Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was born on 15th September 1944 in Ntungamo to Amos Kaguta and Esteri Kokundeka. The name Museveni means “Son of a man of the Seventh” in honour of the Seventh Battalion of the King´s African Rifles where his father Amos Kaguta served during the World War II. In his early years Yoweri helped his father as a cattle herdsman. His diligence and an extraordinary memory earned him a place at Kyamate Elementary School, Mbarara High School, Ntare School and later University at Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where he studied economics and political science. While at the University, he formed and got involved in various student´s revolutionary fronts and political groups that formed his views. And it was during his studies at Kyamate School where he met Janet Kataaha, who became his life love, a wife and plays an important role in his political and personal life.
Fighting for freedom in Uganda
When Major General Idi Amin seized power in a January 1971 military coup, Museveni fled to Tanzania with other exiles. While in Tanzania, he started organizing clandestine squads to try and overthrow the government of Idi Amin. By October 1978, when Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania in order to claim the Kagera province for Uganda; Museveni had already trained a significant number of fighters in his FRONASA outfit. The UNLF joined forces with the Tanzanian army launched a counter-attack which culminated in the toppling of the Amin regime in April 1979. Museveni was named the new Minister of State for Defence in the new UNLF government. He was the youngest minister in Yusuf Lule’s administration. The thousands of troops which Museveni recruited into FRONASA during the war were incorporated into the new national army. They retained their loyalty to Museveni, however, and would be crucial in later rebellions against the second Obote regime.
The NCC selected Godfrey Binaisa as the new chairman of the UNLF after infighting led to the deposition of Yusuf Lule in June 1979. In November, Museveni was reshuffled from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Regional Cooperation, with Binaisa himself taking over the key defense role. In May 1980, Binaisa himself was placed under house arrest after an attempt to dismiss Oyite Ojok, the army chief of staff. A Presidential Commission, with Museveni as Vice-Chairman, was installed and quickly announced plans for a general election in December.
Museveni returned with his supporters to the bushes of Luwero and formed a rebel group called the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), which later became the NRA. There they planned a rebellion against the second Obote regime, popularly known as “Obote II”, and its armed forces, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). The insurgency began with an attack on an army installation in the central Mubende district on 6 February 1981.
On 27 July 1985, the UPC government was overthrown by mainly Acholi soldiers. After several weeks, the NRA finally agreed to talk peace with the military junta. The talks started on 26 August to 17 December. However, although a cease-fire was announced, it was never respected. Museveni explained that while they were talking, abuse of human rights continued, the military junta continued to build their army and attack them. In the end, Museveni and his allies refused to share power with generals they did not respect, not least while the NRA had the capacity to achieve an outright military victory. They captured power on January 26, 1986.
“This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental change.”
Museveni was sworn in as president three days later on 29 January. It was on this day that he made the now famous statement. “This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental change,” said Museveni. Speaking to crowds of thousands outside the Ugandan parliament, the new president promised a return to democracy. “The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a favour from any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not the government.
The NRM declared a four-year interim government, composing a wider political base than previous regimes. Party officials from the many political parties among others; UPC and DP were appointed into cabinet.There was also a parliament, the National Resistance Council (NRC) that had both elected and nominated representatives. A system of Resistance Councils, directly elected at the parish level, was established to manage local affairs. Key among these was the equitable distribution of fixed-price commodities like sugar, soap and paraffin.
The election of Resistance Councils representatives was the first direct experience many Ugandans had with democracy after many decades of varying levels of authoritarianism, and the replication of the structure up to the district level has been credited with helping even people at the local level understand the higher-level political structures.
Changing Uganda for better
Uganda has since had four Presidential elections, in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 and an equal number of parliamentary and local elections.
Museveni inherited an economy that was totally collapsed. He however enjoyed the support of the international community in order to revitalize it.
Museveni initiated economic policies designed to combat key problems such as hyperinflation and the balance of payments. Abandoning his earlier ideas, Museveni embraced the neo-liberal structural adjustments advocated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Uganda remains a capitalist economy today.
The infrastructure is far better than he found it, new schools and universities have been constructed, communication has improved 100 fold too, just like the banking and industrial sectors.
The first major conflict between Uganda and any other country was with Rwanda. For starters, abuses at the hands of the Obote regime encouraged many Rwandan exiles living in Uganda to join the ranks of the NRA. In 1990, over 4,000 NRA soldiers deserted and went back to Rwanda. They captured power in 1994.
Uganda has also intervened in the Sudan, fighting against the Lords Resistance Army, in DRC-fighting against the Allied Democratic Army (ADF). Additionally, Uganda is currently helping bring peace in Somalia, where the country is providing the vanguard of the peace-keepers. Museveni says this is all done for pan-africanism.
Preparing a better Uganda for our children
While a lot have been achieved during past decades, the mission of preparing a better Uganda for our children hasn´t finished yet. We are in the midst of the Museveni´s Operation Wealth Creation, fighting poverty all around the country and achieving the same revolution in agriculture as we achieved in security.
We need to develop and continuously maintain socio-economic infrastructure and amenities and ensure balanced regional development. Apply science and technology in all aspects of development for the transformation of society and further implement a strategy of private sector led growth and export oriented production. There is a way for leaving a sovereign, safe and wealthy Uganda, a true pearl of Africa, for our children. It is clear that President Museveni knows the way.