How Museveni aspired to be Uganda’s ‘eternal’ president, then created an African brotherhood to realise dream

How Museveni aspired to be Uganda’s ‘eternal’ president, then created an African brotherhood to realise dream


As the world is riveted on the intra-military slugfest that has killed over at least 700 people in Sudan, some 4,000 kilometres south of the capital Khartoum another disaster has been in gestation for the more than for more than 35 years is waiting to happen.

Uganda under President Yoweri Tibuharubwa Museveni is likened to a dormant volcano that is now showing early signs of a violent eruption, as father and son jostle for supremacy. All this is embedded in Museveni’s past and the network (or is it patchwork?) of friends he created after he ascended to power in 1986.

it began with the ouster of President Tito Okello. The military junta Okello headed lasted in power for only five months before it was overthrown by the National Resistance Army (NRA) on January 25, 1986 following Yoweri (Tibuhaburwa) Museveni’s violation of the Nairobi peace agreement between the military junta and NRA that was brokered by former Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi.

It therefore follows that there was no ruler of Uganda who had overstayed in power before Yoweri (Tibuhaburwa) Museveni seized the instruments of power in Uganda through the barrel of the gun. Museveni has been able to sustain a period of socio-political chaos throughout the reign of Obote II and the Okello military junta en route to power, not to remove overstayed rulers, but to feed his long-term wish to capture power in Uganda.

President Tibuhaburwa Museveni has been in power continuously since 1986. He has been re-elected six times in often highly controversial election outcomes since 1996 when he said he would no longer wear army uniform. He even changed the key theme of his book What is Africa’s Problem? when he told Al Jazeera that an overstayed leader is not a problem if he is elected by his country’s citizens.

However, he has continually, persistently, consistently and perennially donned military fatigue every time he wants to. He has also on more than one occasion pronounced that the 1995 constitutionally renamed army, Uganda People Defence Forces (UPDF), is his army although publicly-funded.

Apparently, President Tibuhaburwa Museveni’s son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, has also claimed UPDF is his. Admittedly the two have created a degree of military peace in the country, which is enabling them to appear as if: without them there can be no peace and security in Uganda; they are competing for power (the president under the auspices of his political party – National Resistance Movement (NRM) – and the son outside the auspices of NRM but using national resources in a manner depicting that he is the immediate future president.

One school of thought holds that President Tibuhaburwa Museveni detests elective politics and has just been using elections to hoodwink Ugandans and the donor community, which is funding his regime’s programmes and projects, that he is committed to democracy. The same school of thought holds that the president is far more committed to hereditary politics, which he has encouraged other political leaders to use to usher their kith and kin into leadership, and would like to use the same to bequeath the Presidency of Uganda to his son, despite the fact that Uganda is not a monarchy.

Security-wise, the president has the UPDF, the military police (MP), the militarised Uganda Police Force and Special Forces Command (SFC), which operate as if they are alternative competing security organs that are, therefore, not integrated for national security but for his personal security, security of his regime and that of his family.

There are also a number of other paramilitary organs such as the Chief of Military Intelligence (CMI) that are all linked to the president personally and all trained adequately to conquer socio-political violence or to initiate it in favour of power. These instruments of violence have enabled the president to keep power for 37 years now and to keep alternative political forces at bay that long. If they try to organise politically and publicly, they are pounced on. They are most active together during presidential elections when they are accused of interfering in the electoral processes either militarily or by pre-ticking ballot papers, stuffing boxes with pre-ticked ballot papers, hijacking boxes of cast papers belonging to opposition candidates or influencing the electoral commission to announce preferred results.

All presidents who have overstayed in power concentrate security for and around themselves for the purpose of surviving political challenge and retain power as long as possible. In the process, they tend to be violent and use violence to achieve personal goals unrelated to national goals. In a way they are kept in power by violence, not by the choice of the people they rule.

Corruption is one of the tools of violence the use. Corruption is violent because it diverts resources away from worthy causes such as education and health to the personal schemes of Presidents such as wealth, glory, domination and power retention.

Libya’s Mammuar Gaddafi, captured power violently, ruled the country with an iron fist for nearly 42 years. The Libyan Army was firmly under his personal control. He created an elite force of women, which he trusted with his personal security. He would move with it on his foreign trips. He was killed in 2011 after an armed rebellion that later turned into a civil war. The country is 12 years later a hotspot of violence.

 Sudan is currently experiencing violence traceable to Omar al Bashir, the country’s dictatorial ruler who never wanted to leave power at all costs. The armed violence started in the middle of April 2023 amid an apparent power struggle between the two main factions of the military regime.

The Sudanese armed forces are broadly loyal to Gen Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, the country’s de facto ruler, while the paramilitaries of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a collection of militias, follow the former warlord Gen Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

The power struggle has its roots in the years before a 2019 uprising that ousted dictator Omar al Bashir who built up formidable security forces that he deliberately set against one another throughout his almost 30-year rule. It is not easy to predict when the chaos will end, but it has reportedly already claimed 500 human lives; as many as the Luwero Triangle bush war in Uganda claimed from 1981-1985.

Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema is Africa’s longest-serving leader, still in power after 42 years. He deposed his uncle in a 1979 coup and became “the country’s god” with “all power over men and things. He is a close friend of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni, who reportedly provides him with personal security. Obiang, the world’s most enduring non-royal head of state, was last re-elected in 2016. Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, his son (born on June 25 1968, nicknamed Teodorín) is the vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, in office since 2016. He is like the President of Equatorial Guinea in waiting.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya has been in office for more than 38 years. He was re-elected in 2018 for a seventh term. Born Paul Barthélemy Biya’a bi Mvondo on 13 February 1933, Biya is the president of Cameroon since November 6, 1982. He is the second-longest-ruling president in Africa, the longest consecutively serving current non-royal national leader in the world and the oldest head of state in the world. He rules by remote-sensing from Paris, France. It is impossible to do so unless all the instruments of violence organs are linked to him.

President, Denis Sassou Nguesso, is the long-serving president of the Republic of Congo (Congo-Brazzaville), Denis Sassou-Nguesso was born on November 23, 1943 and has held power for 36 years and doesn’t look like exiting. He was re-elected for a fourth term on March 21, 2023

In southern Africa’s tiny Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, King Mswati III is the continent’s last absolute monarch. He ascended the throne in 1986.

  • A Tell report / By Oweyegha-Afunaduula, a former professor of environment at Makerere University, Uganda 

About author

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *