born 1944, Mbarara district, Uganda
Politician who became president of Uganda in 1986.
Museveni was born to cattle farmers and attended missionary schools. While studying political science and economics at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (B.A., 1970), he became chairman of a leftist student group allied with African liberation movements. When Idi Amin came to power in Uganda in 1971, Museveni returned to Tanzania in exile. There he founded the Front for National Salvation, which helped overthrow Amin in 1979. Museveni held posts in transitional governments and in 1980 ran for president of Uganda. When the elections, widely believed to have been rigged, were won by Milton Obote, Museveni formed the National Resistance Movement. The resistance eventually prevailed, and on January 26, 1986, Museveni declared himself president of Uganda. He was elected to the post on May 9, 1996, and his backers won control of the National Assembly in legislative elections held the following month.
As president, Museveni helped revitalize the country, providing political stability, a growing economy, and an improved infrastructure. He instituted a number of capitalist reforms, and, though he rejected multiparty democracy, arguing that it would degenerate into tribal politics in a poor African country, Museveni supported a free press. He also implemented measures to combat AIDS. Uganda, in fact, is one of the few African countries to have had success battling the illness.
In his foreign policy, Museveni often generated controversy by supporting rebels in other African countries. He backed Laurent Kabila, who deposed Mobutu Sese Seko in neighbouring Zaire in 1997, the Tutsi exiles who were fighting against the government of Rwanda, and a group, headed by one of his former schoolmates, battling the Islamic fundamentalist rulers of The Sudan. Museveni justified his support of rebels by stating that his goal was to achieve regional integration in both politics and economics and that the downfall of corrupt regimes was necessary to bring about such a union.