Last week at a televised event to celebrate the 31-year anniversary since the day he and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) seized power, Uganda’s U.S.-backed ruler Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni angrily declared to the citizens that “I am not your servant.”
In an electoral democracy, which Uganda is constitutionally, the nation’s leader is indeed a servant of the citizens and is supposed to serve at the pleasure of the voters.
Gen. Museveni knows that as president of Uganda, not only is he a servant, he’s the most senior, or supreme servant, as head of the government comprised of junior servants.
Gen. Museveni is well aware of this as fact; one need only recall his own words from 1986 when he first seized power to confirm this: “The sovereign power in the land must be the population, not the government. The government should not be the master, but the servant of the people.”
So, why would Gen. Museveni now suddenly declare to Ugandans that “I am not your servant?”
Is Gen. Museveni finally telling Ugandans openly what the citizens know anyway? That he is in fact a military ruler and that the constitution, the political campaigning, the election, the swearing-in, are all mere formalities or window dressing?
If that’s the case, he should explicitly state so and allow the citizens to decide on how to also openly confront that reality. Perhaps Gen. Museveni has had some sleepless nights, bothered by the many challenges to his legitimacy since there is reportedly strong evidence that he and hand-picked election commission chair Badru
Kiggundu rigged last February’s presidential election? Ugandan election observers, the observer teams from the European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth, and even Gen. Museveni’s primary foreign benefactor, the United States, did conclude that the February 18, 2016 vote was not free, fair, or credible.
So perhaps Gen. Museveni is acknowledging that he’s not the legitimate president, and therefore can’t possibly be Uganda’s supreme servant, since the vote was rigged. Dr. Kizza Besigye and the millions who voted for him as flag-bearer of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party have been saying this all along. Dr. Besigye even called for an independent audit of the votes which Gen. Museveni rejected.
On the other hand, if Gen. Museveni still means something else when he states “I am not your servant,” might he be admitting that he has not lived up to the compact with Uganda’s citizens, when he took the presidential oath and oath of allegiance last year and after previous elections?
Gen. Museveni did declare, while holding the holy bible, that “in the name of the Almighty God” he “solemnly” affirmed to “faithfully exercise the functions of the President of Uganda” and “uphold, preserve, protect and defend the constitution and observe the laws of Uganda” and also “promote the welfare of the people of Uganda.”
Clearly, Gen. Museveni has not lived up to the presidential oath and oath of allegiance. Let’s consider one instance where he’s clearly violated the oath of office and constitution since his last swearing in on May 12, 2016.
Gen. Museveni promised to “promote the welfare of the people of Uganda”; yet, the nation’s armed forces on November 27, 2016 stormed the palace of King Charles Wesley Mumbere, hereditary ruler of Uganda’s Rwenzuru people resulting in many deaths; even characterized as a massacre. Reports of those killed range from 60 to over 100; this was not promoting the welfare of Ugandans.
Gen. Museveni knows that violating the presidential oath of office and the constitution is treason. Yet, ironically, it was Gen. Museveni who ordered King Mumbere arrested, locked up, and charged with treason. He also ordered Dr. Besigye arrested and charged with treason for declaring that it was he who won the 2016 presidential election.
Of course a good servant of the people would deliver on a promise to improve the standard and quality of living of the citizens. One such servant who kept that vow was Lee Kwan Yu, the late prime minister of Singapore. He ruled from 1959 to 1965, before the country was independent or separated from federation with Malaysia; he then continued in power from 1965 to 1990.
While nominal income measures for countries, unadjusted for standards of living or for net-foreign economic interactions, are not the best barometers, they still provide some useful insight into a country’s economy.
In 1965, Singapore’s estimated nominal gdp per capita was $500 (WorldBank); by the time Lee Kwan Yu retired in 1990 it was $12,766 (IMF), almost 26 times more. The prime minister and his ruling party transformed Singapore from a low-income to wealthy country.
When Gen. Museveni seized power in 1986, Uganda’s nominal gdp per capita was $342 and 30 years later in 2016 it was $623 (IMF); less than 2 times more. (Even if Gen. Museveni’s economists come up with rosier statistics they will never come anywhere close to Lee Kwan Yu’s accomplishments. By 2016 Singapore’s estimated nominal income per head was $53,053.)
So, when Gen. Museveni declares to Ugandans “I am not your servant,” perhaps he’s conceding what the citizens already know; that he will never serve them the way Lee Kwan Yu did the citizens of Singapore.
Gen. Museveni might claim that it’s unfair to compare his performance with that of the leader of an Asian Tiger — this is the term used to refer to the first newly-industrialized countries that in addition to Singapore included Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
In that case, consider Ghana’s performance then: When Museveni seized power Ghana’s nominal income was $711 (IMF); today it’s expanded by nearly 2.5 times to $1,551 and Ghana is a low middle-income country. (The World Bank defines lower middle-income countries as those whose average income ranges from $1,026 to $4,035; in East Africa the only other country that meets the measure is Kenya at $1,522).
In truth, Gen. Museveni knows that he will never transform Uganda into a middle-income country. While campaigning for the 2016 vote he promised voters free hoes to till the soil. How would Uganda transform into middle income in Gen. Museveni’s lifetime while offering hoes to his citizens in the 21st century?
Gen. Museveni, in his burst of megalomania –which has been frequent–also added, “I am just a freedom fighter; I am fighting for myself, for my belief; that’s how I come in.”
In his mind, he is engaged in a personal feud with Gen. Idi Amin and President Milton Obote, two rulers who are now both dead and who were deposed in 1979 and 1985,
respectively. At least he was honest in conceding that his involvement in the freedom struggle was never about Ugandans; it was, in his words, “for myself.”
Gen. Museveni also said: “If anybody thinks you gave me a job, he is deceiving himself. I am just a freedom fighter whom you thought could help you also.” He added, in a tone signifying disgust: “I am not an employee.” This statement clears up another critical issue; the source of his wealth.
Ordinarily, full-time leaders are paid by the treasury from funds from the citizens; the tax-payers, who employ the president. Since Gen. Museveni does not own proprietary intellectual property, such as Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook, or Jeff Bezos’s Amazon, he has opened himself up to speculation. Unless he offers clarification, Ugandans may wonder whether embezzled state funds or loot from the Congo may account for his fortune.
Gen. Museveni’s declaration that “I am not your servant” should not be taken lightly.
If he claims he’s the legitimate president, there’s no debate he is a servant; albeit, a bad servant who has refused to be fired, by constantly rigging elections and rejecting the will of the voters; his employers.
On the other hand, if Gen. Museveni is admitting he’s not the legitimately-elected president of Uganda, then he’s right to confess that he’s therefore not the country’s supreme servant.
He would then have to explain why he’s in State House.