museveni is on the ropes

With 72 cabinet ministers Uganda reeks of instability. Leonardo Arriola, a Political Scientist at Berkeley, has made argued that African presidents create bloated cabinets to buy off opponents when they feel insecure in power. Uganda’s Museveni might be doing just that. In office since 1986, Mr. Museveni just won another 5-year term in office with 68% of the vote, or so the Ugandan electoral commission would like us to believe.

The opposition parallel vote tallying system was sabotaged by security forces in cahoots with cell phone companies (these companies should be fined in other countries in which they operate…). The main challenger, Mr. Kizza Besigye, claims that the last count he got showed Museveni at 50.8% with him second at 42.5%. The final official tally gave Mr. Museveni a landslide win of more than 40 points.

It is now quite possible that a majority of Ugandans do not want Museveni in power. Given his long tenure and the recent terror events that could have boosted him with a “rally around the flag” effect, his poor performance at the polls should be cause for concern for stability in Uganda. Too bad he will soon have oil money to create even bigger cabinets and buy more tanks and anti-riot gear, if he so wishes.

Ugandans may have to wait for quite a while before they experience their first ever peaceful transfer of power.

new lows for Kenyan politics

The battle lines have been drawn for a showdown in the Kenyan parliament tomorrow. Most reasonable Kenyans, including the current Chief Justice, the Attorney General (Mr. Kibaki’s government legal adviser) and Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs oppose the move by a faction allied to Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto to censure the speaker and shove president Kibaki’s questionable nominations to constitutional offices down Kenyans’ throats.

The media owners association, the Law Society of Kenya, and most of the Kenyan civil society have also rejected the unconstitutional nominations.

I have defended President Kibaki numerous times. I believe that it is because of his leadership style that Kenyans have experienced a resurgence of self-confidence that had long been lost after the fiasco that was 1966.

That said, I find his present actions deplorable. President Kibaki has chosen to risk plunging Kenya back into the abyss because of two of his lieutenants who masterminded the chaos that killed 1300 Kenyans and displaced hundreds of thousands. President Kibaki has chosen to spend public money and resources in defending this same duo. President Kibaki may also have been aware that state resources were used by his second wife and daughter to facilitate drug-trafficking. I stand disillusioned. For far too long I saw in the son of Othaya a Mang’u Man above petty the politics and mediocrity that characterizes Kenya’s political class. I may have been wrong.

The Kenyan presidency has been hijacked by Messrs Francis Muthaura and Uhuru Kenyatta. My only hope is that as they begin their descent for their sins from 2007-8 they do not take the rest of Kenya with them. I also hope that Mr. Kibaki will listen to the rest of Kenya, including the many bright legal minds allied to him, and rescind his wapende wasipende nominations.

His co-principal Mr. Odinga should also show some restraint and engage in grown-up politics. Engaging in a food fight with Mr. Kanyatta will not do Kenya any good.

Macharia Gaitho of the Daily Nation writes:

The crude personalised attacks both are displaying illustrate the depths to which Kenyan politics has sunk. Prime Minister Odinga and Deputy Prime Minister Kenyatta are demonstrating that they are truly the sons of their fathers.

They are privileged scions of the political and mercantile elite who got the best education money could buy and the richest heirlooms that could come out of public service, but when cornered, they abandon all pretence at cosmopolitan sheen and retreat to atavistic and crude ethnic demagoguery.

The saddest thing is that it might not just be a fight between two spoilt and overgrown brats, but a much wider one that carries their respective communities along.

The ordinary Luo or Kikuyu stands to gain absolutely nothing by hoisting Mr Odinga or Mr Kenyatta to reach the fruit. That fruit will not be shared, but kept within the family, as amply demonstrated by Kenyatta and Odinga Mark 1.

Yet you can bet that when it comes to reactions to the current Odinga-Kenyatta brickbats, it is the ordinary and downtrodden Kikuyu and Luo who will be incited to come out most rabidly in support of their man.