Monday, July 23, 2012


Is Museveni still a ‘new breed’ leader?
Former US President Bill Clinton with President Museveni at the National Medical Stores in Entebbe last Friday. Clinton's one-day visit to Uganda aimed at fighting diarrhoea deaths among children. Photo by Stephen Wandera. By Tabu Butagira Posted Monday, July 23 2012 at 01:00 In Summary Former US President Bill Clinton extolled them as reformists, but critics now say the Ugandan leader and his Rwandan as well as Ethiopian counterparts appear cut from the jinxed fabric of African ‘big men’. When Bill Clinton as a sitting US President spoke about the “new breed” of African leaders, he was confident a handful of relatively younger presidents on the continent were reform-minded. The understanding was they would not behave like the ‘old guards’ who considered it a right to rule for life because they led the struggle for their countries’ independence. These ‘big men’ imprisoned opponents they could not kill or bribe, lived lavishly as majority citizens wallowed in poverty and offered perks to secure soldiers’ loyalty. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi – feted by Mr Clinton in the “new breed” league – either staged a coup or shot their way to power following a bloody guerilla war. But they promised reform and inspired. For instance, Mr Museveni in his inaugural 1986 speech said Africa’s problem is leaders who overstay in power. He, derided Presidents on the continent who flew to attend UN summits in New York in private jets while leaving in their backyards citizens walking barefoot and jigger-infested. Thus Uganda assumed a special place in the West because under Mr. Museveni, the country imbibed structural adjustment programmes that IMF and the World Bank prescribed and enforced with rigour as the right medicine for its struggling economy. Liberal era Liberalisation returned foreign investors to Uganda to revive collapsed or ailing industries, making available scarce essential household items and creating private sector jobs. The Ugandan economy grew uninterrupted at about 8-9 per cent per annum. Share This Story The Bretten Woods institutions in turn rewarded Kampala with more loans and debt relief, without asking or answering the question why a well-performing economy would fail to service its debt. Because the country was recuperating from a ‘sick’ economy and tumultuous political period, the promulgation in 1995 of a liberal Constitution coupled with restoration of the rule of law as well as human security in most parts of the country put the former guerilla leader in his own class and endeared him even to critics. As such it surprised a little – if at all - that a US President labeled Museveni one of Africa’s “new breed” leaders. Does that appellation hold true today? “Yes,” said Presidential spokesperson Mirundi Tamale. “If you want to know that Museveni qualified and still qualifies as a ‘new breed’ (of) African leader,” Mr Tamale said, “You need to revisit where Uganda was before Museveni became President in 1986, and the socio-economic transformation since then, which is the context in which Bill Clinton made that statement.” Many things in Africa have changed since Clinton’s 1998 visit, dubbed the most ambitious ever by a sitting American President, and since he left the White House in 2001. Gaddafi is dead and buried at an undisclosed location after more than 40 years in power. And Museveni, one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, is now a military general, his wife Janet Kataha a cabinet minister and their 38-year-old son Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who formally enlisted in the army only in 1999, a colonel and commander of the powerful and elite Special Forces Group. The President, in a coil of fate, cruises to New York in a Gulfstream V plane to attend UN meetings while jiggers kill villagers in the eastern Busoga region. He had presidential term limits scrapped in 2005 to keep in power cumulatively now for 26 years - a period within which the US has had five different presidents, two of whom served two terms of four years each! In Kampala, soldiers were rushed onto the streets to protect Museveni’s 2011 February victory and court had previously ruled that the 2001 and 2006 ballots he won were rife with irregularities. Economic growth is crawling at a 3.2 per cent, roughly three in every 10 Ugandans live in abject poverty, external debt has according to official statistics piled to more than $4 billion (over Shs8 trillion). Mr Clinton on Saturday learned firsthand the desperation of rural Ugandans when Senior Two student Bill Clinton Kaligana, named in his honour during a visit 14 years ago, told the former US leader that his mother could not afford his $76 per-term tuition ($228 per year), and asked for his help.

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