NEVER SHOOT THE MESSENGER. THIS IS AN ARTICLE FROM 2014 by a fellow #Ugandan whom some people choose not to pay attention to. You should listen to him no matter which party you belong to. He writes serious articles about us.
By Eric Kashambuzi
When Museveni became president of Uganda in 1986 riding on the crest of a guerrilla victory, he was showered with praise as an intellectual that had picked up the gun to save Uganda and her people. He soon became the blue-eyed boy and darling of the West, especially of the United States of America.
He was showered with money and invitation to attend the annual G8 Summits of industrialized countries for boldly launching “shock therapy” stabilization and a structural adjustment programme (SAP) that was shunned or amended by governments including Chile, Ghana and Tanzania. Against this backdrop, Museveni began to speak and write with confidence without realizing that a spoken or written word never dies; to make and break promises without worrying about the repercussions and to behave as though he had won permanent glory no matter what he subsequently committed or omitted.
Sadly, while recently attending the historic U.S. – Africa Leaders’ Summit, Museveni got a rude shock of his life. He was marginalized and even attacked for his reckless remarks and broken promises that did not sit down well with many people in the United States. People who had followed Museveni develop a special relationship with the United States of America especially the anti-terrorism collaboration, expected a warm welcome notwithstanding signing the anti-gay bill. Museveni’s actions had gone against American values in some respects.
Early in his administration, Museveni was interviewed by an American reporter. During that interview Museveni made a statement to the effect that he did not blame whites for enslaving Africans, adding that if you are stupid you should be taken a slave, implying that Africans were taken slaves because they were stupid. As expected this statement did not go down well with African Americans. In preparation for Museveni visit, the statement was dag up and published. An African-American Congressman in the United States House of Representatives picked it up and used it to discredit Museveni. The same representative had written to stop Sam Kutesa from becoming president of the United Nations General Assembly. That was the first blow.
On April 4, 1997, Museveni made a statement about bringing states in the Great Lakes Region and in the Horn of Africa into a federation. He said that he was following in the footsteps of Hitler who had tried to bring together the German people. He described Hitler as a smart man. This statement like the one on slave trade did not go down well with American people especially those who lost their loved ones during the Second World War including six million Jews. This statement was dag up and published before Museveni arrived in the United States, adding an injury to a wound.
Shortly after becoming president, Museveni made a solemn promise, underscoring that he had accepted leadership of Uganda to clean up the mess, restore security and democracy and then retire. He emphasized that he was one of those fellows not very keen to remain in public life for a long time. When his term was up in 1990, he appealed for an extension because more work remained to be done under his leadership. The public and parliament objected. He was saved by Cardinal Emmanuel Nsubuga who pleaded to Ugandans to give Museveni an extra five years to stabilize the country and arrange an orderly succession. That was 1990: it is now 2014 and Museveni has not been able to arrange a succession. He broke his promise.
When President Obama became president, he advised that leaders that had stayed in power too long needed to retire. Museveni did not accept this advice. Accordingly the United States was not able to extend a warm welcome to a leader that has been in power continuously since 1986 and still counting. The US-Africa Leaders’ Summit was primarily about strengthening trade and investment between America and Africa. Therefore for panel discussions, the organizers picked African leaders that had created conditions for stimulating investments including in the manufacturing sectors. The record from Uganda was one of broken promises.
In an interview he gave in 1991, Museveni stressed that Uganda would be industrialized within 15 years, insisting that he had no doubt about that because nothing could stop him. This promise has been broken. Not only has industrialization not taken place, but the country is de-industrializing. Some manufacturing enterprises have been closed including an AGOA factory, the Tri-Star Apparel plant, Uganda Bata factory, Steel Rolling Mills. Other factories have relocated outside Uganda and yet others are operating below installed capacity. Some Americans that have tried to invest in Uganda are complaining about lack of infrastructure, institutions, skilled human power and rampant corruption. Accordingly, Museveni could not be selected as one of the African panellists because there are no good lessons to offer.
Not least, although the anti-gay bill which Museveni signed into law against objections of many at home and abroad was annulled a few days before Museveni arrived in the United States, damage had already been done to his reputation. Thus, singly or in concert Museveni’s reckless statements, broken promises, corruption, sectarianism and cronyism undermined his credibility and visibility during his visit to the United States. Whatever corrective measures he undertakes, it will likely be difficult to restore the glory he enjoyed before the start of the 21st century. To save the little credibility he still enjoys, it is advisable that Museveni steps down without further delay so that a transitional government is formed to rebuild the “Pearl of Africa”.
Prof Eric Kashambuzi is international Consultant on Development Issues. He lives in New York.