Originally posted on Melina Platas Izama:
Heavily armed members of Uganda’s elite anti-terrorism police stand guard along the neatly manicured perimeter of the US Embassy in Kampala. Occasionally they shout commands and point their guns. For security reasons you are not allowed to stop or park a car within a certain radius of the US Embassy on plot 1577 Ggaba Road, Kampala. Offenders tend to be first time visa applicants.
Security in Uganda, and especially in the capital city, Kampala, is ubiquitous. Armed men and women can be found every 100 meters on the airport road when the country is hosting visiting dignitaries. Ggaba road, where the embassy sits, is a busy road with privileged traffic. Ear-splitting sirens hustle ordinary commuters out of the way as armed convoys shuttle big men to and from the nearby Speke Resort Hotel, a posh conference centre sitting on the edge of Lake Victoria.
The conference centre regularly hosts meetings of African heads of state and other ‘dignitaries’, such as the African Union summit in 2010, the Commonwealth meeting in 2007, and in 2013, the peace negotiations of the DRC’s warring factions. Uganda too has found herself at the center of political and military negotiations, with her president of 27 years, Yoweri Museveni, frequently playing the key role of intermediary.
It is a role that has made him indispensible to those seeking a reliable anchor in a region that is no stranger to violent conflict. In the last few years Kenya buckled under ethnic violence and was followed this year by South Sudan – traditional trouble spots like Congo have now been overtaken by the total breakdown of the Central African Republic.
Recently, Mr. Museveni made himself the centre of a global debate on the rights of gay people by signing into law new legislation imposing harsh sentences for homosexuality. However, at the nerve centre of this public theatre is not the gay debate, but Mr. Museveni’s increasingly public show of independence from traditional western partners who have, until now, enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with him. This has been driven mainly by peace and security concerns in the Great Lakes region.
That the West is losing influence here is not simply a fact, but within Uganda’s political transition it is also a necessity. Museveni epitomizes a generic formulation within Western foreign policy making in Africa dating back to the cold war, where strong (pro-western) leaders are supported as anchorage for a wide range of interests centred on security and stability.
When he runs for re-election in 2016, Museveni will have been a sitting president for three decades, a period accounting for more than half the political life of most independent African states, and one of the longest reigns in recent history. The Ugandan establishment is essentially a military one. Mr. Museveni’s armed convoys, disruptive as they are overwhelming- a show of power, lead the way for Uganda’s political gliterrati. The armed escorts are also a status symbol — the new bling for the privileged classes whose upper echelons are senior military loyalists.
There are hardly any exit routes from a system with Mr. Museveni at its head. In February, ruling party MPs led by a younger fringe known within their ranks as “the new face of the resistance” forced the rest to acknowledge Mr. Museveni as the sole candidate of the NRM. His Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, the only credible alternative, is being picketed within the party, setting the stage for what appears to be a showdown between the two men. Publicly Mr. Mbabazi says he will follow party rules for choosing a successor, but insiders are concerned that despite his influence with voting delegates any challenge mounted by him can succeed only if Uganda’s security establishment endorses it. And here Mr. Museveni has a distinct advantage. The more likely scenario is that the “old man with the hat” intends to anoint a successor, not be forced to concede to one.
Outside the NRM, the party faces virtually no significant political opposition while Uganda’s laws make it increasingly difficult for ordinary citizens to question the government. A new post-Arab spring ‘Public Order’ management law (it initially mooted police permission for any gatherings of 2 or more people) and other laws limiting freedom of association and expression have virtually outlawed criticism of the government. It’s this edifice of incumbency that poses a practical challenge for both foreign governments and domestic political forces seeking to define a future beyond Mr. Museveni.
The Ugandan military establishment has governed through the leadership of five US presidents, what will be a total of almost eight presidential terms by 2016, when the US and Uganda will both hold their next elections. This establishment has not just survived, but thrived in power, and the regime has employed a strategy of giving to the West what the West wants – a reliable partner in regional security. Defense spending has soared – in 2011 the country spent over a billion dollars (the highest in East Africa). The money was drawn from Consolidated Fund of Uganda – described by one commentator as the ATM machine of the president. No prior parliamentary approval was sought, nor did it meet with broad disapproval. Donors including the US were silent. Many would be persuaded that change here may be more disruptive than business as usual, especially considering the chaos of post-revolution North Africa or Syria.
Uganda anchors US policy in central Africa, which is dominated by security concerns and, after 9/11, by terrorism. Kampala has supplied her soldiers for ‘peacekeeping’ operations in Somalia where the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) did the heavy lifting against Al-Shabaab, an Al Qaeda affiliate. Just north in Sudan, Uganda has also backed US policy, being long-time allies of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. Since 1986, Ugandan troops have seen action in Rwanda, where Paul Kagame, a former senior officer in the Ugandan army, now leads, in the DRC, Burundi, the Central African Republic and Sudan. Kampala is the political equivalent of a brokerage firm for rebels, rebellions and peace missions. It has more troops abroad than any other country aside from the US itself. The head of that firm is Mr. Museveni. The West is his biggest client with a resource hungry China waiting anxiously outside. In fact, China’s investments backed by sovereign wealth funds have already replaced aid as the main source of government revenue – including rents for the political elite.
At plot 1577, the real emphasis is the DoD’s relationship with the Ugandan military. The US military considers the UPDF one of the most professional African armies. But the fusion between the military and the government means that diplomats speak with forked tongues about generic US interests of promoting democracy and prosperity. Uganda’s mainstream opposition, itself comprised of Mr. Museveni’s former military colleagues, accuses Washington of not using its leverage to loosen Mr. Museveni’s grip on power.
In the wake of the anti-gay kerfuffle Obama warned Mr. Museveni that relations with America would suffer, but unless and until the security relationship is recalibrated Washington’s options won’t improve.
That is because Uganda’s position also comes with considerable reverse leverage. And it shows. For example, despite being one of the first governments to support the International Criminal Court, Uganda led mobilization of African governments against the court, throwing its weight behind Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, an Amherst graduate accused of war crimes (it earlier signed an exception for American servicemen if accused of war crimes, of course). The case against Kenyatta is now indefinitely postponed.
President Barack Obama, while arguing that what Africa needs are strong institutions and not strong men, nonetheless deployed American combat troops in cooperation with the Ugandan military establishment, to hunt down Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, the most famous ICC suspect. That hunt is led by US-trained Special Forces commanded by Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Mr. Museveni’s son, himself a graduate of Fort Leavenworth. As seen from the response of Ugandans to the perceived bullying of the country in the wake of the anti-gay law, many are supportive of any measure of dignity and ‘independence’ that Museveni can achieve on the regional and global stage. At home they look to the predictability of his years in government.
Angelo Izama is a Ugandan journalist and former OSI Fellow. He is working on a book manuscript on the politics of Uganda’s newly discovered oil resources. Reblogged from http://africanarguments.org/2014/03/04/is-yoweri-museveni-still-the-wests-man-in-africa-by-angelo-izama/
Details of the Memorandum of Understanding [MoU] between the Uganda government and international oil companies to begin production will be revealed later today. A signing ceremony took place at State House Entebbe last evening [February]. Both government officials and the industry had signaled that signing would take place on Wednesday after ‘major issues’ had been agreed to. Various sources had suggested that the agreement was only pending a signature by Tuesday night.
Amongst others the MoU is will set out modalities for production of oil such as how much oil will eventually go to a Ugandan refinery. Last year the government awarded the Chinese company CNOOC a production license but officials also indicated that approvals of Field Development Plans for the other two companies are in advanced stages of approval.
The MoU should indicate the agreement between government and the oil companies on the status of refining in Uganda, taxes and arbitration of disputes, the last being a sore issue following disagreements over gains tax. A senior official told me this week however that the government and its partners had agreed to “90%” of the issues.
The rest we shall learn this morning when both sides make the formal announcement at a press conference scheduled for 10am.
Contrary to the reports that President Yoweri Museveni has rejected the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that the Uganda parliament passed, he has not. His letter below ,to the Speaker of the House, rejects some of the logic of the bill and agrees with others ( particularly legislation prohibiting promotion of homosexuality a la Putin).
Some commentators have reasoned that the President has gone slow on the bill due to foreign pressure. Perhaps. I am not persuaded. It may be that the President has evaluated this pressure alongside some of his own thinking which he states in the letter.
The letter which starts by name dropping the Africa critic Rene Dumont ( just heard of him) goes on to provide a 3-D view of the gay issue. It should come with warning of graphic content (or graphic thinking for some readers. The president’s party is likely to review this at some distant future. For all intents and purposes though the bill is dead until State House finds a utility for it.
Read for yourself. Quality of the scan is not the greatest.
This year Pope Francis is expected to travel to both Uganda and Israel. The visits will probably bring into a sharp focus how the Church is dealing with the rising tide of intolerance so visible in a globe allegedly more connected and friendly- than ever before.
Last year pictures of children, their mothers and relatives wrapped in plastic bags- having reached the shores of Europe but drowning in the process- shocked many.
But the current that drives droves of young Africans seeking a new beginning abroad remains strong, as does the determination by politicians to legally discourage them.
Nothing will paint a more disturbing picture about this moral pit in which intolerance struggles as much as a visit by the Pope to Israel, the ultimate refugee nation which has begun large scale eviction of illegal African immigrants. Or to Uganda, whose main export is labor, the kind that flees discrimination at home.
Like Nigeria, Uganda earns most of its foreign currency from its citizens abroad. And thanks to decades of instability there are many outside its shores. In choice destinations like Britain, Uganda’s former colonizer, a Ugandan is a Nigerian by another name. Or a Ghanaian. They are all black migrants.
The Home Office last year run a “Go Home” campaign dismissed as as racist by campaigners. However the massive youth bulge and poor conditions at home make the dream of getting to Europe more desirable than the fear of being humiliated by it. Escaping corruption, nepotism, the shanties and ethnic pogroms compares poorly to the tampered and sometimes concealed violence of anti-immigration policies abroad.
This is so even where intolerance at home has undertaken new forms that find resonance with the west. Uganda, like Nigeria has authored a law making homosexuality a capital offense. In some ways homosexuality is being debated as the final frontier of conservative values at home- a form of disease one catches in the west or from the west. It’s a call to stay-at-home or close to home, a culture clash.
Many young people have however woken up to the reality that migrating to Europe as a jobseeker is far harder than as a victim of discrimination by way of one’s sexual orientation. Not surprisingly visa applications on the basis of sexual discrimination are on the rise in Uganda and probably elsewhere. Uganda and Nigeria’s anti-gay laws make more news or perhaps as much news as the do-or-die efforts of the migrant who dies on the beach; but less news than the often racist campaigns seeking to shut the door to Africans like the “Go Home” campaign in Britain or worse Israel’s “anti-infiltration” laws.
Sometimes they make even more news than the clash between African governments and the forces that wish to reform them. And so the Pope’s visit highlights these forms of homegrown intolerance, in the west as well as in Africa. Like popular culture, football, celebrity and politics, homophobia is today avant-garde. But perhaps no country reflects the absurdities of the dilemmas of discrimination of various forms than Israel itself.
Known somewhat ironically now as the “promised land” the planned evictions of thousands of mainly East African migrants from Israel makes it perhaps the “worst place” to be a migrant. Ugandans, in this majority Christian country consider Israel a special place. For devout Catholics a pilgrimage to its holy places, especially, Jerusalem is as important as the Muslim Haj. Israel indeed earns mostly from religious tourism one of its major exports.
Last week’s scenes of a sea of black faces camped outside the Knesset demanding to be treated as refugees not “infiltrators” accused of tainting the purity of the Jewish nation left many scratching their heads. If Uganda is a nation of migrant laborers Israel is a state built by migrants.
And many criticizing the Jewish nation have zeroed in on the undertone of racism behind these evictions. However one only has to visit Israel to see how that patch of dry hilly lands was patiently nursed into the kind of migrants dream. By contrast if one is leaving Uganda with its lush forests, mountains and rivers; well, this is becomes one extra irony. Jews returned to build Israel. Many Africans are abandoning their endowed countries rather than face the despots and despotism at home to claim that dream. And it is double let down.
For decades the world has known Africans as the devaluation standard for human beings. Slavery and the racism that girded it saw Africans dehumanized as chattels. As sub-humans abroad, during the transatlantic slave trade, they fulfilled the view, still prevalent today, that superior races existed. Even after the civil rights struggle in America put racial equality to debate for the rest, the condition of blacks in Africa has remained the last refuge of the argument about the backwardness of that color. Uganda in particular is referenced liberally in movies as the cultural password for the baggage that comes being black today; child soldiers, conflict minerals, corrupt governments, a suffering of the black race to which white solutions are applied.
At home Ugandan leaders speak jealously and fearfully about the west, praise lighter colored migrants like Indians and condemn nationals as well “backward”.
Nothing has sold the Ugandan “backwardness” brand more globally than its late president Idi Amin who the Israelis helped bring to power and then overthrow. Alternately portrayed a buffoon, cannibal and for effect anti-Semitic, Amin was the ultimate black anti-jew.
Sadly Africa continues to mine the depths of human despair for display around the world that cannot outmatch its debasement abroad by neo-racist policies. In 1994, the genocide in Rwanda shocked the world almost as much as the Jewish holocaust. But lately massacres in Central African Republic and the Sudans (a name that also means black) still depict Africa as the resident evil in our visually connected world. Uganda has been cheerfully scripted alongside.
After all Joseph Kony, the worlds most wanted fugitive, guilty of war crimes including turning children into killers is a sort of ambassador at large for this sort of narrative.
The ironies of Pope Francis’ visits are not even that the dream of a Jewish homeland once considered their resettlement in Uganda (the Knesset celebrates a “Uganda Day” each year). But perhaps that Israel and Uganda with their own brands of discrimination agreed last year to a solution to immigration headaches that many considered as morally bankrupt as racism and homophobia.
It was revealed that both countries had agreed on a swap. If Uganda can create a new homeland for Israel’s unwanted East African migrants, the Jewish state would provide it with modern weapons and some investment. Has not Uganda’s violent neighborhood long since made it a refugee friendly country after all and therefore an expert on forced migration? Are not some of the largest refugee populations within the United Nations found there?
So how badly on the scale of moral hazards is this deal?
The Pope’s visit to Uganda is planned as a commemoration of one of the most important events for East African Catholics the canonization in 1964 of the Uganda Matyrs, long the symbol of conscience and resistance to power. After 50 years, the volatility of our commonly held views on the morality and essence of power, religion, dissent and discrimination in an increasingly diverse and mobile world does not yield easy answers.
Black or colored migration more prevalent now is especially vulnerable today. Poverty and conflict remain color-coded as does racism, but the former is larger.
Pope Francis’ visit if it happens hopefully can be some source of introspection. Values aught not to be for sale. If however Israel is trading with Uganda, in both humans and values, it’s a useful question, which is a greater evil. It may well be that a homeland for unwanted East Africans is a greater good for this day and age. After all this is the era of “Africa rising” or is it?
On November 9th 1906, a letter was dispatched to the colonies by the government of Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the two-time Secretary for War, who had just become Prime Minister of Britain. Addressed from Downing Street, it would spark a fierce debate between colonial representatives in Uganda, Kenya and Zanzibar. It was about oil, specifically about the future ownership of oil discoveries.
“ Sir” it began, “ I have the honor to inform you that in view of the increasing use of liquid fuels [oil] for naval purposes, the Admiralty attach importance to the reservation to the crown, in all cases in which grants or leases of crown land have been made, in the colonies, of the rights to the Crown to mineral oil”.
It was addressed to the Secretary of State For the Colonies, the Rt Honourable W.G.A Ormsby Gore, MP.
A string of terse correspondences, all marked confidential and in some cases ‘Top Secret’, began to be exchanged through trusted couriers. This debate would take several years,and as prospects for oil in Uganda started to look promising, especially heated.
At the heart of the debate was the situation that had been created in 1900 Buganda Agreement, sometimes referred to in colonial circles as the Uganda agreement. In seeking to reserve oil for the Crown, technocrats were worried that the Buganda Agreement, specifically section 17, had given private rights in entirety to landowners in Buganda, including rights to minerals under them. The agreement stated “ The rights to all minerals found on private estates shall be considered to belong only to the owners of those estates subject to a 10 percent ad volerem duty, which will be paid to the Uganda administration when the minerals are worked. On the land outside the estates, the mineral rights shall belong to the Uganda administration”.
The debate itself divided the political managers of the colonies in Britain from the technocrats, some of who were allied to commercial interests that sought to “work” these minerals. An opinion of the chief legal advisor to the Crown was sought, but his opinion caused even more consternation- and correspondences.
Did minerals include mineral oil? If it did not, then how can one reserve mineral oil on private estates created by the Buganda Agreement? How would mineral oil be separated from other minerals? The legal gymnastics that went on belied the political considerations for Britain.
Buganda was the centerpiece of the colonial protectorate and was anchored by the agreement, fictionally at least, between two sovereigns, the English Queen and the Kabaka. Most politicos were against introducing legislation, proposed by technocrats in Zanzibar and Kenya, and similar to the Petroleum (Production Act) 1934 of the United Kingdom.
In February, 1938, then Protectorate governor Sir Phillip Euen Mitchell summarized the situation thus: “ It may be said shortly, that private property in mining rights does not exist outside the Buganda province with the exception of ten square miles held by the native Anglican Church; but that in Buganda the rights to all minerals found on private mailo estates and on certain mission and freehold lands belongs to the owners of such estates and lands, subject to the payment of ten percent to the Protectorate Government”.
Sir Mitchell argued that, following the 1934 Act, it made sense that oil (petroleum and natural gas) rights be reserved for the Crown “ in the public interest” through additional legislation. “ The position in the case of Buganda land owners, however presents some difficulty,” he said.
He argued that the forces rallying to ring-fence oil had done so only after advances in the use of fossil fuels had opened new opportunities. “The concession of mineral rights in Buganda manifestly included gold and diamonds and though petroleum and natural gas were not singled out for particular mention, there is hardly any doubt that those who made the agreement intended to include everything of value that might be found under the land in the nature of minerals, without specific limitation”.
Mitchell advised against asking Buganda or even forcing Buganda to surrender those rights retrospectively. “ There is no doubt in my mind,” he said, “that the Kabaka and his government would protest against this course, and it is difficult to see any way of convincing them that there would be no substance to the assertion, which would infallibly be made, that the British government was thus arbitrarily confiscating the rights of private mailo owners which were conferred by the Uganda Agreement”.
A practical man, Mitchell also knew that the cost of antagonizing Buganda was higher than if the matter were left alone. Geological work had indicated that oil was likely in the Albertine valley, outside the Kabaka’s territory or any private estate owners. Indeed, land in Bunyoro was largely considered Crown land. Mitchell therefore advised that legislation be introduced for the rest of the territory, excluding Buganda. “ At a later date it might be possible to induce the native government to enact in the Lukiiko analogous legislation reserving to itself all rights to oil and natural gas on mailo land”.
Buganda’s special status within the colonial matrix aside, it is clear that the root of title to oil is always a subject of political negotiations. No similar debate on the rights to oil has since taken place in post-colonial Uganda, where oil was “discovered” in 2007. Two years earlier an omnibus bill, also known as the constitutional amendment bill, was presented in Parliament, expressly reserving oil for the new crown, the central government. The bill, like the removal of presidential term limits in the same year, was passed without much debate, either on the subject of public interest or on the inherent rights of other claimants to oil.
The political considerations weighed by the colonial governor in Entebbe, have been commuted to Bunyoro by the current seat of power, President Yoweri Museveni, whose official residence remains in Entebbe.
Bunyoro has been targeted not for separate legislation, however, but ostensibly sequestration. A new Ministry for Bunyoro Affairs, one of the most recent cabinet positions, has been created and filled by Mr. Ernest Kiiza.
Mr. Kiiza’s political career has been constructed on agitation for the rights of the Banyoro, in the age of not “hypothetical” oil but real oil discoveries. Mr. Kiiza also chairs, not unsurprisingly, the cabinet sub-committee on oil.
The question of ownership of oil or rights to oil remains open however. Public interest is the subject of new legislation recently proposed by the government in the form of the revised Public Finance Management Act. The architecture of the proposed PFMA is to merge budgeting and accountability functions and laws into one framework. Its main architect, Mr. Lawrence Kiiza, who led teams that considered drafts as far back as 2008, argues that the new law will rationalize management of all public sources of revenue including oil.
However parts of the new law, and its old draft, address a root of en[title]ment that is by default ‘native”. Special considerations are mooted for local administrations managed by the central government as well as the political power in those areas, superintended in the case of Bunyoro by his Highness The Omukama of Bunyoro’s government.
And while the government has proposed a formula for oil sharing, its rationale has not been put to debate, publicly or in manner of the quiet correspondences of yesteryear. Its been suggested that revenue sharing be determined as a share of the total production in a district or distributed by population size. But where have these criteria been debated?
Within the context of a new debate on the limits of decentralization as a government policy or the risks of centralization, a debate on political federation and another on “local content”, what does ownership of rights to oil or other minerals really mean? This debate is as fresh to law and politics as if the 1900 Buganda Agreement had just been signed.
A copy of this article was printed by the Daily Monitor on the 7th of January
The Kampala authorities went into a state of shock when Gen. John Garang De Mabior died. His chopper, an aircraft loaned to him by the Ugandan president, fell out of the sky and burnt to ashes.
There had been signs of trouble brewing.
It was telling that De Mabior, a national figure in Sudan, its First Vice President under an impending separation agreement between the north and south of the country, had taken an emergency trip to Uganda amidst rising tensions within his own party. It is not unusual for Kampala that for years has been a stopover for many real and wannabe revolutionaries, their delegations, international do-gooders and other war profiteers. The SPLA, Sudan’s ruling army and movement, it would later be revealed had been wound so tight by the time of De Mabior’s visit that many in the know expected an implosion.
As it was explained to me Dinka factions, one led by De Mabior and another by Salva Kiir Maryadit were expecting a face-off. De Mabior had apparently ordered Salva’s arrest. During the week and before his plane went missing military handlers of his guards were forced to, according to one source, separate armed representatives of the two factions by housing them in different parts of the city to avoid a violent confrontation. A rumor had been going on that some of De Mabior’s guards had been poisoned.
The effect of his death was noticeable almost immediately. A pall fell over the city. Most sources were immobilized some of it from the initial confusion over the circumstances under which his plane had disappeared. I covered the story with Frank Nyakairu then the conflict reporter at the Daily Monitor whose father was the pilot on the doomed flight. Ironically, in the way that what goes around comes around, most Ugandans had known Nyakairu as the journalist who was arrested for reporting that the Lord’s Resistance Army had shot down a Ugandan army helicopter near the Sudan border. In a few weeks I too would get my 5-minutes of fame after the army shut down KFM (previously Monitor FM) where both Nyakairu and me had started our careers- over the coverage we offered.
Many have had their say over these events but what probably happened is that a major confrontation, similar to the one we are witnessing now in South Sudan had been avoided with Garang’s untimely and tragic death. It was mainly owed to embarrassing revelations of the ugly disagreements within the SPLA/M that KFM had been shut down.Front and center even then was the Neur leader and future Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny. He had thrown his considerable weight behind Salva Kiir and had been vital to what was in fact an internal coup within the party.
Some saw his actions for what they were; a careful investment- intended for a future at the Presidency. Last month, it appears, Salva traded places with the late Garang, and facing an internal revolt similar to 2005, he is rumored to have ordered Machar’s arrest. The rest is history.
In the light of Mr. Museveni’s statements about resolving the South Sudan question, by deploying a regional force if necessary, some have questioned Uganda’s role- referred to by the British Foreign Secretary, the rather vile William Hague, as “vital”. Several world leaders including the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon asked Mr. Museveni to use his experience with the factions to stem the violence.
Lets get the real politic out of the way. In any crisis there are losers and winners and while no military victor has emerged in the cycle of violence currently wrecking Sudan, the crisis has contributed significantly, if precariously to the continual role of Uganda as an influential player in the conflict laden Great Lakes.
Just to explain, Uganda’s actions are likely motivated by establishment bias. Peacemaking in the region post the 90’s Congo wars, under Ugandan stewardship ( with some backing from Western powers) , has mainly been intended to sustain the status quo as a basis for stability. Rebel factions or groups are encouraged to reconcile with the people they are fighting against in various state houses- and integrate their forces into power sharing formulas.
This has been the case with M23 recently and before it in the 10-year long Burundi Peace Process that ended with the presidency of Pierre Nkuruziza. Uganda also threw its weight behind Mwai Kibaki in the disputed 2007 elections and later behind Uhuru Kenyatta in last year- even if Kenyan politics like Sudanese politics has many musical chairs with the same actors.
Establishment bias segues with the language of “peaceful democratic change” that is supported by international players in the UN system and is also particularly useful for leveraging incumbent assets against domestic political opponents. However it is the notion that disagreements can be negotiated away- especially between equally balanced forces that likely drives the recourse Uganda took in South Sudan.
Ugandan servicemen have been placed under Salva Kiirs control. The actual number is unknown but probably significant for other reasons as well. There is poorly concealed discomfort with Salva’s opponent Dr. Riek Machar whose role as broker for the relationship between Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony and the patronage of SPLA’s arch enemy, the Khartoum government has not been forgotten.
It is also probable that for a long serving military leader like Mr. Museveni, a perpetual shape-shifter, albeit one as gifted as Dr. Machar, goes against the grain of unquestioned loyalty that holds together the perpetuity of long reigning regimes. Perhaps lastly but not least if Uganda’s biases are questioned as others including Machar- have what would a Ugandan – South Sudan policy encounter should he return victorious to Juba?
Is real politic enough to explain Uganda’s relations with its neighbors? Why, if the Sudan question is so volatile are the Ugandan authorities willing to risk being burned by its fire?
The answer is that no single explanation suffices.
What has been helpful to outsiders and journalists, held at bay by the culture of secrecy and obfuscation so instrumental to the armed liberation movements turned democratizing forces, is to attempt to deconstruct the composite of the state. In Uganda as elsewhere in Africa it is a system of essentially dominant military establishments balancing control with change.
It turns out that African state-builders may have been held to a higher standard than others. When we compare them, especially mature ones today, we lose the history of the rest whose record of mayhem and murder can be looked at in retrospect and not contemporaneously through today’s multi-media world.
This is not a bad thing for post independent Africa, but it is a major source of the willful disfiguring of the currents behind power struggles, territorial disputes and economic wars. [Below Deputy FM Okello Oryem]
This language of democracy, governance, elections and accountability applied to all and sundry has lead to many down the twisted garden path. I guess what am attempting to convey is that the true nature of the competition within a state, its power struggles tainted by non-ideological alliances, is obscured when discussing major crises. It holds back the path to the heart of the crisis and postpones practical solutions.
Uganda’s 2012 Draft Foreign Policy document may be a good place to look for some broad ideas around what constitutes its national interest. It may help somewhat in explaining what is emerging over the last 20 years as a doctrine of rational military power behind her regional moves. The foreign policy vision is stated as “ A conducive regional and international environment that promotes a secure, peaceful and prosperous Uganda in which the interests of her citizens are at the center”.
However Ugandan “foreign policy” has been constructed under an expansionist platform present in one form or the other under all its leaders including Amin and Obote but more so in the last 20 or so years. Whether this is by design or the consequence of the presence of weak states around Uganda for that entire period is certainly for debate.
There are those who reason foreign policy as something that is “done” to African governments. They would be wrong half the time. It exists to as part of state-building contemporaneous with the internal pressures within each state.
It appears to me at least then that state-making is shaping up to be a multi-nation process in the Great Lakes and Ugandan participation is a direct result of the military state that sits at the heart of its so-called democratic enterprise.
More later. Over to you.