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Ugandan President Celebrates 20 Years In Power

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is celebrating 20 years in power. His National resistance movement seized power in 1986 and won elections in 1996 and 2001. In the process, he’s changed the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency. President museveni is running for re-election next month. But his opponents say 20 years of his rule have been a failure and have made a mockery of democracy.

But yesterday was the Ugandan leader’s day to reflect on his achievements. He and his supporters did just that at a celebration of two decades in power at the independence grounds in the Kampala suburb of Kololo. He told the gathering that one of his most important successes was removing the dictators – and a murderous civil conflict – that had come before him.

Political reporter Andrew Mwenda of the Ugandan daily “The Monitor” agrees that Mr. Museveni has brought change. Mwenda says the president’s movement has put the country on the path toward democracy, though he says in recent years the commitment to the independence of the judiciary and the press has begun to weaken.

Mwenda told English to Africa reporter Shaka Ssali that one of Mr. Museveni’s biggest successes was converting the economy from a state-directed model into one that is now largely directed by a thriving private sector. As a result, he says, the average Ugandan is better off today than 20 years ago, although he says living standards have declined over the past five years. This is particularly true in the conflict-ridden north of the country, where the government has relied on military force in an effort to crush rebels.

Mwenda says the use of force has alienated many northerners and crushed any prospects of peaceful reconciliation between the government and the people there. He says the war has also taken a high civilian toll: “[In northern Uganda,] one point eight million people are living in internally displaced camps in conditions akin to our stone age ancestors.”

Mwenda says violence has never really ended in Uganda, it’s just be “re-directed” from the south to the north.