PRESIDENT Yoweri Museveni of Uganda embarked on a fourth decade in power on Thursday when he was sworn into office for a fifth consecutive term.
Museveni, 71, won February’s election though the result has been challenged by opposition leaders, one of whom has been held under house arrest for most of the weeks since.
“I, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni swear in the name of the Almighty God that I shall faithfully exercise the functions of the President of the Republic of Uganda,” Museveni said to cheers from the large bussed-in crowd gathered at a parade ground-cum-airstrip on a Kampala hillside.
He added he would, “uphold, preserve, protect and defend the constitution, and observe the laws of Uganda, and I shall promote the welfare of the people of Uganda, so help me God.”
Wearing his trademark khaki bush hat with chin strap and a dark business suit, Museveni spoke into a clutch of microphones with canary yellow muffs the colour of his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.
More than a dozen heads of state, including Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir, attended the swearing-in ceremony, the fifth since Museveni took power in 1986 at the head of a rebel army. Other leaders from the continent present were Tanzanian President John Magufuli, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and from Chad, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Africa, and South Sudan.
Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur, but Uganda—like many other African states—ignored its legal obligation to arrest the Sudanese leader. Kenyatta’s own crimes against humanity case was dropped by the ICC in late 2014.
Although African leaders initially welcomed the ICC they turned against the court when it began trying to hold them to account. During his speech Museveni dismissed the ICC as a “bunch of useless people” as Bashir nodded in agreement.
Museveni thanked Russia for its willingness to sell weaponry, “without conditions and arrogance like other countries,” and promised a war on corruption. “When you see me in a tie do you forget I was once a guerilla?” he asked.
Museveni’s main political opponent, Kizza Besigye, was again arrested on Wednesday after holding his own swearing-in ceremony to protest what he says was a fraudulent election.
After his swearing-in Museveni stayed on the podium behind bulletproof glass and held up the various instruments of power including the presidential seal and a Uganda flag.
Then the military marching bands played, a 21-gun salute was fired, soldiers in dress uniforms trooped by and jets whizzed overhead as the crowd watched on.