Reality checks among Ugandans began to truly sink in during the 2000s, as may be deduced from the fact that the media began to tell another single story for President Museveni – he was not the messiah after all.
Nevertheless, in 2001 President Museveni again contested and won Uganda’s Presidential elections with the endorsement of 69.4 percent of Uganda’s voting electorate choosing him to continue ‘serving’. It is popularly believed that many Ugandans thought that the 2001-2006 term would be his last term in office and that is why they overwhelmingly voted for him once more.
The logic followed: let us reward and show appreciation of the messiah one more time for he is a great leader. Some may find similarities with such logic with what is currently going on in Rwanda. The Rwanda parliament has changed Rwanda’s Constitution in order to allow for President Kagame to remain president longer – he is great, and there isn’t yet another like him, kind of logic.
President Museveni’s long-time friend, Dr. Warren Kizza Besigye Kifefe (retired Colonel of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces), with whom he has fallen out, was his main challenger in Uganda’s 2001 elections. In that election, Dr. Besigye was voted for by only 27.7 percent of the voting electorate.
By 2006, however, President Museveni’s popularity had significantly waned when it became crystal clear that he has irreversibly broken his promises to the people of Uganda. He is seemingly the same as Africa’s ‘problem-leaders’; those such as he had criticised in the past for overstaying in power.
While President Museveni won the 2006 Uganda presidential elections, he was endorsed by less Ugandans – 59.3 percent of the voting electorate – denoting a 10 percent drop in his popularity, in comparison to the 2001 elections; and a 16.2 percent drop, in comparison to the 1996 elections.
His main challenger in 2006, again Dr. Besigye, had a 10 percent gain in his popularity, as compared to the 2001 elections. In 2006 Dr. Besigye was voted by 37.4 percent of the voting electorate.
The two friends turned into foes in 2011 again contested Uganda’s presidential elections. That time round Dr. Besigye’s popularity had waned. He was voted by 26 percent of the voting electorate; an 11 percent drop in his popularity in comparison to the 2006 elections. While President Museveni enjoyed a nine percent gain in popularity. In 2011 he was voted back into office by 68.4 percent of the voting electorate.
Some are of the view that Dr. Besigye’s egotistical, abrasive, confrontational and bulldozer style tendencies repulsed a significant section of Uganda’s undecided voters who chose to vote for President Museveni within the logic of the English idiom “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t”.
Thirty years since he took power, in 2016, President Museveni will again be one of the choices on the Uganda Presidential Election Ballot Papers. Yes, he is contesting again. And again one of his main challengers is Dr. Besigye. The other is another of President Museveni’s long-time friends with whom he has also fallen out – Mr. John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, Uganda’s immediate former Prime Minister.
No doubt, among the fundamental transformations that President Museveni has achieved, is him transforming from being among the ‘new generation of African leaders’ to being among the African ‘problem-leaders’ he once criticised in his youth. Analysts now categorise President Museveni among those problematic leaders who cannot bear to retire.
But then again, did President Museveni go through a transformation or is it actually the case that he is still who he has always been?
Might the individual of the person of President Museveni have governed Uganda differently, including retiring within 10 years as he had promised, if his individual autocratic, megalomaniac tendencies had from the onset been checked and subjugated to restrict him to operate and conform within the collective of the genuine democratic decision-making structures of Uganda the nation-sate?
Put another way, might presidents govern differently if from the onset the media focus is not popularising a single story, but that rather the media tells dual or multiple stories. That is to say, while celebrating presidential decrees, the media and all other active citizens would also at the same time analyse what the full implications of presidential decrees are.