President Museveni didn’t forego any comfort in 1981

Speaking in Jinja recently, the eloquent Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mr Jacob Oulanyah described President Museveni as a heroic figure who snubbed the alternative of a comfortable life, complete with air-conditioned offices and cars, to go to the bush.

I don’t know whether Oulanyah was referring to 1971 or 1981 either way, he was wrong. Museveni’s options in 1981 were similar to those that came to be Kizza Besigye’s two decades later: exile, imprisonment or armed rebellion.

Indeed, in a 2011 interview with Charles Onyango-Obbo, former premier Kintu Musoke revealed that after the 1981 elections, the UPM leaders held a meeting to chart the way forward and, after the majority had resolved on the pacifist option, Museveni told them: “You can do whatever you want. But, as for me, I will not sit here and wait for Obote’s people to come and arrest me. I will fight them.”

Whereas Besigye, finding himself in similar circumstances in 2001, opted for exile and (subsequently) imprisonment, Museveni opted for armed rebellion.

Those who have probed into the circumstances surrounding the 1971 coup also reveal that when Museveni fled the country on January 26, he did so under the promptings of self-preservation since he was on coup makers’ hit list.

Museveni has never forfeited the alternative of an “air-conditioned” life. If Oulanyah is looking for a hero in the mould of the Biblical Moses who, according to Hebrews 11, forfeited palatial pleasures to suffer the afflictions of the wilderness, he should consider Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, and perhaps join the Forum for Democratic Change.

Museveni has never made such a choice, and whereas it’s fine to sing the praises of our heroes, such praise shouldn’t be at the expense of historical truth.

The really remarkable thing about Museveni’s story is that he accepted the thorny bed that destiny had made for him, and after lying on it long enough, got a reward from the very same destiny.

Let nobody fool us that victory either in 1979 or in 1986 was a function of superior military strategy. In 1978, Idi Amin, by invading Tanzania, gave the exiles the victory they would never have otherwise got.

These exiles, Museveni included, had been thoroughly defeated and humiliated in Mbarara in 1972, and they had hit a dead end and settled in other careers before Amin’s impetuous invasion gave them a lifeline.

Similarly, the triumph of 1986 is attributable to the tribal fissures within the UNLA that deepened after the death of Oyite Ojok and resulted in the 1985 coup.
The truth then is that Museveni fought because he was cornered by circumstances, and his road to triumph was paved by the folly and weaknesses of his enemies more than it was paved by his own wisdom and strength.

There was an unmistakable hand of destiny in the whole affair, which is why there may be some truth in the claim that he was anointed to lead us. But remember the Biblical Saul. He too was anointed to lead Israel, and then after he went astray, the anointing was withdrawn and given to David.

Just like his predecessors, Museveni will come down because of the folly and weaknesses of his regime, rather than the wisdom and strength of his challengers.
Increasingly, corruption and incompetence are becoming the defining characteristics of his government. Due to the poor quality of education, most civil servants cannot systematically study the problems of society and devise efficient and effective solutions. Instead, these civil servants are busy pilfering public funds.

Several security agencies intervened in the pension funds fraud because the scale of the theft was considered a potential threat to national security.

Actually, all corruption threatens national security because money is ending up in a few undeserving hands, and the millions of desperate youth will, like the Museveni of 1981, find themselves with no alternative but to take matters in their own hands.

Mr Twinamatsiko is a civil engineer and novelist. nicklison@yahoo.com

SOURCE: Daily Monitor

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