It took him 5 years of guerrilla warfare to wrestle the mantle of power from Uganda’s ex presidents Milton Obote and Tito Okello Lutwa.
For the past 27 years of his rule as Ugandan leader, President Yoweri Museveni has mastered the art of juggling the country’s tricky and delicate political cards with magnificent expertise.
Over the years, the man from Kiruhura has used his organizational skills inherited from the bush struggle to tactfully sail through Uganda’s murky political waters, reconciling the interests and aspirations of Uganda’s various tribes, a skill he has since replicated to the great lakes region of Africa.
On Thursday, Museveni hosted presidents from the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) to which he is chair.
At the summit, Museveni was able to successfully play a mediating role to the region’s warring parties in one single day, an action that would make the United Nation Security Council jealous.
KAGAME – KABILA TENSIONS
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo have been at loggerheads. Rwanda in particular accuses the latter of dropping bombs in its territory resulting in the loss of life, a charge Joseph Kabila denies saying the M23 rebels operating in the east of the country are responsible.
The Kinshasa government also faults the Kigali administration of supporting the M23 rebels, an accusation Kagame vehemently denies.
Many observers opined that the recent escalation in tensions had driven a sword in their fragile relations and a face-to-face encounter was unforeseen in the near future.
In fact, Rwandan forces were said to be already at the border with the DRC following public statements by the Foreign Affairs Minister Louis Mushikiwabo that Kigali would not hesitate to defend itself.
However, at the summit, President Musveni made sure the two leaders met and according to press reports, they both agreed to embrace the olive branch in order to diffuse the tensions.
KABILA – M23
Prior to the summit, there was renewed violence between the DRC government backed by the United Nations troops and M23 rebels.
The two parties seemed to have put peace talks on hold. The peace talks were called by the same summit a year ago following the rebels’ capture of Goma.
This renewed fighting further dampened hopes of bring to an end conflict that has plagued the mineral rich DRC.
However, at the summit, President Museveni was able to extract a commitment from the two parties to resume peace talk. This he followed with a warning to the rebel outfit to desist from unconstitutional means of changing government.
The two parties publicly confirmed their willingness to return to the table and seek peaceful means to the problems in the DR Congo.
KIKWETE – KAGAME
Mid this year, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete told his Rwandan counterpart to consider having talks with the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels based in DRC, a group the Kigali administration accuses of being behind the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of close to a million Tutsis and Moderate Hutus.
This did not go down well with the Tutsi-led Kigali government of Paul Kagame.
In addition to this, Kikwete ordered all illegal Rwandese immigrants in Tanzania to leave his country. A rift was beginning to appear between the two nations.
Kikwete’s absence at gatherings where Kagame was did not help matters.
Some pundits alluded to the fact that Kikwete is married to a Hutu and cousin of deceased Rwandese President Juvenil Habyarimana, whose death sparked of the genocide.
The proponents of this school of thought claim most of the expelled Rwandans are Hutus and therefore Kikwete’s wife could have been influencing her hubby to give some pay back to the Tutsi-led Kigali administration.
Due to his absence at previous meetings, some observers were doubtful of his presence in Kampala for the summit which Kagame was to attend. He however showed up!
Prior to the summit, Kikwete was quoted asking Museveni to to help mediate in his country’s simmering row with Rwanda.
“This showed the confidence Kikwete had in Museveni in convincing the Rwandan president to cool off.”
The two eventually met on the sidelines of the summit, according to media reports ‘the two managed to shake hands and pose for a photo’ and though details of their meeting are still scanty, the fact that they met goes a long way in easing tensions and Museveni’s role in the affair cannot go unnoticed.
It should be recalled that prior to this summit, President had arranged for Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta to meet with his political foe Raila Odinga, a move praised by many as a sign of political maturity.
President Museveni’s role as mediator of these warring parties has far reaching implications on his political career which he has diligently and steadfastly built over the years.
M7 INDISPENSIBLE IN REGION
Many observers will argue that Museveni was able to do what he did because he is the current chair of the ICGLR.
However, it is worth noting that for the leaders to turn up for the Kampala summit demonstrated not only their willingness and commitment to ensuring peace in the region, but also, the faith and confidence in the leadership of President Museveni as chair of the ICGLR.
It goes without saying that a lot of lobbying and confidence building on the part of the president must have gone on behind the scenes to see that the warring parties commit to a road map of peace.
AFRICAN PROBLEMS SOLVED BY AFRICANS
For a long time now, political pundits and historians alike have mooted the idea of Africans having the opportunity to iron out their differences instead of resorting to world powers who in most cases are intent on pursuing their interests and furthering the divide across the continent.
What President Museveni did last week strengthens this argument and his mediation role should serve as inspiration across the continent.
With this, President Museveni has been able to tactfully assert his authority and influence on the region and establish himself as a reliable mediator and peace maker.
It is therefore safe for one to assert that the people in Washington, London, Paris, Moscow and Beijing whose interests in the region are open secret have taken notes about who has a say in the region.
Hate him or love him, President Museveni has inscribed his name in the wall Africa’s most influential leaders of his time!