Museveni and the Art of Puppetry
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni wrote a lengthy article[i] on the 21 March 2011 about Col. Gaddafi and the West’s actions in the ongoing Libyan conflict.
Asserting that Gaddafi is an independent thinker, he wrote how he is “not able to understand the position of Western countries which appear to resent independent-minded leaders and seem to prefer puppets.” I am prompted to write this article by Museveni’s counting of himself amongst the “independent-minded African leaders” in order to show the gaping disconnect between his rhetorical gimmick and his track record.
Museveni’s claims are questionable on several grounds. First there has been bad blood between him and the Libyan leader that Museveni was scared enough of Gaddafi to seek protection from US government, according to Wikileaks, by providing ‘additional air radar information when he flies over international waters.’ That perhaps explains why the Ugandan government is busy freezing Libyan assets today.
Having simply brushed off the unjust self-serving aerial and missile bombing of Libya by Western countries as “rushed”, Museveni went on to distinguish Gaddafi from puppets whom he deemed undesirable:
“Puppets are not good for any country……… I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have the puppets caused the transformation of countries? I need some assistance with information on this from those who are familiar with puppetry.”
Finding someone who is more familiar with puppetry than Museveni is a challenge. The following brief points will show that Museveni is nothing but a puppet of the highest order.
Ever since Museveni wrote that famous longwinded letter[ii] on 28 August 2001 to Clare Short, the former British Minister for International Development, requesting additional aid to restore Uganda’s military capacity as well as seeking approval of his government’s budgetary management, the world had known that he is nothing but a puppet. The letter revealed how Museveni’s Uganda operates and who pulls the strings.
At the time, Museveni did not present his concern about the alleged threat from Rwanda to his parliament. He did not even refer the matter to the AU or the UN. Instead, he wrote a letter to Claire Short begging her to allow him to increase his defence spending. This proved beyond doubt who Museveni is answerable to and who gives him orders.
In his recent piece on Gaddafi, Museveni stated that “Idi Amin came to power with the support of Britain and Israel because they thought he was uneducated enough to be used by them”. If the British are interested in someone whom they can use, then one wonders why Mr Museveni continues to seek the protection of Britain and surrounds himself with British advisors and experts? Paul Collier, William Pike and Linda Chalker are his advisors to mention but few.
It is known that the former UK minister for international development Lynder Chalker under John Major’s premiership is responsible for running the show when it comes to foreign and economic policies in Uganda. The ‘very luvvie-duvvie’ relationship that Museveni has with Lynder Chalker has been talked about in the past.
Wikileaks has disclosed what we already know about Museveni. According to a cable released by Wikileaks, Museveni met the inept former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, in Kansas on June 13 2008. It was revealed that Museveni has been busy bashing African countries and leaders. He was attacking President Joseph Kabila of DRC for failing to keep his promise in taking action against the Lord’s Resistance Army. Museveni also reported his belief that the LRA is still supported by the Sudan. President Robert Mugabe was not also spared in Museveni’s diatribe. This is what the cable recounted: “Museveni thought Zimbabwe’s faltering economy and Mugabe’s poor understanding of the private sector were at the root of Zimbabwe’s political problems. He said a discussion of the economy would provide an entry point to tell Mugabe that he has failed and is embarrassing liberation leaders.” After these revelations, one wonders who the most embarrassing leader in Africa is.
In another meeting on September 14, 2007, Museveni begged Ms Frazer to take action against Eritrea. He knows how to please his backers and is well aware of which button to press to get into their pockets. He knew that Ms Frazer had an axe to grind against Eritrea and that she would be pleased to hear an African leader asking for Eritrea to be punished. Museveni told Ms Frazer that President Isaias Afeworki of Eritrea “needed to be intimidated”.
Museveni backstabbed an African country by playing an active part in the passing of the sanctions imposed against Eritrea on Christmas Eve 2009. Uganda used the privilege and position that it had as a temporary member of the Security Council to serve the interest of others than advance the interest of Africa.
In a typical and predictable fashion, he defended the illegal invasion of an African country, Somalia, by another African country, Ethiopia. The invasion created what the U.N. described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Those who took measures against Eritrea unjustly knew very well that the sanctions would not bring solution to the complex problems in Somalia. The situation has only gotten worse since sanctions were imposed against Eritrea. The ‘peacekeepers’ have not come out of their foxholes in Mogadishu where they have been hiding for fear of being “taken out” by snipers, as one of the Ugandan Lieutenants admitted. The chaotic situation in Somalia will be allowed to continue as it serves the interests of some powers who wish to see Somalia remain in the Stone Ages. Museveni will continue to count his dollars and Somalis will continue to count and bury their dead until the day of reckoning.
Uganda has no reason for sending ‘peacekeepers’ to Somalia if it weren’t for its own self-serving interest and to please some powers. At the official launch of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2007[iii], Museveni told journalists and diplomats:
“our peacekeeping is different from these western Countries. The Western countries do not listen carefully. They are full of themselves, they think they know everything. That is why they make mistakes,”
The double forked tongue and empty bravado of the President knows no bounds. We now know how different Uganda’s style of peacekeeping is: confine yourself to certain areas, stay in your foxholes, dodge bullets, count days, earn money and get a pat on the back. Museveni thought of himself as an expert, a messiah who could deliver Somalia out of the abyss. By talking tough in front of the British High Commissioner and British diplomats, he wanted to show that he was not a puppet, but the world knows better.
Museveni further added, "African issues are not that difficult. They only become difficult when handled by people who do not know how to handle them… We have some terrorists who may be hiding somewhere in Somalia even after the Ethiopian intervention, but (they) will be handled.”
Museveni has obviously learnt that the situation in Somalia was as complex as it could get. He is now well aware that Somalia is not, as he thought, the golden cow like Congo that he could milk easily. In Somalia, there simply is no peace to keep. Uganda has neither the capacity nor the intention of bringing peace to Somalia. Uganda has not been able to keep the peace in its own backyard let alone in Somalia. The Somali insurgents are roaming in the centre of Mogadishu without any meaningful challenge. Ugandan ‘peace keepers’ are unable to raise their head above a parapet or step out of their armoured vehicles. Somalia is still in turmoil and the tough talk, the huffing and puffing of Museveni has now been proven to be hot air. It is abundantly clear to all that Uganda is not in Somalia because of its love for Somalis or Africans.
Museveni accused Gaddafi of interfering in the internal affairs of many African countries ‘using the little money Libya has compared to those countries’. At least Libya, unlike others, used its own money. With regards to interfering in the affairs of others, Museveni’s reputation for being reckless and opportunist is not new. Uganda occupied north eastern Democratic Republic Congo and was responsible for plundering the country’s resources including gold and diamond estimated at US $10 billion between 1996 and 2001. The International Court of Justice[iv] in The Hague found Uganda guilty of killing and torturing civilians, destroying villages and plundering natural resources during its five-year occupation. A U.N. report singled out Uganda for being responsible for aiding warlords in the district of Ituri in a conflict that killed 60,000 innocent people. Museveni’s family members were named as ‘big players’ in the exploitation of Congo. The only reason why he has not been referred to the ICC is because his puppeteers protected him.
The Ugandan army, UPDF, that was responsible for grave violations of human rights, involving the wholesale killing, torture and rape of the civilian population in one African country, cannot be expected to bring peace in another.
For those who treat Museveni as their errand boy, he is a democrat. He is a Champion. Come to think of it for a moment, he has been in power for over 25 years. According to some reports[v], Museveni has surrounded himself with many of his family members, many of whom hold senior positions in his administration. His brother, General Caleb Akandwanho is the Senior Presidential Advisor on Defence. His brother-in-law, Sam Kuteesa is the Foreign Affairs Minister. His wife, Janet, is a minister for Karamoja region and was promoted to the Cabinet. His daughter is the Private Secretary to the President. The Finance Under-Secretary is a cousin of the first lady. His Private Secretary for legal affairs is the nephew of his wife. Musevenis’s niece was reported to be working as secretary to Baroness Lynder Chalker’s office in the House of Lords in London. His son, who underwent military training in the UK and the US, is the Commander of Special Forces and was recently given the control of the elite presidential guard.
The good President has an entire brigade protecting him from his own people. The opposition party is accusing the president of preparing his son to succeed him. Museveni feels no shame in creating this dynasty and turning the presidency to a monarchy. Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, he and others like him may not appreciate that the heat has been turned on until it is too late. No one, including his son, will be able to save him when his time comes.
Museveni has done everything he could to secure his aid money and protection from the West by being a good boy, taking orders as well as giving out lands, invading neighbouring countries, sending his troops on so called ‘peace keeping’ missions, backstabbing African leaders, helping to impose sanctions against an African country, etc. President Museveni is the master of the art of puppetry and his accusing other African leaders of being puppets is a typical case of the pot calling the kettle black. He is the undisputed champion of puppets.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org