Veteran Ugandan politician Dr. Athanasios Magimbi who also is a practicing medic – an anesthesiologist in the US state of California – contends that from the earliest days President Museveni betrayed the ideals for which many Ugandans fought. Currently the leader of the Uganda Democratic Federation, the 62-year old Magimbi first joined Yusuf Lule’s Uganda Freedom Fighters (UFF), to fight for a better Uganda.
As part of Lule’s group, he said they joined hands with the National Patriotic Front to form the National Resistance Movement.
The New Times' Grace Kamugisha recently had a phone interview with the veteran politician and below are the excerpts.
What led to your falling out with President Museveni?
I consider myself a founding member of NRM by virtue of my frontline role in the UFF. But the NRM – the direction it was drawn into from the start by its leader Museveni – never was a truly national party that would bring about a proper democratic dispensation.
It was too much dictated by the ideas of a single megalomaniacal individual! I wasn’t convinced such a party would implement the required political philosophy to move Uganda in the direction we had been struggling for.
Museveni’s leadership style was an absolute betrayal of the principles for which we fought! He initially looked good; like he was guided by the right principles.
But from a very early stage he was corrupted by power! That’s what informed my decision to continue working for a truly genuine democratic dispensation.
Most leaders elsewhere talk of modernizing their countries’ economies; of harnessing the energies unleashed by an interconnected, globalized world to leap into the Twenty First Century. Museveni is still talking about fighting Idi Amin and Obote. Where can this take the young?
Nowhere! The young in Uganda today are very restless. We are dealing with globalization where you have powerful social media where ideas are instantaneously exchanged and people can easily see what’s going on in other parts of the world.
Uganda’s young realize how miserable their lives are; how there is such little hope for them under Museveni.
Uganda is sitting on a time bomb when the youth unemployment rate is running into 80 percent. That’s absolutely unsustainable. It’s not a question of if that will lead to an implosion; it is a question of when!
Museveni has ruled only a few years more than Bashir. Just as in Sudan, Uganda’s youths have been clamoring for change. Their main grievances – as often quoted in media – is a 33 year government defined by wholesale theft, graft or misuse of public funds that, if used properly would create jobs for them, or alleviate difficulties they face in many other ways. Is it far fetched to think Uganda’s youths could take similar actions as Sudanese counterparts?
They will! With new technologies; with powerful social media worldwide, with what you may call the universalization of norms, people will realize that change has to be brought about by their participation.
They cannot be spectators. They cannot sit on the sidelines and wait for somebody to come and liberate them. I believe people have been shown the way by events in Sudan. I believe with all my heart that the Sudan moment will come to Uganda, definitely!
President Museveni is already lifting presidential age limits; what does this mean for the country?
I don’t think Mubarak in Egypt (who thought he would rule to the grave) foresaw what was coming. Neither Bouteflika in Algeria.
Mugabe never thought he would be in a position he is now. Those are Museveni’s direct examples. He can do all the preparations he wants. He can lift age limits…he can do whatever he wants.
Point is, something is going to give. You can’t have levels of Museveni government corruption, embezzlement, and every practice of poor governance indefinitely!
He can be repressive and beat up MPs and so on. But the suffering of the people; what the majority are going through now, is so much that there is a limit to how far he can go.
Let’s talk a little bit more about the mismanagement of funds, or poor governance you talk of. What hope is there for Uganda?
Corruption is not a disease only of Uganda. But it can be dealt with if a leadership has the will to. But in Uganda that will is completely lacking! Uganda is simply lost!
We missed the boat (to implement good governance practices) from the earliest years of this government. Now corruption is the glue that holds the Museveni regime together.
But the situation totally is unsustainable. A regime that could allow the war in the north – with all the enormous suffering of the people there – to indefinitely go on, because Museveni and NRM were milking millions of dollars from it, claiming they were fighting terrorism!?
A regime where to even get the simplest service – getting an ID – requires a bribe? Even getting an aspirin requires a bribe? Such a system will collapse under its weight.
Let’s take a look at some of President Museveni’s actions in the region. In Kenya reports were that he was trying to forcefully take Migingo Island. In DR Congo, the country reported looting and plunder of its resources by Museveni and his brother (Congo reported them to the International Court, which fined Uganda US$ 10 billion). In South Sudan sections of the population are unhappy with the Ugandan leader’s constant meddling into their affairs. He also is openly consorting with rebels sworn to destabilize Rwanda. Is this a leader that wants peace with neighbors?
Museveni has this completely megalomaniacal character! He thinks he is unique. He fancies himself ruler of the region! He has caused problems for neighbors all the time, so he is not a good neighbor at all!
When it comes to relations with Rwanda we’ve seen interference with export routes for Rwanda. We’ve seen attempts to limit the movement of goods of another country, or the movement of its people. It is completely unacceptable, and in addition it is against international norms.
Also, Museveni seems to assume that there is something Rwanda owes him – which is completely wrong!
He forgets that Rwanda is a sovereign nation and on the basis of past relations with its leaders, he thinks he can dictate to a sovereign nation. Totally wrong in my view!