Route To Lasting Peace In Uganda… Museveni Has To Go!
Date published: February 19, 2013
Ebo Quansah in Accra
On January 25, 1986, Yoweri Museveni led his National Resistance Army to overrun Kampala. The insurgents overthrew the Okello regime, and declared victory the next day. On January 29, 1986, the former guerilla head was sworn in as President of Uganda.
In July 1985, Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation, estimated that the Obote Mark II regime had been responsible for 300,000 civilian deaths and disappearances in the country.
In his inaugural speech, the new Head of State promised a period of stability, in which Ugandans were to live in freedom. “This is not a mere change of guard,” President Museveni promised his people. “The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a forum for any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not government,” he asserted.
According to his biography in Wikipedia, the Ugandan leader’s surname, Museveni, means son of a man of the seventh – in honour of the Seventh Battalion of the King’s African Rifles, the British colonial Army, in which many Ugandans served during the Second World War.
On taking power, the new Head of State promised to restore security and respect for human rights in a country ravaged by war and years of insecurity. Said Museveni: “The second point in our programme is security and respect for human rights. Every person in Uganda must have absolute security to live wherever he wants.
“Any individual, any group who threatens the security of our people must be smashed without mercy. The people of Uganda should die only from natural causes which are beyond our control, but not from fellow beings who continue to walk the length and breadth of our land.”
Twenty-seven years after this declaration, Mr. Museveni is still in power. In February 2011, he won a fourth term in office with 68 percent of the popular vote. He is reported to be the fifth longest reigning dictator in African politics
Museveni is credited with bringing relative stability and economic growth to a country that had endured decades of mismanagement, rebel activities, and civil war. His tenure is also reported to have witnessed one of the most effective responses to the HIV/AIDS menace in Africa.
However, his attempt to perpetuate his rule has sharply divided society. Presidential aides launched a massive campaign and succeeded in removing the time limits imposed by the 1995 Constitution.
The opposition had cried foul since 2005, when the government started scheming for a change in the 1995 Constitution, which had a ceiling of two terms on the Presidency. Presidential aides led the way to jettison the 1995 Constitution, and thus remove the time limit.
In a press release, the opposition Forum for Democratic Change stated thus: “The country is polarised with many Ugandans objecting to the Constitutional amendments. If Parliament goes ahead and removes the term limits, this may cause serious unrest, political strife, and may lead to turmoil, both through the transition period and thereafter.
“We would, therefore, like to appeal to President Museveni to respect himself, the people who elected him, and the Constitution.” Sad to state that the plea fell on deaf ears.
Like most leaders in Africa, sycophants abound, and they steered the amendments through. In February 2011, President Museveni was elected President for the fourth term, on a Constitution without time limits.
The Akans, the largest tribal group in Ghana, would tell you: When water stays for too long in the pot, it smells. The repercussion on the no-time limit is the aggregation of opposition against Museveni’s rule. In October 2011, Mr. Besigye, the longest serving opposition to the Museveni rule, was arrested. When the Museveni Presidency tried to prevent King Kabaka from visiting his ancestral home, riots broke out, in which 40 lives were lost.
Uganda is slowly creeping back to the days of civil unrest, with threats of invasion in the air. Last week, on the initiative of the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy, a number of Ugandan Parliamentarians from the various political parties in the Ugandan Parliament spent a week in Accra learning from the examples of the Ghana political parties in Parliament and the Inter-Party Committee (IPAC), which have helped to stabilise the Ghanaian political situation.
The week-long activities, hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs at Ridge in Accra, was under the theme -The Role of Political Parties in Shaping and Influencing National Agenda-Lessons from Ghana. The confab received presentation of papers from leading Ghanaian academics and politicians. Dr. Vladamir Antwi- Danso of the Legon Centre for International Affairs gave an overview of the Political al Evolution in Ghana, with Mr. Kwesi Jonah, another lecturer at Legon, presenting a paper on the State of Governance in Ghana, on the first day, Wednesday, February 13.
The next day, Thursday, February 14, the Ugandan visitors and Ghanaian politicians from the National Democratic Congress, the New Patriotic Party, the Convention People’s Party, and the People’s National Convention, spent Valentine Day using the Ghanaian example to sift through the many problems in Uganda, mainly created by Museveni over-staying his welcome at Government House in Kampala.
There was a presentation on the Role of the Electoral Commission delivered by Deputy Commissioner Mr. Amadu Sulley, while Alhaji Ahmed Ramadan, Chairman of the People’s National Convention, filled in on the fight by the Ghanaian opposition to get the military dictatorship of the Provisional National Defence Council to democratise the system.
While, as expected, the presentation of Dr. Antwi-Danso highlighted the role of the political elites, especially the Big Six and Dr. Nkrumah, to get the British to cede power to the indigenous people of the then Gold Coast, the prominent role played by Nii Kwabena Bonni, Osu Alata Manste in the boycott of European goods, and the riots of 1948, was a recognition that our chiefs have not all been passive to the struggle for self-government.
The boycott and looting of European goods played key roles in the events leading to independence for the people of the then Gold Coast. I had a few problems with Alhaji Ramadan’s assertion that the boycott of Parliament by the minority parties, after the Stolen Verdict of 1992, was a mistake.
I am of the view that it was the boycott and the rubber-stamp Parliament it created that forced the Rawlings regime to accede to opposition requests for more electoral reforms.
The electoral challenge at the Supreme Court, filed by three leading members of the opposition NPP, should register on all of us that we still have a long way to go to get the electoral programme properly structured.
The usefulness of the exercise for our brothers and sisters from Uganda is reflected in the submission on the opening day by Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in the Ugandan Cabinet Mr. Daudi Migereko, who applauded the decision by the opposition in Ghana to go to court over the electoral dispute.
“I know Ghana has long outlived the gun, and we definitely wish you all the best towards democracy in Ghana.”
The road back to democracy after the rule by the men on horse-back was never smooth. As you read this piece, evidence abounds that nearly 300 Ghanaians could not be accounted for after the 11 and a half years of military dictatorship.
Uganda could follow suit, if peer groups in Africa and the international community could convince Yoweri Museveni to abandon his President for Life ambition.
Once upon a regime, Ghana had a President for Life. The fact that no one talks anymore in this country about anybody entrenching his rule beyond two terms is a victory for the people. I do not believe there would be peace in Uganda until Museveni realises that the country is not his property.
Twenty-seven years is far too long for one man to rule a nation. After 27 years, the very presence of the Head of State of Uganda is a source of conflict. To think that Uganda, with its 35 million population, has a 375-Member Parliament, a President, a Prime Minister and three Deputy Prime Ministers, tells the full story of the dictatorship answering the name of government in the East African country.
In a country where the First Lady is also a Cabinet Minister, the only road to lasting peace is for Museveni to leave the scene. Like that famous Methodist Hymn, there is no othe
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