Museveni has matured into a shrewd political operator and wisened statesman since he took power in 1986.
Inheriting a shell of a country the NRM suspended partisan politics to concentrate on reviving the economy and ridding the country of insecurity.
An adoption of donor prescribed liberal economic policies in the late 1980s, despite previously held convictions to the contrary, the government broke up state owned produce marketing monopolies, liberalised the trade in foreign exchange, privatized state enterprises and invited competition in the key sectors of telecommunications, banking and electricity generation and distribution.
The net effect of these reforms was to see the economy growing at an annual average rate of six percent during the NRM’s tenure, a reduction in donor dependency as revenue collections have jumped a thousand fold and a more diversified export base and economy.
The economy has recovered and surpassed its peak period in the early 1970s. In every economic sector – commerce, industry and infrastructure development there has been an exponential growth in capacity in the last three decades. Similar progress has been mirrored in the social sectors – school enrollments, access to health care and general institutional development.
In addition there has been a major overhaul and expansion of key infrastructure like roads and telecommunications.
Twenty years of no-party rule gave way to a return to multi-party politics in 2006, which has seen the NRM’s hold on power increase rather than diminish as infighting in the newly resuscitated parties has meant they have failed to muster a credible challenge to Museveni and his party’s hold on power.
The ruling NRM has enjoyed a revival of its own as the older players have left the stage or broken off to challenge it and newer players have been incorporated.
But a key political development has been the institutionalisation of regular elections at every level of political life. Between 1962 and 1986 there had been two general elections but under the NRM 2016 will be fifth general election.
Born in Ntungamo in southwestern Uganda in 1944 to Amos Kaguta, a cattle keeper, and Esteri Kokundeka, Museveni in his book “Sowing the Mustard Seed”, he was given his name in honour 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 Museveni’s birth, many of them were returning home.
He attended Kyamate Primary School in Ntungamo, Mbarara High School and Ntare School. 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, an activist group whose membership included Eriya Kategaya, James Wapakhabulo and Martin Mwesiga. He also led a student delegation to the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) territory in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule. At the time, Museveni was an admirer of the Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevera.
After his university education in 1970 at the age of 26, Museveni joined government service.
Working in government helped Museveni gain insights and knowledge in running a government. When Maj. Gen. Idi Amin seized power in a January 1971 military coup, Museveni fled to Tanzania. There, he started organising clandestine squads to try and overthrow Amin’s government.
With major groups in Mbale, Gulu, Kampala and Mbarara, he in 1972 took part in an attack against Amin that went horribly wrong. In October 1978, Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania in order to claim the Kagera province for Uganda. By this time, Museveni had already trained a significant number of fighters in his Front for National Salvation (FRONASA).
In 1979, just after the war that overthrew Idi Amin, Obote dismissed Museveni’s contribution under his Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) as ‘small’ and irrelevant. However, somehow Museveni ended up as the country’s Minister of Defence after the fall of Amin.
When Museveni went to the bush in 1981, Obote’s government dismissed the move as ‘stupid and bound to fail’. “I have heard that some people have gone to the bush, we shall find them there and leave them there,” Obote said of Museveni’s less than 100 fighters. Obote’s functionaries called the rebels ‘bandits’ who would be defeated soon.
The second overthrow of the Obote in July 1985 and the ascendance to power by the General Tito Okello military only weakened rather than strengthened the government. Peace talks in Nairobi between the government and the Museveni’s National Resistance Movement proved ineffective with the NRA taking over Kampala soon after their collapse.