Concerned About Slipping Museveni Legacy in Uganda
news story by the Bureau of International Information Programs
of the United States Department of State reports on a Conference
held on June 2, 2005 by the Woodrow Wilson’s International
Center for Scholars on the checkered nature of the leadership
role played by President Museveni in Uganda and how recent
decisions taken by Museveni have hampered Uganda’s democratic
-- Cracks are beginning to appear in one of Africa's greatest
political and economic success stories, Uganda, with the man
who guided the nation from the brink of disaster in the mid-1980s,
President Yoweri Museveni, jeopardizing a bright legacy with
"faltering" leadership, Africanists claimed at a
June 2 panel discussion.
The discussion featured former U.S. Ambassador to Uganda Johnnie
Carson, Ugandan Minister for Internal Affairs Ruhakana Rugunda,
and Joel Barkan, professor of political science at the University
of Iowa and specialist in East African politics. It was sponsored
by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and
the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
at the Wilson Center in Washington.
The panel was moderated by former Congressman Howard Wolpe
and drew a high-level audience that included former Assistant
Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen and former
U.S. ambassadors to Uganda (Michael Southwick, Nancy Powell),
South Africa (Princeton Lyman), and Ethiopia (David Shinn).
Ugandan Ambassador Edith Ssempala and Rwandan Ambassador Zac
Nsenga also attended.
Ambassador Carson addressed the topic "An African 'Success'
Past its Prime" and called President Museveni "an
astute and remarkable" leader who brought peace and a
measure of prosperity to Uganda, which earlier had been one
of Africa's most notorious "killing fields."
Through acts like welcoming back more than 70,000 Asians expelled
from Uganda during the murderous regime of President Idi Amin
and returning their property, Museveni proved he is "one
of the most influential and intelligent leaders on the continent,"
Museveni also "recognized the devastating impact HIV/AIDS
was having on his country and was the first major African
leader to speak publicly about the dangers of the HIV/AIDS
virus to the continent. He mobilized his entire government
to combat this threat and he established Africa's first nationwide
prevention effort," the diplomat added.
But that sterling legacy is being undermined, Carson said,
by Museveni's need to control the political process, his failure
to tackle corruption -- "a cancer eroding donors' ability
to help Uganda" -- and an inability to bring an end to
a long-term insurgency in the northern part of the country.
Carson, who is now senior vice president of the National Defense
University and formerly served as U.S. ambassador to Kenya
and Zimbabwe, stated, "There is no doubt that Museveni's
initial reforms, many of which I witnessed on the ground,
set the stage for Uganda's economic revitalization, its renewed
political stability, and its early efforts to re-establish
strong democratic institutions."
However, he warned, today "Uganda's march toward full
democracy is on the threshold of becoming unglued as President
Museveni and those around him seek to alter the country's
constitution to allow him to run for a third and perhaps even
a fourth or fifth presidential term.
"How President Museveni deals with issues like presidential
limitations, the expansion of multiparty politics and the
LRA [the rebel Lord's Resistance Army] violence in the north
will depend on what type of legacy he wants to leave behind
for himself and for Uganda: one in which economic growth,
democratic progress and political stability prevail, or a
nation that is faced with a new round of destabilizing political
challenges and continued civil conflict in the North,"
the U.S. diplomat said.
"Although many will suggest these are national decisions,
in reality the decision is his [Museveni's] [and] the outcome
will surely affect all Ugandans and perhaps others as well,"
Carson told the panel.
Joel Barkan called Museveni "a brilliant leader, who
squandering his own legacy to his nation" by refusing
to abide by the constitution and relinquish power after two
terms in office. The fear, he said is that Uganda is slipping
back into "a big-government regime" that risks becoming
another "African tragedy."
With official corruption on the increase and evidence of the
strong-arm tactics to cow political opposition, Museveni is
tarnishing the Ugandan success story and diminishing his position
as a leader throughout Africa and among his supporters in
the donor community.
Ugandan Minister for Internal Affairs Ruhakana Rugunda defended
Museveni from what he viewed as superficial attacks on a leader
attempting to guide his nation through a difficult political
transformation -- from movement to party politics. This task
is a not an easy one, considering the political turmoil the
nation has undergone over the past 20 years, he said.
Rugunda explained that Museveni's bid for a third term in
2006, which would require a change in the constitution, was
an issue that has been debated intensely over the past two
years. "We trust the will of the people to work,"
he said, noting that "there are constitutional provisions
that call for the impeachment of the leader if he's not performing
He also dismissed the issue of corruption on his personal
knowledge of the president, whom he has known since they were
both university students, and on policy grounds "because
the fight against corruption was one of the main reasons why
we waged war to liberate Uganda."