Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Museveni Messiah or Megalomaniac?


 This profile of Uganda's President Museveni ran in a 1998 edition of Focus on Africa. 14 years later, it makes very revealing reading.

"Despite this it is hard to dislike Museveni, who has great personal charm. He is not threatened by dissenting views. He holds frequent press conferences and yawns widely if the questions are dull. He is a gifted public speaker and always willing to learn: he rings up businessmen and journalists to find out more about issues that interest him. He does not kowtow to foreign dignitaries.



It is easy to see how Museveni, who is a talented diplomat, has managed to glide across the diplomatic stage. He is funny without being frivolous, human without being intimate. He has a soft spot for women, and in particular for those whom he can assume a paternalistic role. During President Bill Clinton’s recent visit he tipped his head coyly and smiled at ‘his daughter’, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Susan Rice, who beamed back appreciatively. 

The president has simple tastes; he does not drink or smoke and takes tea from a flask. When he travels up-country, he carries with him photos of his children and also his cows. Pictures of both are interspersed in his photo album: a sad bovine face stares out of one page next to a photograph of his mother. He enjoys listening to praise songs to his cattle, played by a group from his ranch, and always available on a battered cassette-player to lull him to sleep. 

Museveni’s achievements, confidence and charisma explain the hold he has over much of the population-including the army, who adore him. But it has also helped to create a feeling that without Museveni to whip the government into line, the system would collapse. 

Museveni’s critics claim he has encouraged this view by refusing to give real power to his ministers and by stifling political opponents. He is rarely challenged partly because under the Movement system, political parties spend all their time struggling for survival rather than building alternative policies. The president laughs this off, claiming there are many Ugandans who could take his place when he eventually retires to tend to his cows...." 

Anna Borzello report(ed)s for the BBC from Kampala (Focus on Africa, July-September 1998.)  

1 comment:

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