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Monday, February 21, 2011

Ugandan Leadership

Many people were praying for a peaceful election process in Uganda --- and today we're thanking the good Lord that those prayers have been answered. ( The country's elections included the naming of the President for the next five (5) year term. It was no surprise that Yoweri Museveni won that election. Again. As he has in the past. Again. And again. And again.

If you search the news wires this week you'll find no shortage of people crying foul when it comes to Uganda's elections process. Allegations that the opposition's polling agents were harassed or chased from the polls by the police, or that opposition-oriented voters were mistreated or discouraged ... or simply not given access are plentiful. In the run up prior to the elections, it was reported that the opposition was arrested for "insulting the President." At a minimum, there's fair cause for doubt in the integrity of Uganda's elections process.

Yoweri Museveni came to power by force. He wasn't elected. He overthrew the prior President in what has become known as the Uganda Bush War. That was a civil war (of sorts) and Museveni was the Commander of what he called the National Resistance Army. It has become the ruling political party in Uganda. In the course of his presidency, Museveni has allowed routine democratic elections every five years. But he also had the constitution changed to remove the two-term limit on political office ... so that he could be re-elected again and again.

If you visit with the local people in Uganda, for the most part there isn't any grumbling or complaining about the president. His picture hangs in most of the hotel lobbies that I've been in, and his motorcade is encountered from time to time on the highway. People don't seem to fear him. In their homes they'll quietly tell you that he's a dictator and that their government is full of corruption. This, of course, is a country that should know what a dictator is. Idi Amin seized power and ruled with an iron fist ... slaughtering more than 300,000 people who dared cross him or offend him. (He was subsequently overthrown himself, and died in exile.)

But for a visitor to Uganda, you might find yourself, as have I, scratching your head about this whole notion of dictatorship. People are free to come and go as they please. They are free to start businesses, own property, engage in free commerce and the arts. There are some laws that the rest of the world might consider archaic. (Most notably, homosexual behavior is punishable by life imprisonment.) But these laws don't seem to be particularly related to Museveni's presidency. More often than not he inherited those laws or the other politicians passed them without his participation.

The Uganda that I know is a beautiful country. Nestled in the hills on the Equator, it enjoys a very mild, temperate climate all year round. There's rarely a day when you would even desire air conditioning or heating in your home there. There are no freezing winters, scorching summers or parching draughts. Everything grows quite well there, giving the country some of the most impressive food security on earth. The people genuinely seem joyful. They are sincere, authentic, hospitable and despite hardships most of us have never seen, they've always got a smile and an optimistic attitude.

Economically, Uganda is growing. The national economy continues to expand at an impressive rate, year after year. Large deposits of oil have recently been discovered. Home ownership is growing. Employment is growing. Tourism is growing. Exports are growing. The country has been identified has the single African country that has done the best job in fighting the AIDS epidemic. It has made the best use of assistance from the U.S. in that regard too. By just about any measure, Uganda continues to become a better place to live, work, visit and do business with.

President Museveni and his wife have both identified themselves as born-again Christians. They once led a prayer service in the national sports arena (Nelson Mandela Stadium), where they called the country to repent of its collective sins and the sins of its ancestors. Janet Museveni, the first lady, has been considerably more open about declaring her faith in Jesus Christ. Once when I was visiting there, I heard the President make a speech at the wedding of a high ranking politician's daughter. In his speech, he alleged that marriages don't work without the supernatural power of God. And he encouraged the newlyweds to submit their marriage to the leadership of God.

Of course, some of the Ugandan people will quietly tell you that there's no evidence to validate the Museveni's claims that they're Christians. And as an outsider, I'd have to say I don't know for sure. Quite honestly, I don't know. I'm not there enough to really have an opinion one way or the other. But I'm reminded of Jesus' own words to His disciples when they questioned the faith of others. He basically said that if someone wasn't against Him then He would count them as being for Him. (Luke 9:50) Essentially Jesus was telling His disciples not to fret about whether someone was a true Christ follower or not. I wonder if that might not be His counsel to people today when it comes to President Museveni.

I'm glad the Ugandan elections ended peacefully. I'm sorry that some feel the elections weren't fair or unbiased. And I'm sorry that some people see Museveni as a dictator. But from the outside looking in, I have to tell you that he looks like a fairly benevolent dictator. I don't know if he rules fairly or not. But his leadership is making life better for all of the people in Uganda. That is obvious.

So for now, I'm thanking God for giving Uganda a stable government these past 25 years. It's the most stable their government has ever been since they obtained their freedom from England back in the 1960's. And I'm encouraging my Ugandan brothers and sisters to take another look at their circumstances, and see what it is that they may be thankful for themselves. Then let us pray for Mr. Museveni's leadership, asking God to draw him to Himself, to lead him with the Holy Spirit and to continue to use this man and his government to bless the wonderful people of Uganda.

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