He came to power after a successful five year guerrilla struggle. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has now been President of Uganda for 26 years. He has stood for democratic elections four times and won and he is still going strong.
Museveni was born in Ntungamo in south-western Uganda in 1944 to Amos Kaguta, a cattle keeper. His mother was According to his own testimony in his book “sowing the Mustard Seed”; he was given the name Museveni in honor of the ‘Seventh Regiment of the King's African Rifles, the British colonial army in which many Ugandans served during World War II. At the time of his birth, many of them were returning home.
He attended Kyamate Primary School in Ntungamo, Mbarara High School, and Ntare School. It was while at high school that he became a born-again Christian and a student leader.
In 1967, he went to the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, where, he studied economics and political science. While at university, he formed the University Students' African Revolutionary Front activist group and led a student delegation to FRELIMO territory in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule. At that time, Museveni was an admirer of international revolutionary Che Guevera.
Although he was still young, he saw it right to receive military training in guerrilla war fare. This was surprising because fighting this kind of war was hitherto unknown in Uganda. It was several years later when he applied his skills that his age-mates at the time realized how forward looking the young man was. His contemporaries at the time included Eriya Kategaya and Ruhakana Rugunda who are still serving in different capacities today.
After University in 1970 at the age of 26, Museveni joined the intelligence service of Ugandan President Dr. Apollo Milton Obote. In his own account, Museveni said that he did not join the government because he liked Obote, but because, he wanted to see how government is ran.
When Major General Idi Amin seized power in a January 1971 military coup, Museveni fled to Tanzania with other exiles. While in Tanzania, he started organizing clandestine squads to try and overthrow the government of Idi Amin. Among major groups include one in Mbale, in Gulu, In Kampala and in Mbarara. In 1972, he took part in an attack-that went so horribly wrong against Idi Amin.
In 1973, more of his comrades were killed by Idi Amin soldiers in different engagements. Among these included Mwesigwa Black, Martin Mwesigwa, and Valerian Rwaheru. However, this did not deter his resolve to chase away Idi Amin.
By October 1978, when Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania in order to claim the Kagera province for Uganda; Museveni had already trained a significant number of fighters in his FRONASA outfit. Among these included current General Salim Saleh, Lt-General Ivan Koreta, the late Major General Fred Rwigyema, the late Sam Katabarwa, Ahmed Sseguya, Fred Rubereza, Brigadier Chefi Ali and several others.
The UNLF joined forces with the Tanzanian army to launch a counter-attack which culminated in the toppling of the Amin regime in April 1979. Museveni was named the new Minister of State for Defence in the new UNLF government. He was the youngest minister in Yusuf Lule's administration. The thousands of troops which Museveni recruited into FRONASA during the war were incorporated into the new national army. They retained their loyalty to Museveni, however, and would be crucial in later rebellions against the second Obote regime.
The NCC selected Godfrey Binaisa as the new chairman of the UNLF after infighting led to the deposition of Yusuf Lule in June 1979. Machinations to consolidate power continued with Binaisa in a similar manner to his predecessor. In November, Museveni was reshuffled from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Regional Cooperation, with Binaisa himself taking over the key defense role. In May 1980, Binaisa himself was placed under house arrest after an attempt to dismiss Oyite Ojok, the army chief of staff. A Presidential Commission, with Museveni as Vice-Chairman, was installed and quickly announced plans for a general election in December.
Museveni returned with his supporters to the bushes of Luwero and formed a rebel group called the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), which later became the NRA. There they planned a rebellion against the second Obote regime, popularly known as "Obote II", and its armed forces, the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). The insurgency began with an attack on an army installation in the central Mubende district on 6 February 1981.
Military analysts believe that Museveni had planned this military phase much earlier than it happened. Although he had just 40 men when he went to the bush, he had over three battalions of soldiers trained under FRONASA and integrated into the UNLA. Some of these like current General Elly Tumwine, Major General Joram Mugume, Major General Pecos Kuteesa, Jack Mucunguzi, Brigadier Napoleon Rutambika and Late Hannington Mugabi.
The organization and composition of the initial PRA group had its basis from the FRONASA recruits, the Munduli Cadets and some intelligence officers trained in Cuba.
Museveni explained that they decided to wage a people’s protracted war because they knew that it was the only way to cement the involvement of the population. When the attacks started, they were sharp and precise-probably, observers claimed that Museveni had read Tsan Tzu’s book, ‘The Art of War’ which specified that ‘When the enemy attacks you as a guerrilla force, you withdraw, when he follows you ambush, when he camps, you harass,” and this was the main tactic of the NRA throughout the war.
Turning raw recruits into a fighting force was perhaps Museveni’s major achievement of the war. By the end of 1981, NRA rebels controlled most of Luwero and Nakaseke. They were making attacks in Mubende and as far as Hoima. This area was named Luwero Triangle. By the end of 1985, the rebels controlled most parts of Western Uganda and had besieged Mbarara barracks.
On 27 July 1985, the UPC government was overthrown by mainly Acholi soldiers; Lieutenant-General Tito Okello replaced him. After several weeks, the NRA finally agreed to talk peace with the military junta. The talks started on 26 August to 17 December. However, although a cease-fire was announced, it was never respected. Museveni explained that while they were talking, abuse of human rights continued, the military junta continued to build their army and attack them. In the end, Museveni and his allies refused to share power with generals they did not respect, not least while the NRA had the capacity to achieve an outright military victory.
The push for Kampala started on January 17th from different parts of the central region. While General Salim Saleh was the field commander, Museveni was the overall commander. They captured power on January 26, 1986.
Museveni was sworn in as president three days later on 29 January. It was on this day that he made the now famous statement. "This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental change," said Museveni after a ceremony conducted by Chief Justice Peter Allen. Speaking to crowds of thousands outside the Ugandan parliament, the new president promised a return to democracy. "The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a favor from any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not the government." He further added, “The main problem in Africa is of leaders who do not want to leave power,”
The NRM declared a four-year interim government, composing a wider political base than previous regimes. Party officials from the many political parties among others; UPC and DP were appointed into cabinet. There was also a parliament, the National Resistance Council (NRC) that had both elected and nominated representatives. A system of Resistance Councils, directly elected at the parish level, was established to manage local affairs. Key among these was the equitable distribution of fixed-price commodities like sugar, soap and paraffin.
The election of Resistance Councils representatives was the first direct experience many Ugandans had with democracy after many decades of varying levels of authoritarianism, and the replication of the structure up to the district level has been credited with helping even people at the local level understand the higher-level political structures.
Uganda has since had four Presidential elections, in 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 and an equal number of parliamentary and local elections.
Museveni inherited an economy that was totally collapsed. He however enjoyed the support of the international community in order to revitalize it. Museveni initiated economic policies designed to combat key problems such as hyperinflation and the balance of payments. Abandoning his earlier ideas, Museveni embraced the neo-liberal structural adjustments advocated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Uganda remains a capitalist economy today.
The infrastructure is far better than he found it, new schools and universities have been constructed, communication has improved 100 fold too, just like the banking and industrial sectors.
The first major conflict between Uganda and any other country was with Rwanda. For starters, abuses at the hands of the Obote regime encouraged many Rwandan exiles living in Uganda to join the ranks of the NRA. In 1990, over 4,000 NRA soldiers deserted and went back to Rwanda. They captured power in 1994.
Uganda has also intervened in the Sudan, fighting against the Lords Resistance Army, in DRC-fighting against the Allied Democratic Army (ADF). Additionally, Uganda is currently helping bring peace in Somalia, where the country is providing the vanguard of the peace-keepers. Museveni says this is all done for pan-africanism.
Museveni got married to Janet Kataha in 1973. They have four children. During his free time, he likes literally herding his cattle at both Kisozi and Rwakitura.