Birthday politics in Uganda

President Museveni’s plans to succeed himself in 2016 have come under fresh attack. Activists in Uganda staged a mock birthday party, complete with gifts, to celebrate Museveni’s 73rd birthday. Police dispersed participants at the mock party and even seized the birthday cake.

The politics behind Museveni’s date of birth stem from the fact that the Ugandan constitution bars those over 75 to run for president. Museveni insists that he is 68, which means that he will be 73 in 2016 and still eligible to run for president. The opposition maintains that based on its own research the president is 73.

It appears that the latest strategy of the Ugandan opposition is to de-legitimize Museveni using his own rules.

So why should Museveni care if a bunch of activists stage a mock birthday party for him?

The beginning of the downfall of authoritarian systems is when the opposition goes legal on the regime. By highlighting the inconsistencies in the legal structure and challenging the regime using its own rules, the opposition forces the regime to continue tinkering with the very same rules.

But tinkering with the rules creates winners and losers within the regime. Ultimately it is those that find themselves with the short end of the stick that jump ship and join the opposition in an effort to oust the ancien regime.

President Museveni should consult with Kenya’s former President Moi on how events unfolded after the fiasco that was the 1988 mlolongo (queuing) election. It will take time, but kila mwizi ako na siku arubaini (every thief has forty days).

You can find the BBC story on the Uganda protests here.

No ICC hearings in Kenya

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber Judge Ekaterina Trendafilova on Wednesday decided that the trial of suspects of the 2007-08 election violence in Kenya will not be held in the country.

Great move.

I am of the view that holding the hearings in Kenya would have created an unnecessary distraction from the important task of implementing Kenya’s new constitution. Already, the bigwigs accused of masterminding the violence that killed 1300 and displaced over 300,000 Kenyans have ethnicized their predicament. Holding the hearings in Kenya would have handed them an opportunity for a circus of ethnicity-charged rallies and demonstrations in Nairobi.

The ICC continues to be a source of debate in Kenya and across Africa. Many have faulted the court’s apparent bias against African leaders. Some have even called it a form of neocolonialism. While admitting that the court could use a little bit more tact [principally by acknowledging that it cannot be apolitical BECAUSE it is an international court SANS a world government] I still think that it is the best hope of ending impunity on the African continent – at least until African leaders internalize the fact that it is not cool to kill your own people.

Among the cases that should have been handled with a sensitivity to political realities include Sudan and Libya [and may be the LRA in Uganda]. Kenya’s Ocampo Six, the DRC’s Jean-Pierre Bemba and Cote d’Ivoire’s Laurent Gbagbo, on the other hand, should not raise questions of national sovereignty. Murderous dictators and their henchmen do not have internal affairs. In any case sovereignty for many an African country means nothing more than sovereignty for the president and his cronies.

Related posts here and here.

this is how museveni treats the opposition in uganda

Uganda is experiencing hike in food and fuel prices – partly because of the rise in global oil prices but also because of “election money.” The Ugandan opposition has been organizing “walk to work” protests against the government’s inability to tackle inflation. In this video, the main opposition leader in Uganda gets to experience the full force of Museveni’s thugs security forces.

Museveni’s rule in Uganda will only get stronger because of the recent discovery of oil in the country. So much for someone who 25 years ago when he first assumed power was seen to represent a new crop of African leaders who were poised to usher in the era of African prosperity. Increasingly in Museveni I see a bungling but eloquent Paul Biya with a touch of faux egalitarianism.

the million-shilling goat question

What is the Ugandan government doing trading in goats?

At least 30,230 goats belonging to government are unaccounted for, according to an investigation by the Auditor General’s Office, which expressed concerns about the possibility of a major scam involving officials in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The missing goats were meant for the implementation of a Shs6.7 billion pilot breeding project for strategic export under President Museveni’s poverty reduction programme in Sembabule District. The Support for Export Breeding and Production Project was to benefit more than 100 farmers.

Records show that the Project received Shs800 million from government in the financial year 2004/2005 for infrastructure development and purchase of the first lot of goats. However, only 3,023 Mubende goats were procured and were not distributed to farmers at the time due to lack of sufficient funds.

At a cost of about Shs 1 million per goat, it’s estimated that taxpayers could have lost more than 302.3 million for the missing goats. Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Vice Chairperson Oduman Okello (Bukedea) said the committee will open fresh investigations into the circumstances under which the goats disappeared from the farm and who were the officials responsible for the loss.

More on this here.

economic hardship in uganda

Strongman Yoweri Museveni might be nearing the end of the road. For 25 years he has ruled Uganda as the country recovered from Idi Amin’s disastrous rule and a brutal civil war. To add to the stability brought about by his regime, Uganda has also been one of the fastest growing in Africa since the mid 1990s.

But recent inflationary pressures on the prices of fuel and other essential commodities are increasing pressure on the strongman. The last two days have seen running battles in Kampala and Gulu, with at least two reported dead. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye was reportedly shot in the hand by a rubber bullet on Thursday.

Museveni’s game plan in reaction to all this still remains unclear. Whatever the eventual strategy, it is gonna be hard to keep the rallies against his regime bloodless if the people keep coming out to protest. Most people tend to forget that Museveni has never really stopped being a military ruler.

History shows that the most frequent way through which military rulers are ousted, at least on the continent, is through coups.

Those who enter power by the gun also tend to exit by the gun.

Overall, African autocrats with the longest tenures include: Obiang’ of Equatorial Guinea (32 years); Edwardo dos Santos of Angola (32); Biya of Cameroon (29); Compraore of Burkina Faso (25); Mswati of Lesotho (25); Museveni of Uganda (25).

Other autocrats fast approaching the league of lifetime rulers include Omar al-Bashir of (Northern) Sudan, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia (who is planning on crowning himself King), Idris Deby of Chad, and Paul Kagame of Rwanda.

conflating inept autocracy with independent mindedness

Col. Gaddafi has been having an independent foreign policy and, of course, also independent internal policies. I am not able to understand the position of Western countries, which appear to resent independent-minded leaders and seem to prefer puppets. Puppets are not good for any country. Most of the countries that have transitioned from Third World to First World status since 1945 have had independent-minded leaders: South Korea (Park Chung-hee), Singapore (Lee Kuan Yew), China People’s Republic (Mao Tse Tung, Chou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping, Marshal Yang Shangkun, Li Peng, Jiang Zemin, Hu Jing Tao, etc), Malaysia (Dr. Mahthir Mohamad), Brazil (Lula Da Silva), Iran (the Ayatollahs), etc.

Between the First World War and the Second World War, the Soviet Union transitioned into an Industrial country propelled by the dictatorial, but independent-minded Joseph Stalin. In Africa, we have benefited from a number of independent-minded leaders: Col. Nasser of Egypt, Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania, Samora Machel of Mozambique, etc.  That is how Southern Africa was liberated. That is how we got rid of Idi Amin. The stopping of genocide in Rwanda and the overthrow of Mobutu, etc., were as a result of efforts of independent-minded African leaders. Gaddafi, whatever his faults, is a true nationalist.  I prefer nationalists to puppets of foreign interests. Where have the puppets caused the transformation of countries? I need some assistance with information on this from those who are familiar with puppetry. Therefore, the independent-minded Gaddafi had some positive contribution to Libya, I believe, as well as Africa and the Third World. I will take one little example. At the time we were fighting the criminal dictatorships here in Uganda, we had a problem arising of a complication caused by our failure to capture enough guns at Kabamba on the February 6, 1981. Gaddafi gave us a small consignment of 96 rifles, 100 anti-tank mines, etc., that was very useful. He did not consult Washington or Moscow before he did this. This was good for Libya, for Africa and for the Middle East. We should also remember as part of that independent-mindedness he expelled British and American military bases from Libya, etc.

That is Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, talking about Col. Gaddafi. More on this here.

My thoughts on this: Dictators have no internal affairs (HT Han Han). I will forever be skeptical of autocrats screaming “sovereignty.” Oftentimes it is when they are jailing, exiling, killing and dispossessing dissidents left, right and centre that they will shout loudest about the principle of non-interference.

How different would Uganda be today minus economic aid and any form of interference from the West? Let’s not pretend that it is Western interference that has stunted African economic, social and political development. Achebe was right. The trouble with Africa is simply and squarely a problem of leadership. For every Lula, Lee Kwan Yew or even Stalin, Africa has had Mobutu, Museveni and Mugabe. Where the former had controversial (and sometimes despicably murderous) but well thought out and ideologically driven plans for transforming their societies, African leaders have more often than not willingly mortgaged away their country’s futures while engaging in ideologically bankrupt and crass tribal politics.

African resources have created billionaires elsewhere while African masses  starved. African leaders signed off on most of these deals in exchange for kickbacks. The African tragedy over the last 50 years is just that. An African tragedy. Foreigners only played a supporting role.

At a meta-level I sympathize with Museveni. It is the nature of the international system that the strong prey on the weak. But where I disagree with him is how to deal with this fact. He wants the strong to benevolently keep off and condone his mediocrity. I prefer the continued pressure from the strong so that even states like Uganda can develop capacities to stand up to the strong, both economically and militarily.

It is a pipe dream to continue nurturing and protecting mediocre leadership all over Africa while expecting the strong nations of the world to benevolently keep off. China, India, Brazil, Russia and the usual suspects from the West will continue preying on Africa as long as clowns like Kabila, Mugabe, Gbagbo and the thieves in Abuja are in charge. Let’s not kid ourselves. What would stop Europe from re-colonizing Africa if Brussels and Washington signed off on the idea? And if Russia and China joined in, would they defend Africans or access to African resources?

I am glad that the threat of regime change is alive and well. Perhaps it will wake up the inept kleptocrats all over Africa from their 50-year stupor.

museveni wins another term, Gaddafi using African mercenaries

Long-term Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, in on course to a comfortable win in the country’s general election. With over 70% of the votes counted Mr. Museveni leads his closest rival, Besigye, with over 40%. President Museveni, ruler of Uganda since 1986, started off as a different kind of African president, presiding over a decade of sustained growth, drastic reduction in HIV infection rates and general peace and stability. But he stayed for too long. Beginning in the mid-1990s Uganda transitioned – under intense domestic and international pressure – from a “no-party democracy” [whatever that means] to a multiparty electoral system in which Museveni allowed for opposition at the margins.

The new dispensation created pressures for greater levels of patronage in order for Museveni to stay in power. He scrapped constitutionally mandated term limits, created a cabinet of over 70 ministers and went crazy with what Ugandans call “districtization” – the act of creating new local government jurisdictions purely for patronage purposes. Uganda’s new found oil reserves will certainly continue to fund the long-term autocrat’s stranglehold on Ugandan politics. Rumors abound that he intends to install his son and head of the presidential guard as his successor.

In other news, Col. Gaddafi is reported to be using African mercenaries to quell rebellion in the east of Libya. For decades Gaddafi has been a Guevara wanna-be, funding armed rebellions all over the Continent (Including the infamous Charles Taylor of Liberia). He seems to have done all that in the hope that the rebels he funded would come to his aid, like is happening now. But the presidents/rebel leaders who have sent soldiers to kill Libyans demanding for their natural rights should be aware that it is precisely such acts that have landed Jean-Pierre Bemba at the Hague.

au sending more troops to somalia, defends Sudan’s al-Bashir

The African Union Summit in Uganda resolved to send an additional 2000 troops to Somalia. 5000 Ugandan and Burundian troops are already stationed in Mogadishu to prop up the beleaguered transitional government. The same summit resolution also sought to change the rules of engagement to allow AU troops to preemptively attack suspected terrorist al-Shabab strongholds.

Nice and dandy, except so far we can’t make much of Museveni’s threat to take the fight to the Somali insurgents. There are no details as to where the additional 2000 troops will come from within the region. Ethiopia and Kenya share porous borders with Somalia and have large populations of ethnic Somalis and so are highly unlikely to send troops. Tanzania’s large Muslim population may not take well the idea of their troops in Somalia. My guess is that the additional troops will come from either Uganda, Rwanda and/or Burundi or some country from farther afield.

At the same summit current AU chairman President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi took fault with the ICC’s indictment of the genocidal Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. This is yet another proof of what kind of club the AU is. I may not fully agree with the political wisdom behind the indictment of a sitting president (because sadly, justice is highly political) but the likes of Mr. Mutharika should visit Darfur and UN camps in eastern Chad before defending al-Bashir.

the drc: the fire continues to consume lives unabated

In the recent past the Niger coup, the return of the ailing Nigerian president Umaru Yar’Adua from a hospital in Saudi Arabia and the supposed peace deal between Khartoum and the Darfuris have stolen most headlines on the Continent.

But let us not forget that the eastern reaches of the DRC still approximate a war zone, to put it mildly. The ineffectual government in the opposite side of the country in Kinshasa still lacks the capacity to provide any amount of security to its citizens in the east. Makes you wonder why the DRC still survives as a single sovereign state.

The number of actual dead in the bloody civil conflict that begun with Kabila’s match towards Kinshasa in 1998 is sort of debatable – ranging from a low of just over 2 million to a high of 5.4 million, pick your number. Really, does it matter that only 2 million human beings instead of 5 million have so far died in the conflict? At this point should the numbers even matter?.

So let us not lose perspective here. Even by conservative estimates more than 2 million lives have been lost. Millions of children continue to stay out of school (with grave long-term consequences for the security and economy of the region). And those that benefit from the conflict – the generals and arms and mineral smugglers – continue to do so with impunity. There is also no question that international big business is either directly or indirectly bankrolling the conflict (check out the more detailed report from Global Witness here). Hillary Clinton’s visit last year to Goma highlighted the unbearably gruesome existence of those (especially women and children) who are unfortunate enough to find themselves in a war zone. Everyone who matters in the country and region know these facts. So the big question is: What will it take to change people’s approach to this conflict? Why isn’t more being done?

internally displaced people in Africa

There are other questions too. Should IDPs stay in rural areas or be resettled in towns? Providing the right amount of assistance is tricky as well. Too much, and an African government risks turning camps into subsidised slums. Too little, and people die.”

The above quote is from this weeks Economist Newspaper. As I have argued before, I think that the move to come up with a framework to protect IDPs on the Continent is a charade. I don’t get how the likes of Mugabe (one of the chief displacers of people on the Continent) are supposed to be entrusted with protecting the same people. Having UNHCR do the job sounds good but is riddled with huge moral hazard problems – as illustrated by the above quote.

Meanwhile, this is the kind of life that many an African autocrat (and soon the effects of climate change) forces his fellow citizens to live.