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.
South African President, Jacob Zuma, appointed his cabinet with no surprises. The question on most people’s minds was whether he was going to retain Trevor Manuel, the man who has been South Africa’s finance minister for over a decade, in the same post. As things turned out he moved Mr. Manuel to the national economic planning commission and gave a nod to former taxman Pravin Gordhan to head the finance ministry. Zuma’s cabinet appointments were largely tame, with the main complaints being that the cabinet was too big. The appointments showed that Mr. Zuma is not going to be the crazy populist that many had feared leading up to his election. It looks like he is going to take a measured approach to solving South Africa’s economic and social problems as the country wades through an economic recession.
So much for his domestic agenda. Now let us hear about Zuma’s foreign policy, in particular what he has to say about governance in Africa. Zimbabwe, The DRC, Somalia, Sudan and Chad are all problems that require the attention of the most powerful man on the Continent. President Zuma should not allow the Libyan clown, Muamar Gadaffi, to be Africa’s spokesperson. He may be tainted domestically but his ANC credentials can still take him a long way on Continental matters. The sooner he establishes a presence on the Continental stage the better.
The news that the African Union elected Libyan president Muamar Gaddafi as its president for the next one year is very disappointing. Here is a man who has proved to the world that he is delusional – parading around with African “Kings” and calling himself “King of Kings” – and who wants to form a continent African government with a single currency and army now. His election is such a joke when one juxtaposes his pet concerns with the real problems affecting Africa. What Africa needs is not unity for the sake of unity but a real change in governance tactics. Gaddafi wants a united Africa because he sees himself as the continent president should his dreams ever materialize. Given the way he has run Libya thus far, I am happy that he will not live to see this happen.
The AU could have elected a more grounded, sober minded individual who actually cares about the plight of the hundreds of millions of Africans who live in poverty. Someone who would have stood up to corrupt leaders and promoted real development – as opposed to the band-aid stuff that has been peddled across the continent since the collapse of the immediate post-independent developmental states.
So as things stand it looks like we are in for yet another year of a silent AU as innocent men, women and children die in Darfur, Eastern Congo, Somalia and in the many other poorly run countries on the continent of Africa.