Uganda: Mrs. Museveni Contradicts Mr. Museveni—On the Nature and Challenge of Servant Leadership

Janet Museveni

Harold Acemah

Uganda never ceases to amaze, amuse and offend in almost equal measure. On April 22, Uganda’s First Lady and Minister of Education, Mrs. Janet Museveni, made an interesting presentation to newly elected MPs of the ruling NRM political party at their retreat held in April at the National Leadership Institute, Kyankwanzi. The theme of the retreat was, Ideological orientation for socio-economic transformation.”

The First Lady’s paper titled, “The servant leader as a catalyst for socio-economic transformation,” was incisive and thought-provoking and appears to be a critique of that infamous speech Sabalwanyi–the self annointed “chief fighter”– delivered at Masindi on January 26, 2017… more on that speech later.

In her eloquent presentation, Mrs. Museveni stated that socio-economic transformation was one of four key principles of NRM’s so-called ideology; others being patriotism, pan-Africanism and democracy.

She said that in whatever God wants to accomplish, He appoints a leader and not just any leader, but a servant leader. I can imagine many politicians in the audience cringing and feeling uneasy because her remarks contradicted and were diametrically opposed to remarks made by President Museveni who was present and listening attentively.

According to Mrs. Museveni, the call to leadership is a call to service and leaders who embrace servant leadership choose to serve others rather than themselves. She lamented that for many Ugandan politicians leadership is equated with power, authority, honor, prestige and personal gain, unlike servant leadership which puts service to the people at the centre.

She argued that the essential attributes of a servant leader include, humility, obedience, inner security, being teachable, honesty, love, care for the people, self-control, faithfulness and selflessness. Mrs. Museveni argued fairly convincingly that, “When leaders espouse these values in their communities, they become significant change agents as those around them respond by emulating them.”

Against this background, I recall with trepidation remarks made by President Museveni at a public event held at Masindi on January 26, 2017 which reveal the contradictions and ironies in our beloved country. He said: “I am not an employee. I hear some people saying I am their servant. I am not a servant of anybody. I am a freedom fighter; that is why I do what I do. I don’t do it because I am your servant. I am not your servant.”

“I am just a freedom fighter. I am fighting for myself, for my belief; that is how I come in. If anybody thinks you gave me a job, he is deceiving himself. I am just a freedom fighter whom you thought could help you also,” he added. 

The speech was frankly despicable, offensive, mind-boggling and unbecoming and shows clearly that Sabalwanyi is implementing a personal agenda, not a national program. Future generations will wonder how and why 40 million Ugandans tolerated and put up meekly and obediently for over three decades with such abomination, absurdity, insults and outrage!

How low must Uganda sink into the abyss of moral decay and mediocrity before Ugandans and people of goodwill in Europe, the US, Canada and elsewhere in the world join hands and say loudly, clearly and categorically that, enough is enough!

Servant leadership is a concept derived from the Holy Bible. Jesus Christ is the quintessential Servant Leader. As the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, having the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, but made himself nothing; taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Philippians 2:5-7 (NIV)

For us believers, it is a great honour and privilege to be a servant, especially a servant of God. On the contrary, evil, perverted and self-condemned men despise servants and think it is a disgrace to be a servant. Woe unto such people.

Arua, Uganda.

May 4, 2021.

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