Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Museveni marks 24 years in power

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni celebrates 24 years in power.

MBALE DISTRICT, UGANDA (JANUARY 26, 2010) REUTERS - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) celebrated his 24 years in power in Tuesday (January 26) in the town of Mbale, in eastern Uganda.
Trade minister Kahinda Otafire said celebrations in the town were significant because of its historic contribution in the the 1981-1985 bush war.

Uganda gained independence from Britain in 1962 under Prime Minister Milton Obote. A coup led by Idi Amin toppled Obote in 1971 and ushered in a bloody era until a Tanzanian invasion ousted him in 1979.

Museveni led a 1981-86 revolt from the bush against a second Obote government, before seizing power.

East Africa's third largest economy has enjoyed political and economic stability over the last two decades after years of ruinous civil war during the 1970s and 80s.

Museveni has been praised for his macroeconomic reforms and poverty reduction.

But critics, including some Western donors, have accused him of rights abuses, high-level corruption and the political repression of opponents.

Museveni and his allies maintain that the country is better off with him at the helm.

"On the side of security of persons and property, we have professionalised the army. The army of Uganda today is one of the most disciplined, I don't want to say in Africa only but in the whole world," Museveni told supporters at the celebration ceremony.

Museveni, 64, won re-election in February 2006 after he changed the constitution in 2005 to let him stand for a third term.

He is widely expected to stand for a third term in 2011 in a likely rematch with opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who was defeated in the last two multi-party polls.

But Museveni's hold on power has angered many in the country and critics accuse him of trying to be president-for-life.

In June last year, he dismissed an opposition call for electoral reform that would have blocked him from standing for another term.

"He has not thought about handing over power to anyone else apart from himself and he has indicated over the last three elections that he is not ready to hand over power to someone else, should he lose in an election," said political analyst, Charles Mwangauhya Mpagi in Kampala.

"From the perspective of his own political party, the National Resistance Movement, he has not prepared a succession party within the party. He has not allowed the party to function as an institution that can be able to build the necessary frameworks to be able to keep power either within the party or to allow someone else to take over power," Mpagi added.

Museveni's National Resistance Movement ran Uganda as a one-party state until a referendum that brought back multi-party politics in 2005.

Opposition politicians hope to capitalise on cracks within his party over the prospect of another term, as well as high-level corruption scandals as Museveni's share of votes dwindled in the last two elections, despite retaining a majority in past polls.