Uganda’s long-time president, in power for nearly 3 decades, once despised long-time rulers

from The Washington Post..

By Associated Press

June 5, 2013

KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda’s president came to power in 1986 as an idealistic former Marxist rebel who denounced power-hungry African leaders. Nearly three decades later, President Yoweri Museveni is now accused by some in the opposition — and others who served prominently under him — of becoming the type of politician he once despised.

Museveni travels the world in a private jet paid for by taxpayers and recently added two new Mercedes Benz limousines to his convoy. Some say he wants to rule for life, while others worry that Museveni, in the style of some other African strongmen, is trying to groom his son as the country’s future leader. That charge was given credence by the defection last month of an army general who urged an investigation into reports of an alleged plot for the first son to succeed his father.

Gen. David Sejusa, who is in London and faces arrest if he returns to Uganda, says he is fighting the use of state institutions such as the military to keep Museveni in power. Sejusa is a member of the army’s high command and a decorated hero of the bush war that brought Museveni to power. His case has focused attention on the political evolution of a president who promised many years ago that his government would bring what he called “fundamental change” to Uganda.

“The problem of Africa in general and Uganda in particular,” Museveni said in a speech in 1986, “is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power.”

In “What is Africa’s Problem?” — a collection of Museveni’s early speeches as president — he warns against official corruption, saying: “How can we hope to convince anyone of the rightness of our cause if our own people are violating our stated goals, thereby undermining our program? Corruption is a problem which, if not checked, will hinder progress in all sectors of society.”

Museveni said at the time that he despised African leaders who wasted taxpayer money on things like luxury cars and he urged public officials to “realize that social property is, in many ways, even more important than private property.”

In 1996, a year after the promulgation of Uganda’s constitution, the country held national elections widely praised as free and fair, boosting Museveni’s growing reputation with Western donors as a reform-minded progressive leader. In 1998, while traveling in Africa, former U.S. President Bill Clinton put Museveni in the club of what he said was a “new breed” of African leader.

But some critics now say it’s tough to imagine Museveni giving a passionate speech on corruption.

“I think Museveni’s determined to stay in power at all costs,” said Mwambutsya Ndebesa, a professor of political history at Uganda’s Makerere University. “He genuinely believes that he’s the only one with the vision to run this county. Is this project sustainable? My answer is no. If he doesn’t change this position he’s taking this country to the cliff.”


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