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The difference between Museveni And Mugabe

By Owei Lakemfe
THE Ugandan capital, Kampala was  wracked by riots on September 11 and 12, 2009 in which 14 persons were listed dead, over 80 injured and more than 550 arrested.

The violence was sparked off following a power tussle between President Yoweri  Kaguta Museveni and  the Kabaka (traditional ruler) of the Baganda people who mainly populate the central  part of the country, including Kampala.

Museveni  had prevented King Roland Muwenda Mutebi from attending a youth festival in a province which it claimed might become violent. Some Bagandans  who saw Museveni’s move as an insult on their monarch took to the streets.

This was a sort of political revolt by the Baganda after whose ancient kingdom the country derived its name. Also, the Bagandans  do not appear to have fully accepted the creation of the country in early 20th Century by the British colonialists.

In any case they feel that their degree of control on political power is not commensurate with their status. So, it is once again the issue of  colonial state creation, and whether colonial boundaries should remain sacrosanct.

The protests and the President/Kabaka power tussle is a throw back to the political rivalries in Uganda since its October 9, 1962 independence. The colonialists left a country with no defined political structure or system.

Given its multi-ethnic composition and different pre-colonial kingdoms, it should have been a federation; it was not, yet it was not unitary as the Bagandans, for instance, seemed autonomous. It should have been republican, but it wasn’t as the then Kabaka, King  Edward Mutesa II  became president of the country in 1963, yet it was not a monarchy.

The elected head of government was Apolo Milton Obote. There was bound to be a power tussle and it came in 1966 when there were claims of a plot to overthrow  Obote. He fought back, detaining five ministers and removing the Kabaka as Head of State. The Baganda in reaction gave the central government an April 30, 1966 ultimatum  to withdraw from Bagandan soil which included Kampala.

Six days before the expiration, Obote  sent troops to the Kabaka’s palace which was sacked and King Mutesa fled into exile in Britain where he died in 1969.

The recent protests which highlighted the lack of federalism, deficient democratic structures, political intolerance and excessive use of force did not elicit the type of international condemnation it would have attracted had it occurred in a country like Zimbabwe.

As the events in Uganda were unfolding, an European  Union (EU) delegation was visiting Zimbabwe. It said on September 13 that despite “open and frank” discussions  with Mugabe, the EU will not lift sanctions against the African country or resume development aid because  power has not been fully shared between President  Robert Gabriel Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Karel de Gucht argued that both men “… do not have the same reading of the same document. They have a different reading on how this should be done and at what speed”.

The delegation which said there are still reports of human rights violation in Zimbabwe complained that  the ruling ZANU-PF party was blocking the appointment of a new Attorney General, regional governors and head of the Central Bank.

Clearly the EU’s behaviour is like that of a colonial power prescribing how an independent country should run its affairs. In fact, there are calls in some European countries  and America that Mugabe be ousted from power and tried at the Hague for “ crimes against humanity”.

So why is Europe and America so vociferous on the power sharing deal in Zimbabwe and almost silent on the events in Uganda?

First, Mugabe and Museveni share some similarities. Both are strong-willed, long serving African heads of state; the former for 29 years and the latter for 23. They have strong  Pan-Africanist credentials and were involved in liberation struggles; Mugabe to oust the colonialists and to support the anti- apartheid struggles in South Africa, and Museveni to remove the evil Idi Amin Dada regime  and later, assist the Rwandan people to stop genocide and enthrone a much more inclusive liberal democracy.

They also share some differences. After the liberation struggle Mugabe repeatedly won elections; in the case of Museveni, another person, Prof Yusuf Lule became president but was overthrown in 1979 by a ‘Political Commission’  which had Museveni as Vice Chairman. In subsequent elections, Museveni lost, he took to armed struggle and militarily seized the country in 1986.

But they also have marked differences. While Mugabe came into power through popular elections, Museveni did through the barrel of the gun; the former runs a multi-party system with a strong opposition, the latter  in practice runs a no-party or zero party  system he calls “Movement” and brooks no opposition. While Mugabe shares power with the opposition, Museveni does not.

The civil society organisations and trade unions in Zimbabwe are free, strong and independent, those in Uganda are not really free, are weak and mainly under government control.

So, historically and statistically, Mugabe has far more liberal democratic origins and credentials than Museveni, but the West battles the former because he is regarded as anti-imperialist,  had the guts to redistribute lands  stolen by  the Whites, does not accept lectures and dictation from the West and their institutions, and calls their bluff. On the other hand, Europe and America see Museveni as their ally.

These are reasons why they continuously fight Mugabe and over-look whatever Museveni does in Uganda. The future of Africa cannot be served by new forms of colonialism;  what is needed is for Africans to think through and determine their development agenda .

To rely on the West to think for her can only produce the same rotten fruits of under-development   and backwardness which neo-colonialism has foisted on the continent.


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