of Shebab since 2007. The Somalia intervention -- unlike those in Congo and South Sudan -- has won Museveni favour with foreign donors who in return give him a pass when it comes to domestic oppression and corruption. “His actions may not always be approved, but he has made Uganda a serious player in the region,” said Magnus Taylor, from the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank. “While Uganda’s drift towards authoritarianism, coupled with the high-profile introduction of legislation to criminalise homosexuality and regulate the operational environment for NGOs may not win approval from Western actors, Museveni has embedded himself to the extent that the international community accepts his military contributions with one hand whilst wagging a censorious finger with the other,” Taylor said. Museveni, born in Rwakitura in western Uganda to a cattle-herding family, has always said he looks forward to retiring to be a cattle keeper. He specialises in rambling speeches peppered with folksy parables and military references that play better among poor -- and poorly-educated -- rural folk than among the urban population where the opposition finds its strongest support. But Uganda remains a predominantly rural country, in both demography and economy, and Museveni’s popularity there is still high.

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