Uganda’s 75-year-old President, Yoweri Museveni will be walking again in January 2020, his adherents are very thrilled. This time, a 60 miles (100 kilome ters) trek is intended to win hearts and minds of his most-scared reality–the young people–as the East .African nation glides into a year of political fusion.
The septuagenarian, in company of his bush war comrades and regime sympathizers are expected to walk from Galamba in Wakiso District to Birembo in Kibaale District to honor those who contributed to the five-year war which brought him to power and also enlighten the young people about what allies call his “personal sacrifices” for Uganda, his spokesperson Don Wanyama says.
“The trek which should be on foot, should remind the elderly but also to sensitize the younger people, including the Bazukulu (youth), the heroic exertions of the freedom fighters who were doing for no pay, no reward – just for patriotism, (mwooyo gwa Uganda),” Wanyama says.
Code named “Africa Kwetu,” Wanyama adds that “the trekkers will cover between 15 – 20 miles per day before breaking in the evening over a bon-fire where the President and other veterans will address the trekkers about Uganda’s liberation journey with emphasis on the role of various organisations including The Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) and the National Resistance Movement.”
Museveni, who is seeking another presidential mandate in 2021 to top up his 35 years of office, is facing a hard reality. The country’s new and biggest voting bloc, mostly under 35 were either not born or babies by the time he captured power in 1986. He is struggling to court them.
However, the “just for patriotism” narrative does not sit well with this age group–which makes about 80% of Uganda’s population–struggling against his government’s socio-economic treachery.
Endemic unemployment born of poor economic policies has pitied Museveni against young people who have lately found solace with his young rival Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine, a singer-cum politician who has announced intention to challenge the 75-year old in the simmering polls.
“I don’t think that we do not have an appreciation of the NRA war and what they did, but when it is weaponized to tell young people to keep quiet … we used to have a joke that where can we contribute money as payment for those who fought for us, so that it can stop the burden from hanging over our heads,” young people were quoted as saying in a BBC radio documentary last month.
Wine, who has been a member of Parliament since 2017, has been critical of the lack of political freedom under Museveni and has called for a generational change in leadership. He told reporters Johannesburg that he expected Museveni to use the military and bribery to win, citing the findings by observers and the supreme court in previous elections.
“If we as opposition come together it will be more or less game over” for Museveni, Wine said on the sidelines of a press conference in Johannesburg where he was receiving an award from Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation, adding that he was in advanced stages of negotiation for a joint opposition candidate.
In October, Uganda’s Justice Minister Kahinda Otafiire, who is Major General in that country’s army said the government would used the military to crush movement, “People Power” a slogan used by Bobi Wine.
As an election simmers, Museveni’s administration is struggling to fund its 2019-20 budget of 40.5 trillion shillings ($11 billion) partly because it will collect less revenue than expected after delays to implement certain tax measures. It has sought to borrow 600 million euros ($665 million) from Standard Bank Group Ltd.’s local unit and Trade & Development Bank to help plug the fiscal gap.
Runaway corruption, born of a system of patronage–in which regime royalists steal public money and go untouched–leaks million of dollars annually out of Museveni’s government. He led a thousands of supporters on December 4. in a 3.5 kilometer walk in Kampala to reassert his commitment to fight graft.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that Uganda is nearing debt distress because a fifth of its revenue is now spent on interest payment. If no measures are taken, Museveni’s Uganda may be forced to cut expenditure on human capital and infrastructure projects in order to plug its soaring debt burden a thing which continues to put the economics of its younger population on the firing line.