By Patience Atuhaire

BBC News, Kampala


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Ugandans underneath the age of 35 – and that’s greater than three-quarters of the inhabitants – have solely recognized one president.

Yoweri Museveni, who got here to energy on the again of an armed rebellion in 1986, has defied the political legal guidelines of gravity which have felled different long-serving leaders within the area.

The 76-year-old’s time on the prime has been accompanied by an extended interval of peace and massive developmental adjustments for which many are grateful. But he has managed to keep up his grip on energy by a combination of encouraging a character cult, using patronage, compromising impartial establishments and sidelining opponents.

During the final election 5 years in the past when he addressed the problem of him stepping down, he requested: “How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”

For this revolutionary the harvest remains to be not over.

media captionFive issues you must find out about Uganda’s elections

My introduction to the president got here within the Nineteen Nineties within the type of a college play by which the turbulence of the Milton Obote and Idi Amin years was acted out.

The piece climaxed on 26 January 1986, with Mr Museveni’s National Resistance Army liberating the nation, bringing an finish to wars and mindless killings.

It is that this picture of the person as liberator and peace-bringer that many Ugandans have been raised on, and are reminded of at each alternative.

Presidential press-ups

He can also be a fatherly and grandfatherly determine.

Many younger Ugandans seek advice from the president by the nickname “Sevo”, and he fondly calls them Bazukulu (that means grandchildren within the Luganda language).

But the household man doesn’t see himself as a typical ageing patriarch, reclining in his favorite chair along with his kids and grandchildren fussing round.

In his marketing campaign for his sixth elected time period in workplace, which feels prefer it began straight after the final election, he has been traversing the nation, launching factories, opening roads and new markets.

And with a watch on his comparatively youthful challenger, 38-year-old former pop star Bobi Wine, Mr Museveni has been eager to indicate his vitality. Last April, to encourage train throughout lockdown he was filmed doing press-ups, after which repeated the trick a number of instances together with in entrance of cheering college students in November.

After work final night time, I challenged my Bazukulu to an indoor work-out. We did Forty Push-ups.

Just like I’ve all the time suggested, even at your personal dwelling, you may keep protected, and stay match and wholesome.

— Yoweri Ok Museveni (@KagutaMuseveni) August 5, 2020

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“If your father loves you, he has to empower you. In the next five years, ‘Sevo’ will make sure that when we finish school, we are able to get jobs,” 25-year-old Angela Kirabo says, bearing on the problem of youth unemployment, which is a serious supply of concern.

The economics graduate is a proud Muzukulu (grandchild), having grown up in a household supporting the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM). She additionally served as vice-chairperson of the celebration’s chapter at college and thinks the president nonetheless has loads to supply after 35 years in energy.

Presidential age limits overturned

One of his closest associates and advisors, John Nagenda, says Mr Museveni’s selflessness is one motive for his capability to encourage loyalty.

“He was prepared to die for Uganda. I would say that we are very lucky to have him,” the 82-year-old says.

“Most of the other people that I know who have been presidents, they wanted to do it for themselves; they wanted the glory. But Museveni wants to do [it] for the country and continent… he is an Africanist.”

A woman in a mask in front of a mural


Uganda’s basic election

14 January 2021

  • 18.1mfolks have registered to vote

  • 11candidates are operating for president

  • 1of the candidates is a lady, Nancy Kalembe

  • 5elected phrases thus far for Yoweri Museveni

  • 50% plus 1votes wanted for a candidate to keep away from a run-off election

  • 529MPs may even be elected

Source: Uganda electoral fee

Nevertheless underneath the unique clauses of the 1995 structure the president shouldn’t have run for workplace once more after 2005.

Indeed, earlier than then it was extensively understood that he was in opposition to staying on in energy, dismissing queries concerning the thought, saying that he would slightly return to his farm.

Journalist William Pike, who at one time was seen as very near the president and the NRA, described in his memoir how the president was genuinely upset when requested at a dinner within the early Nineteen Nineties whether or not he needed to remain in energy for the remainder of his life.

“Museveni said: ‘Of course not’, but he was clearly furious at what he considered a real insult. He was not faking it. At that stage he really was not intending to stay on in power,” Mr Pike wrote.

But one thing modified his thoughts in 2004, although it has by no means been clear what precisely that was, and his MPs endorsed the concept the structure must be amended to take away presidential time period limits.

He had the inexperienced mild to face till he reached 75 years of age.

media captionChairs have been thrown in the course of the debate in parliament

And then in December 2017, the constitutional impediment of an age restrict for a presidential candidate was additionally eliminated – a problem which led to brawls on the ground of parliament and a police raid on the constructing.

Many noticed this because the NRM’s option to enable Mr Museveni to turn into president for all times.

It isn’t for nothing that parliament felt compelled to reward the long-serving chief. The willingness of MPs to go together with the adjustments has loads to do with the truth that they felt they owed their positions to the president.

Fewer challenges to authority

The significance of patronage extends proper by society.

It generally manifests as improvement programmes for girls, market distributors and authorities jobs. In a rustic the place 15% of younger individuals are unemployed and over 21% of the inhabitants reside in poverty, aligning with the proper celebration can save a complete village from destitution.

But his supporters level to the transformation of Uganda as a constructive motive to offer Mr Museveni 5 extra years.

“If you come from the north and east you will understand that a big achievement of peace has been brought. For 20 years those regions were engulfed in war,” says 28-year-old Jacob Eyeru, who leads the federal government’s National Youth Council.

While acknowledging that joblessness is a fear, he provides that the NRM has “transformed the economy to make it not just regionally competitive but also globally competitive”.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionMr Museveni’s supporters imagine he nonetheless has loads to supply

Despite these adjustments he has additionally weakened the independence of a number of the nation’s key establishments to make sure fewer challenges to his authority.

The judiciary has not been spared, and in recent times has been accused of recruiting so-called “cadre judges”, who’re loyal to the federal government.

When judges have taken impartial choices, they’ve generally discovered themselves at loggerheads with the authorities.

For instance, on 16 December 2005, extremely educated armed safety personnel raided the High Court within the capital, Kampala, and re-arrested members of the suspected insurgent People’s Redemption Army, who had simply been acquitted of treason expenses.

“They turned the Temple of Serenity into a theatre of war,” Justice James Ogoola wrote in a poem concerning the incident entitled Rape of the Temple.

When it involves difficult election outcomes, the end result of each presidential race, besides the 2011 one, has been contested in court docket. In all circumstances, the courts dominated that the irregularities weren’t critical sufficient to warrant an annulment.

media captionPresident Yoweri Museveni and singer Bobi Wine are preventing for Uganda’s youth vote

The media has additionally had its independence threatened.

On the floor, Uganda has a energetic media trade which has grown to lots of of personal radio and TV stations, print shops, and internet-based providers underneath Mr Museveni.

“In the early days, before cynicism and rot set in, there was a strand of intellectualism within the regime that tolerated dissenting views and was able to debate and disagree with them,” says Daniel Kalinaki, the Nation Media Group’s General Manager for Editorial, in Kampala.

But shops have been raided and journalists detained, because the main lights within the authorities have turn into “increasingly thin-skinned”, Mr Kalinaki provides.

But maybe probably the most important think about Mr Museveni’s longevity is the way in which that any potential opposition pressure has been neutered.

Opposition supporters shot useless

As it turned clear 20 years in the past that he was going to remain in energy, a few of his former associates began to interrupt away. As they did, the safety forces, touted as a folks’s police and armed forces, turned their weapons on these political opponents.

Kizza Besigye of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, as soon as Mr Museveni’s doctor, first ran in opposition to him within the 2001 election. He has been detained and prosecuted on quite a few expenses, together with rape and treason, however has by no means been convicted.

picture copyrightGetty Images

picture captionPresidential candidate Bobi Wine has proved a preferred draw for a lot of younger voters

Now that Bobi Wine, a singer whose actual identify is Robert Kyagulanyi, is mounting a critical problem to the president’s rule, he has turn into the most recent politician to face the wrath of the boys in uniform.

The MP, whose star energy attracts big crowds of younger folks, was brutally arrested throughout a colleague’s by-election marketing campaign within the north-western city of Arua in 2018. He then confronted treason expenses which have been later dropped.

On the marketing campaign path for this election, the police have arrested, tear-gassed and shot at him and his supporters for defying coronavirus restrictions on the gathering of huge teams.

During two days of protests in November following Bobi Wine’s arrest, 54 folks have been killed, lots of them believed to have been shot by the safety forces.

Sticking your head above the parapet in Uganda is a courageous selection and anybody who seeks to problem Mr Museveni must be in little doubt concerning the degree of harassment that they’re more likely to face.

Through his 35 years in cost, he has come to sit down on the apex of energy the place he’s in complete management. He has additionally managed to reinvent himself.

Whereas he was as soon as the political upstart in his early 40s, anybody taking over that position now dangers incurring his appreciable wrath.