Museveni - 1972–1980: FRONASA and the fall of Idi Amin
In October 1978, Amin invaded Tanzania in order to ‘re-claim the Kagera province for Uganda’. This reckless and illegal adventure was to be Amin’s undoing for the Tanzanians responded in strength to the invasion of their country. Later in the war (when Amin’s fate seemed sealed) the Tanzanians organized the famous ‘Moshi Conference’. In March of 1979, Museveni and FRONASA attended this gathering of exiles and fighting groups called by the Tanzanian leader Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in the northern Tanzanian town of Moshi. The Moshi Conference was supposed to forge a new dispensation for Uganda after the downfall of the hated dictator Idi Amin.
Overcoming ideological differences, for the time being at least, the various groups established the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF). Museveni was appointed to an 11-member Executive Council, chaired by Yusuf Kironde Lule. This was to be assisted in governing Uganda by a National Consultative Council (NCC) with one member for each of the 28 groups represented at the meeting.
The newly created UNLF comprised of important fighting groups like Kikosi Maalum of Milton Obote and FRONASA led by Yoweri Museveni continued to prosecute the war against the Amin regime under the guidance and leadership of the Tanzanian military. This liberation war culminated in the toppling of the Amin regime in April of 1979.
Museveni was named the new Minister of Defence in the new UNLF government. He was the youngest minister in Yusuf Lule’s administration. The thousands of troops whom Museveni recruited into FRONASA during the war were incorporated into the new national army the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). They retained their loyalty to Museveni, however, and would be crucial in the later resistance against the second Obote government.
The NCC selected Godfrey Binaisa as the new chairman of the UNLF after infighting led to the removal of Yusuf Lule in June 1979. Machinations to consolidate power by different factions continued in the Binaisa led government. In November, Museveni was reshuffled from the Ministry of Defence to the Ministry of Regional Cooperation, with Binaisa himself assuming the key defence portfolio. In May 1980, Binaisa himself was placed under house arrest after an attempt to dismiss Maj. Gen. Oyite Ojok, the Army Chief of Staff – in what was a de facto coup d’etat led by Paulo Muwanga, Yoweri Museveni, Oyite Ojok and Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa. A Military Commission, with Museveni as Vice-Chairman, was installed and quickly announced plans for a general election in December.
Now a well known national figure, Museveni established a new political party, the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), which he would lead in the elections. He would be competing against three other political groupings: the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC), led by former president Apollo Milton Obote; the Conservative Party (CP) led by Joash Mayanja Nkangi; and the Democratic Party (DP) led by Dr. Paul Kawanga Ssemwogerere.
The main contenders were seen to be the UPC and DP. A number of irregularities compromised the credibility of the poll. In the planning of the election, the leader of the ruling commission, Paulo Muwanga, supported the UPC’s view that each candidate should have a separate ballot box. This was fiercely opposed by the other parties, which maintained that it would make the poll easier to manipulate.
Suspicions of fraud were compounded by Muwanga’s announcement on the day of the election that all results should be cleared by him before they were announced publicly. It came as no surprise therefore when Paulo Muwanga announced that his mentor Milton Obote had won the elections.
The other parties refused to recognize the legitimacy of the new regime, citing widespread electoral irregularities. Earlier on during the election campaigns, Museveni had warned that if the UPC and Obote rigged the polls, the UPM would go to the bush and launch an armed struggle. Obote sarcastically laughed off the warning and dismissed Museveni’s threat of action as inconsequential.
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