Wednesday, December 07, 2005


The Slow Slide from Liberator to Dictator

The story of Yoweri Museveni’s transformation from model African leader to authoritarian ruler seems familiar. But the reality is different and more interesting, says Richard Dowden In search of Ugandan democracy today on openDemocracy

"When Yoweri Museveni fought his way to power in Uganda in 1986 he said he would only need five years to clean up Uganda. Some ten years later he said the same thing. In July 2005 he arranged a change in the 1995 constitution which limits the presidency to two five-year terms, enabling him to stand for re-election in the polls due in March 2006. In January 2006 he will celebrate twenty years in power.

Moreover, when his main rival, Kizza Besigye, returned to Uganda from exile in October to run against him for the presidency, Museveni had him arrested and charged with rape, treason and an assortment of other offences. When it seemed Besigye might be given bail, a group of armed men – not in uniform – snatched him from the courtroom at gunpoint and whisked him away.

This surely is the transformation of a dictator who came to power through the barrel of a gun, legitimised himself through tolerance and democratic institutions but, when faced with an election he might lose, reasserted his military might. Or is it?"

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