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Profile: Uganda's Yoweri Museveni

Yoweri Museveni
Critics accuse Museveni of seeking to be president for life

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni is a driven man.

Having been involved in toppling two presidents and run the country for 20 years, he believes he is the only person to lead Uganda - and has now won another five-year term.

In his 2001 election manifesto, he stated he wanted a second and last term in office - and one of his tasks would be to choose a successor.

Four years on, he had the constitution amended to let him run for a third term in office.

Final results in 2006 have given him a clear majority over his main rival, Kizza Besigye, in what were Uganda's first multi-party elections since Mr Museveni took power.

But questions hang over Mr Museveni's next five-year term.

Both the European Union and the US have expressed deep concern over the arrest on treason and rape charges of Dr Besigye in the run-up to February's vote.

And international donors, who once feted the ex-guerrilla fighter, are not impressed.

Last April, Britain cut some of its aid in protest and critics at home fear he wants to become president for life.

Their mood was captured last year by rock star Sir Bob Geldof's outburst at the launch of African Commission report: "Get a grip Museveni. Your time is up, go away," he said.

Early years

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni was born into a family of cattle keepers in Ankole, western Uganda.

Idi Amin
Amin fled Uganda in 1979, dying in exile in Saudi Arabia in 2003

His name was taken from the Abasuveni, who were Ugandan servicemen in the Seventh Regiment of the Kings African rifles.

He says in his biography - which tells much about his political development and almost nothing about his personal life - that he became politically aware while still a secondary school student.

He later went to the University of Dar es Salaam and studied Economics and Political Science, and while there forged alliances with other politically active "revolutionaries" from around the region.

Mr Museveni's political career took off in the 1970s, after a coup by the notorious Idi Amin.

He helped form the Front for National Salvation, which was one of the rebel groups that, backed by Tanzania, ousted Amin from power.

Mr Museveni served as minister in the new government but then claimed that the 1980 elections were rigged.

New breed

On 6 February 1981, Mr Museveni went to the bush, and launched a guerrilla struggle based in the swamps of central Uganda.

Former US President Bill Clinton
Museveni become the darling of the West and was praised by Bill Clinton
His National Resistance Army eventually took power in January 1986 and introduced the Movement system of politics - described as a broad-based, alternate system of democracy in which people compete for political office on individual merit.

Mr Museveni argued that political party activity split underdeveloped countries like Uganda along ethnic and religious lines.

Over the next 10 years, Mr Museveni became a darling of the West.

Uganda's economy began to grow steadily and has seen an annual average growth of over 5%. Its commitment to tackle poverty has been hailed.

Primary school education enrolment has doubled, HIV levels have dropped because of an impressive anti-Aids campaign spear-headed by the president.

In 1996, Mr Museveni faced a test of his popularity in presidential elections but won with a resounding 75% - partly by associating his opponents with the country's troubled past.

Mr Museveni also began carving out a position as an African statesman, with 1998 proving his highest point.

He was visited by US President Bill Clinton and described as the head of a new breed of African leaders.

Problems

That image, however, soon began to crumble when Uganda and Rwanda invaded neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo in support of rebels fighting to overthrow the government.

Uganda troops
Museveni's tough military stance against northern rebels has caused concern
DR Congo last year brought a case to the International Criminal Court in The Hague accusing Uganda of committing human rights violations and massacring Congolese civilians during its time there.

Uganda's involvement in the war damaged Mr Museveni's reputation at home and abroad. It also took up much of his time.

During this period there were increasing complaints that Mr Museveni was growing more hard-line and relying increasingly on a kitchen cabinet of hard-line supporters.

His 2001 presidential election victory was marred by an increase in state-sponsored violence - and Dr Besigye, again his main rival, fled the country claiming his life was in danger.

New battles

Critics say Mr Museveni has become less tolerant of opposing views, and his language has become more combative.

In June 2004, the government lost a ruling in the Constitutional Court, he appeared on state television and lambasted the judges.

Museveni supporters
Museveni's supporters have adopted dried banana leaves as their symbol

The force of the president's convictions is both his strength, as it enables him to get things done, and his weakness, as it has led him to find it increasingly hard to brook opposition.

Corruption has remained a serious problem in Uganda and Mr Museveni has faced criticism for not taking a stronger line.

In August, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria suspended some grants to Uganda, citing alleged financial mismanagement.

The president's stance against Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the north is also criticised, with an emphasis on military action rather than negotiation.

The brutal conflict has dragged on for as long as the president's term in office and driven more than a million people driven from their homes.

Last year, Mr Museveni officially retired from the army to fight "new battles".

His legacy now hangs in the balance. Will he be remembered as the president who returned Uganda to democracy, or a typical African Big Man, who, when it comes to giving up power, can go so far but no further?

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