Re-ethnicisation of Uganda, suppression of opinion have rigged the Pearl of Africa into East Africa’s Museveni Inc

Re-ethnicisation of Uganda, suppression of opinion have rigged the Pearl of Africa into East Africa’s Museveni Inc


Uganda’s indigenous communities have become more and more marginalised as the new penetrants with ethnic interests become stinkingly greedy and wealthy. Apparently even refugees, who enjoy great affinity to the powers that be, are benefitting at the expense of the nationals.

Thus, Uganda’s future crisis is snowballing, but the governing elite are either burying their heads in the sand or are outrightly clueless.

We should not postpone recording that runaway corruption in Uganda reflects ethnic and refugee interests. This is an inviting area for researchers to delve into. It might turn out that these interests constitute a major reason why corruption is spiralling upwards.

Indeed, on more than one occasion President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni has stated that what matters are ideology and interests, not identity. To a very big extent, therefore, this explains the nature, construction, injustices, oppression, leadership, governance and segregation in Uganda’s political spectrum today. It lays bare the lie in the slogan: Securing Your Future.

It is important to emphasise that the whole is always greater than its parts, and even if we put all the parts together, we never get the whole because the whole is its own, with its own characteristics that cannot be replicated by any part or parts of it. However, the interconnections and interdependences of its parts are critical in contributing to the uniqueness of the whole.

Uganda is one whole. It has its own ethnicities, clannism, indigenous groups, its clusters of refugees, leadership quality and governance styles, energy systems, ecologies and environments different from those of Kenya, Tanzania, for example. Definitely, Uganda’s development and the resources fuelling it are different.

Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the founding members of the original East African Community, may have agreed to renew the spirit of East African regionalism but are so unlike especially in the way they pursue development, prioritise development and utilise their resources for development. For example, whereas a Uganda president manifests as a strongman who combines absolutism and authoritarianism in the development process, and can afford to say “Uganda has its own owner” and “My oil”, in true fashion of individualising ownership of the development process, the Presidents of Kenya and Tanzania can only refer to each other’s country, resources and development process as “Our country, our resources, our development process”.

In this case, the president of Uganda can use a national budget, or retune it, in the process of actualising, it to serve his personal interests and goals, but the president of Kenya or Tanzania cannot because their countries are focused on democratising themselves.

In terms of governance, the differences between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania is multi-fold. In Uganda, the Constitution vests all power and authority in the institution of the presidency and places all the country’s sovereignty in the hands of the president, who cannot be tried in any court in the land so long as he is president. Besides, the political party, through which Museveni derives his legitimacy to rule, manifests more or less as a personal possession, with the other party leaders propping and protecting his power.

Also, by design, the President of Uganda is perennial, with elections, which can be manipulated to serve his political interests of sticking to power at all costs, serving to legitimise and cast his reign as a product of the popular vote. Indeed, each Presidential election since1996, has purposely cast President Tibuhaburwa Museveni as the most popular politician in the country.

This is likely to continue so long as his health allows him to continue seeking re-election. There are enough self-interested ad greedy elite, now stinkingly rich, ever-ready to ensure that the President is in power for life. They hardly think beyond the president.

What all this has meant is that for development to be seen to be taking place in Uganda, the President of Uganda, for that matter, President Yoweri Tibuhaburwa Museveni, must be central to it. Also, central to it must be the politics he prefers to obtain in the country, which is the politics of exclusion, dispossession, depoliticisation, dehumanisation, denationalisation, de-citizenisation, deintellectualisation, deradicalisation, disempowerment and impoverishment of the general populace while enriching a small group of ethnically-related individuals or families. 

The culture of money and the religion of poverty are central to this politics. Consequently, Museveni has emerged and is cast by his followers, as more or less a demi-god, greater than Uganda. Simultaneously, his political party, National Resistance Movement (registered with the Electoral Commission as National Resistance Movement Organization or NRM0) is also looming large in the fashion of a religion – Movement religion.

Collaborative research, which should be underway at our numerous universities, would confirm or reject these assertions.

Therefore, in my view, Uganda is effectively being ‘Musevenised’ and ‘NRM-nised’ as if the aim is to effectively occupy, weaken and exclude any possible alternative leadership, or else turn the country into a closed society where everything continuously begins with President Museveni, ends with President Museveni and is endorsed by the Movement to confer acceptability and legitimacy. This could explains the repeatedly recited song “NRM will rule for 100 years”; a modification of the late Minister Basoga-Nsadhu’s “NRM will rule for 1000 years”.

While the refrain is repeated over and over, no thought is given to the existence of a divine, supreme Almighty God who has frequently intervened to frustrate the fortunes, preferences and predictions of men of power.

In the true spirit of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni and NRM being greater than Uganda, the strategy now is to destroy or manipulate the fragile minds of Ugandans and tune them to hereditary and dynastical leadership whereby if a current ruler leaves, his son takes over.

We have for long now heard of the concept “Alternative Generator” within the NRM. This simply means that if the president leaves, his son, General Muhoozi Kainerugaba, takes over. Almost strategically, NRM has been split up into two major factions: the Tibuhaburwa Museveni (TM) faction and the Muhoozi Kainerugaba (MK) faction. There is another shadowy faction, the Odrek Rwabogo (OR) faction. Museveni explained the cleavage by blaming it on NRM-party internal weaknesses, forgetting that behind every problem is the problem of leadership.

The president is the sole perennial, unchallenged sole top leader of the party. The products of the cleavage (Tibuhaburwa Museveni, Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Odrek Rwabogo) are, however, not at all antagonistic. They all aim to ensure that power does not get out of the family. The expected role of Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Nobert Mao is to effect the necessary constitutional changes to ensure, as he has frequently told Ugandans, a smooth transfer of power from President Tibuhaburwa Museveni – to most likely his son – not through universal suffrage, but approval by the excessively NRM-dominated parliament.

It is unlikely such a strategy would favour the OR faction, although by getting approval by Parliament in the 2023/24 national budget for Ush37 billion ($10 million) to promote business, Odrek Rwabogo has the money to enhance his visibility in the country.  What, however, all this means is that electoral politics by universal suffrage is being squeezed out of the political spectrum of Uganda. It also means political pluralism will be a thing of the past.

Already the three individuals are traversing the country (President Tibuhaburwa Museveni was temporarily interrupted by Covid-19, according to his public pronouncement) with different reasons why they should appeal to Ugandans. The security organs that often swing in action to debilitate Opposition parties when they try to access the electorate, are providing the three “contesting individuals” all the security they need, of course at public cost.

Like Napoleon Bonaparte of France, Museveni is using parliament to get everything he wanted for himself and the country. It is evident President Tibuhaburwa Museveni is entrenching dynastical rule, which Napoleon sought to achieve through a controversial parliamentary process, and is sure to get it through Parliament.

In effect, Uganda is retrogressing to the era of NRM-designed one party state when to survive politically one had to identify himself or herself with the ruling party or with President Museveni even if one professed Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), Conservative Party (CP) or Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM). This is the last stroke on the existence of a plural polity. Already, all the parties (UPC, DP and other small parties) are more or less enjoying affinity to the NRM and do not challenge the ruling party anymore).

Uganda is emerging and is maturing into a glorified politico-military and military-political state. Other schools of thought assert the country under Movement rule is a Deep State in which unelected people have more power and influence than the elected officials. This is why democratisation in Uganda is a nightmare. There can be no democratization where a Deep State reigns.   

Despite all this manipulation of the politics, governance of Uganda, amidst so much political illiteracy tending to give the impression that President Tibuhaburwa and NRM own Uganda, I must re-emphasise that Uganda is bigger than Museveni and NRM. By extension it is bigger than Muhoozi Kainerugaba and Odrek Rwabogo or, for that matter, the ruling family of President Tibuhaburwa Museveni.

Uganda will definitely outlast all of them and ultimately liberate itself from the clutches of political domination by an unfairly moneyed and militarized group of power-hungry people. Besides, Uganda will only develop when everyone has a fair opportunity to participate in its development, leadership and governance.

A situation whereby lords and slaves relate to each other leaves development to the lords only and impoverishment to the slaves. The lords will own everything and take even the little the slaves have. Disadvantage of the majority will be institutionalised and advantage will accrue to a minority perennially. The state will have no value to the majority and will continually grow at the expense of the oppressed. I have already written about apartheid-like governance in Uganda in another article. This is what is unfolding and it is unfortunate for Africa in general and Uganda in particular.

If Uganda was liberated, it needs another liberation, not necessarily by gunpower. Mind liberation must be the way forward first sooner than later. Many Public intellectuals must liberate themselves and be active again to liberate and connect minds in the struggle against apartheid-like governance. Later will be too late.

Vulnerable Ugandans have been conditioned to think and believe Uganda cannot tick unless President Museveni is at the helm of power. However, he is not immortal and has lived for a longer period than he will ever live.

A mind liberation by public intellectuals scattered across the social strata of the country will prepare the populace for the reality of a Uganda without the president and help ward off a snowballing catastrophe.

For God and my country – Uganda!

  • A Tell report / By Prof Oweyegha-Afunaduula, a former professor in the Department of Environmental Science of the Makerere University, Uganda
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