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Politics

As he plays to the gallery, M7’s militant posture betrays a growing sense of vulnerability

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President Yoweri Museveni.

By Charles Kamya Ssentamu

Ugandan prognosticators are still trying to make sense of the increasingly bellicose language that has been coming from President Museveni and his inner circle in recent times.

Speaking on during a function to mark 39 years of his NRA/UPDF on February 6, Museveni for no apparent reason launched into a barely coherent verbal attack against an unnamed adversary, saying no one would disrupt Uganda’s peace.

Then he warned his army against possible decadence saying the UPDF was a clean force but “it must guard against contamination.” “All good things can be contaminated, however because if the goodness, we have been able to maintain peace. Nobody will disturb our peace, we are going to continue guarding this peace,” a hollow-sounding Museveni said.

As if to reinforce Museveni’s notion of regional military superiority, his mouthpiece, the New Vision, two days later carried an extensive feature that purported to compare the military capabilities of national armies in the region across 13 parameters. Contrary to its promise however, the hatchet job ended up being a comparison of the Kenyan, Tanzanian, South Sudan and Ugandan militaries.

For reasons known only to its authors the rankings also included the US and Egyptian armies! On 9 February, followers of social media were again surprised to see a post by Museveni’s son and military advisor Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba warning anybody that had ideas of attacking what he described as an empire.

“Whoever dares to attack Uganda will learn that they are dealing with an empire and we shall defeat them,” Muhoozi said in a post on twitter. Analysts have picked two stark messages from Museveni and Muhoozi’s statements. Museveni is conditioning the army to accept orders that go against their constitutional mandate – such as the anticipated clobbering of People Power supporters!

A seasoned observer of Ugandan politics who requested that his identity not be revealed says Museveni is simply falling back to an old trick and could be preparing the public for a massive and disruptive role in the coming elections. Giving the example of the 2001 elections, he says that Museveni is feeling particularly vulnerable at this point in his tired rule. Therefore is using militaristic language to intimidate a public that is completely fed up with him, and would like nothing more dearly than to defeat him at the polls!

His “teargas regiments” are already getting the message loud and clear, analysts can already tell. February 2021 looks set to be one of the bloodiest months in the annals of Ugandan history, because Uganda’s unemployed and angry youths – because of years of misrule – are not ready to be cowed by even the most dire threatening words.

“In 2001, when Amama Mbabazi was defense minister, there was an alleged threat from the DRC. What we saw was massive deployment in Kanungu where oddly, all polling stations had closed voting by 10 am. There was 100 percent turn up, even though there was nobody in the community with their index fingers bearing indelible ink to show they had voted,” an analyst recalled.

This time the theft will have to be accompanied by artillery, and that could account for the sabre rattling of Museveni and Muhoozi.

In 2001 Museveni and Mbabazi scored more than 90 percent of the tally in Kanungu in that particular election, a result observers associated with widespread intimidation of the voters many of whom stayed away from polling stations. That allowed the army to vote in their place.

As he heads into another election next year, Museveni is feeling exposed on the domestic flanks,. Internally, frustration with his entrenched misrule has given birth to a youth movement that represents a real threat to his hold on to power. Recent developments in South Sudan have seen his ability to manipulate events there greatly diminished by a more assertive IGAD while a new administration in Kinshasa has also denied him access to eastern DRC.

“I think Museveni is genuinely scared and for good reason,” says a member of parliament who sits on the defense and internal affairs committee.

“He does not feel to be in total control of events around him, and it keep him awake at night,” he added.