Museveni takes measured route to democracy: Uganda President explains why he resists West's pressure for change

YOWERI MUSEVENI, President of Uganda since 1986, is a one-off, an eccentric. Sometimes he sounds like a Marxist, sometimes like a monetarist. He is an eclectic, an intellectual who took to guerrilla war in the name of democracy and inherited a country that had become synonymous with murder and mayhem.

His analysis of Africa's past owes a lot to Marx but he sees the future in terms of market forces and free enterprise. In conversation he makes astonishing assertions: Europe's drive to expand and dominate world trade and land grew out of its shortage of raw materials. 'But Africa was always self-sufficient, so why bother to go out and conquer? The big kingdoms in Africa came about because people gathered round a wise ruler or a powerful kingdom.'

Mr Museveni came to power in 1986 when his youthful peasant force overthrew the Uganda army after five years of bush warfare. Now he is followed everywhere by nervous and numerous courtiers, like any other African president.

But Mr Museveni's significance is not just that he has restored a measure of peace and order to Uganda. He is the only African leader who is defying Western pressure for multi-party democracy - and winning. However imperfectly or cynically they have implemented democratic processes, all Africa's presidents have been forced to bow to the wind of multi- party democracy and allow opposition political parties to operate. The United States, with Britain and France, is using the international financial institutions and bilateral aid to force political change.

But Mr Museveni has pursued a different path. His argument is simple: multi-party democracy works in Europe where social divisions are horizontal, based on class. In Africa the divisions are vertical, based on tribe. Multi- party democracy in Africa leads to tribalism and division.

Instead of a multi-party election, Ugandans are to elect a constituent assembly later this year. Candidates must stand as individuals, parties remain banned. The assembly will debate a draft constitution already drawn up by an appointed commission and vote on it within a year. Its most difficult task will be to decide whether to continue with the 'no-party' state or opt, against Mr Museveni's wishes, for multi-party democracy. ('But if that is what they decide I will support them,' he says.)

The following year there will be elections - under whatever system the assembly decides - and a presidential election. He irritably dismisses the suggestion that a no-party democracy serves his own interest and rejects the analysis that if multi- party democracy became tribally based, he would lose out as he comes from a small tribe.

Western pressure is politely deflected. 'They used to say 'he's a dictator but he's all right'. Now they have swung from supporting dictatorships to another mistake - multi-party democracy . . . We will try to persuade the Americans but if we don't we shall go our own way.'

Mr Museveni says the West does not understand Africa: 'You don't understand subtlety . . . My advice to the West is not to interfere too much in Africa. If interference could bring development then Africa would be the most developed continent in the world.'

He argues that the West misunderstands the pressure for political change in Africa. He says it is for participation, not necessarily for multi-party democracy. 'Pressure for change is coming from exclusion. So many people have been excluded from the political process. It is a struggle for participation.'

After three years of rapid political change in Africa, the results have not been encouraging. Too many countries have rushed into elections under Western pressure only to find they have exacerbated division rather than engendered unity and stability.

Only South Africa and Uganda are taking the time to reflect on what sort of politics suits their society. In the long term, that exercise might be their salvation.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL DBA (2005/2008/2012, projects, storage requirements)

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

Copywriter - Corporate clients - Wimbledon

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Copywriter - London As a Copywrite...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Retail Lecturer / Assessor / Tutor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are succ...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried