Saturday, September 12, 2009



By Timothy Kalyegira

President Yoweri Museveni has appeared on TV and spoken on radio to explain himself and his version of the events that have plunged Uganda into a serious political crisis. His speech is a reflection of what his presidency has come down to.

Just as he has always wanted to rule alone and get all the acclaim, he now finds himself isolated, speaking on the crisis in the country in a rumbling speech that is, plainly, boring.

He has long become predictable, repeating the same empty claims about how he has fought and won many battles and this too he will win.

Our question for this opinion article is: where are the millions of supporters Musevenis is supposed to have? Why are they not visible? Why are they not staging counter-demonstrations to drown out the angry Baganda youths? Why has he, the supposedly popular leader had to resort to the last line of uthority, brute police and army force?

So far, there has been no comment from the Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, the Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi, the Security, Defence and Foreign ministers Amama Mbabazi, Crispus Kiyonga and Sam Kutesa or any other member of Museveni's cabinet.

The only ministers speaking in public are those ordered to explain the government's official statement; Kabakumba Matsiko and Ali Kirunda Kivejinja. There is no statement from the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen. Robert Aronda Nyakirima. No word from the Vice Chairman of the National Resistance Movement, Musa Kigongo.

All the many supporters of the NRM, often dubbed the "yellow girls" and "yellow boys", from Hanifa Kawooya to Ofwono Opondo, Mary Karooro Okurut and others who act the henchman to Museveni, are silent.

Unrehearsed, unprepared for yesterday's sudden chaos, these sycophants are unable to come up with an impromptu script from which to claim their pretentious undying loyalty to Museveni.

He stands alone, still thinking he has all the answers to Uganda's problems.

Just before the 2006 general election, Alan Tacca, a columnist for the Sunday Monitor, made an important observation. In one of his columns, Tacca pointed out that if ordinary Ugandans in their millions are fed up with Museveni and hoped he would leave power in that election, this was nothing compared with how badly many of the officials who work most closely with Museveni wish him to leave power.

I agree with Tacca's observation.

Ordinary Ugandans encounter Museveni through the news, at rallies, and occasionally drive past him along the Entebbe-Kampala highway or in the streets of Kampala. The corruption scandals, the naked and primitive abuse of power, Ugandans get to hear about via the newspapers, TV, or radio where it has been heavily edited out of respect for the president or fear of closure or arrest.

The people who get to see Museveni as he really is are the aides and senior officials who meet him in cabinet, carry out his orders, or form part of his entourage.
These people --- Moses Byaruhanga, Sam Kutesa, Aronda Nyakirima, David Mafabi, Ofwono Opondo, Amama Mbabazi, John Nasasira, Tamale Mirundi, John Nagenda, Brig. James Mugira, Leo Kyanda, Dr. Amos Mukumbi, Robert Masolo, Crispus Kiyonga, Gen. David Tinyefuza, Maj. Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, Maj. Gen. Kale Kayihura, Robert Kabushenga, Kintu Nyago, Nyombi Tembo, and many other aides --- see a side to Museveni that most other Ugandans never see.

They see and experience his selfishness. They see a man who has no regard whatsoever for other people's time. He keeps them waiting for hours all day, well knowing they are waiting to see him, but he keeps them waiting anyway.

Many, if not all, know about his philandering but must pretend they have noticed nothing. PGB guards and other security agents assigned to his detail witness him bring women to his residential quarters or fly with others abroad behind Janet Museveni's back.

They are astonished at what Museveni is like in person and gossip about it. Each one confides in his or her best friend and the best friend tells his best friend, who in turn tells his best friend, until after 23 years, practically all who need to know Museveni intimately do.

Many foreign would-be investors from as far away as Argentina and Russia have checked up on Museveni on the Internet before flying to Uganda. There, they have read the story, carried on many western websites, of the man who single-handedly liberated Uganda from Idi Amin's savagery and Milton Obote's dictatorship into a new era of enlightened rule.

But once they were ushered into Museveni's presence at State House or his country home in Rwakitura, were left dumbstruck and astounded by the man they encountered, who, on listening to a proposal to start up a wine producing factory in Kabale or a machinery plant in Jinja, asked the investor what percent he, Museveni, would be given in order to grant the investor a license.

They see him blow his nose with tissue paper right before him and his other mannerisms. On the day the Game stores and Shoprite supermarket complex was officially opened in Aug. 2004, Museveni was the special guest. While the Chief Executive of Shoprite South Africa stood delivering his speech, Museveni at some point signaled to one of his bodyguards.

The bodyguard snapped into action and quickly brought a metal object to Museveni. It was a nail clip and Museveni went on, in full public view, to cut and then file his finger nails.

That is what Yoweri Museveni is in real life. The Uganda Record has no fear whatsoever in stating this, even if we must be engulfed in clouds of teargas or led off to a safe house torture chamber.

But because authority must publicly be respected, officials in African countries have learnt to keep up a brave face and go through the motions of "His Excellency" even when the holder of that office is anything but excellent.

These State House aides, senior intelligence and military officers, and cabinet ministers are the people, up close and personal, who see Museveni turn the Uganda government into his own property.

At the recent passing-out of paratroopers, Museveni, accompanied by Gen. Nyakirima, attended the occasion. A photograph in the Red Pepper tabloid told it all. Museveni's son, Lt. Col. Muhoozi Kainerugaba was briefing his father on the exercises and the paratroopers.

Seated next to Museveni, Nyakirima, a bored and weary expression on his face, looked the other way. He alone knows the frustration he has had to live through as a Chief of Defence Staff in name only, his rank meaningless, as Museveni has steadily turned his army over to his son and the effective Chief of Defence Forces in Uganda is Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

The Red Pepper and the Daily Monitor earlier this year and late last year reported on quarrels between Nyakirima and Kainerugaba during operations against the Lord's Resistance Army rebels in Garamba forest in the eastern Congo.

The way Museveni treated his political rival, Col. Kiiza Besigye, after Besigye's return from exile in South Africa in 2005, disgusted many in the government, including senior army officers.

When cabinet ministers and presidential advisors lament at never getting to meet the president, they know what they speak. As ordinary Ugandans, it is a humiliating life being ruled by Museveni. However, it is many times more humiliating being a senior official who must wait on him, carry out his orders, or sit in the same cabinet as him.

This is the reason that, faced with the current crisis of riots in Kampala, most of his officials have taken the position of being, at best, neutral and aloof from the crisis and as is more likely than not, quietly hoping that the Kabaka of Buganda can humiliate Museveni or that the riots can go on until the government --- which is really no government but Museveni's set of wishes and orders --- collapses.

Milton Obote was not like this. Idi Amin, Yusuf Lule, Tito Okello, Paulo Muwanga, Godfrey Binaisa, none of the men who have held the top executive office in Uganda have been like this, completely inconsiderate of others in the way Museveni is, like some kind of three year-old child.

This is the climate at State House and in Museveni's presidency. Utter, unbelievable insensitivity and selfishness of a kind no Ugandan leader has ever subjected his people to except during the savage pre-colonial era.

To paraphrase what Alan Tacca wrote in the Sunday Monitor, the day Museveni leaves power, many will be the grateful, relieved, weary, angry aides and senior state officials for whom the nightmare of 23 or whatever number of years will finally be over.

Their silence and near total lack of public support during the current face-off with the Buganda government is that tell-tale sign that Museveni's power base might be his family members and PGB guards alone.

Contact the author on: 0712-730003