Mr Mwenda, your article on Rwanda is heavily one-sided and probably compromised

11 Aug

By Stephen Twinoburyo

The article in The Independent, a Uganda news magazine refers.

Look Andrew, I don’t know how you came to this analysis. In my opinion, it is out of depths with what is really taking place in Rwanda.

“…the rallies of opposition candidates are not broken up by the police, their supporters are not beaten by private militias…?” Of course that was expected. There was no opposition. Let me post here my facebook post that has brought in some good arguments: “I hear Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame won with 93% of the vote. The other 3 candidates, all from the governing coalition, created a big dent by snatching 7% from him. Those who dared to form proper opposition were shown their space in the new Rwanda. If all of Africa had such a model democracy, we would never have to worry about the nagging opposition”.

The clincher in your article is “All the candidates are strong and seasoned politicians: President Paul Kagame (Tutsi) is the clearly the strongest standing on the ticket of the RPF”. Holding a position in Rwanda’s Kagame controlled parliament does not make one a seasoned politician. Besides, a politician without a political organisation or political space is absolutely nothing. It has been common news that all notable opposition candidates, even though they wouldn’t have unseated Kagame now, were hounded out of the political space. Andrew, have you gotten used to the environment around you that you can hardly recognise what a respectable democratic process should look like?

Andrew, your article is heavily biased and greatly compromised. Needless to say, I think it contradicts the name of the publication in which it exists, The Independent. You even go to the extent of calling those who dissent with Kagame the “African elite”. Andrew, what makes your view and that of Kagame, the best on the way Africa should move ahead? Who does not see that democracy and human rights in Rwanda have hit the skids and are on a roller-coaster. The recent events coming out of that country have provided a clear indication of what governance in that country is like. Rwanda seems to be turning into an enclave in repression in that part of Africa. Rwanda seems to be turning into a country of fear.

This is a view from the New York Times. Of course it’s also elitist: “Some ballot boxes were swathed in shiny pink fabric and festooned with bows, ribbons and balloons. The elaborate decorations, along with the reports of 100 percent turnout in some places, seemed to reinf…orce what Western human rights groups and critics inside the country have been saying about Rwanda’s democracy, that it is essentially a dressed-up dictatorship.”

Yes, Kagame has brought some economic progress to Rwanda. That should not be an excuse for trampling on human rights. Besides leaders are there to foster development and he’s doing what is expected of him as a president. Repressed Africa seems to be taking the view that when a leader does something good for the country, we should celebrate at the favour he has done ‘his’ people.

Yes I acknowledge the development Kagame has brought to Rwanda but again yes, I condemn his heavy-handedness in the way he is governing the country and thinks everybody who has a different opinion does not deserve any space.


Posted by on August 11, 2010 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


22 responses to “Mr Mwenda, your article on Rwanda is heavily one-sided and probably compromised

  1. Philip Nsajja

    August 12, 2010 at 01:08

    93% margin of victory! Come on people. A dear friend of mine even wondered whether this was a new high or a new low. You be the judge.

    But what is wrong with Africa that even the best and brightest among us somehow can’t resist the urge to appear irrelevant and seemingly self-destruct?

    Andrew Mwenda has worked so hard establish himself as a credible journalist who has no qualms about speaking the truth to power. He has by all accounts, been a crusading journalist and a thorn in President Museveni’s side, notwithstanding the fact that he’s also fairly close to the President’s family. He hasn’t let this proximity to people who hold the levers of power in Uganda taint his journalistic credentials and has called them out whenever he can. As a member of The Monitor team and on his ‘Andrew Mwenda Live’ program on KFM, he fought hard to hold our leaders to account and he did a commendable job.

    Those close to him have suggested that he became so disillusioned with The Monitor’s editorial direction that he quit in frustration and founded his own publication, The Independent. It became his own mouthpiece through which he could comfortably voice his opinions without having to answer to the corporate interests that are driven by profit.

    He has always come across as a genuinely hard-working, incredibly well-read fellow who passionately believes in the causes he champions. It appeared that he also didn’t care for authority, money or the trappings of power, choosing to call it the way he saw it. In the process, he has earned himself a respectful following.

    In the same breath however, we’ve always know that Andrew’s Achilles’ heel has been President Paul Kagame. For whatever reason , he seems to worship this man, believing that he’s a one-of-a kind trailblazer who can do no wrong. A friend of mine described Mwenda’s allegiance to Kagame to the “evangelical zeal of Tony Blair and his Iraq debacle”. It is also however, dangerously misguided.

    We are at a loss to explain what has driven Andrew into such a cozy relationship with President Kagame. What is his motivation? What is his story? Suffice to say that when journalists do this, they lose all manner of credibility as they have descended into the murky world of being state-sponsored cheerleaders (read collaborators). Not so long ago, Mwenda wrote that unlike Museveni, he thought that Kagame would actually retire when his term expires in 2017. He was mercilessly hammered for taking what many considered to be an appallingly naïve point of view. He was told in no uncertain terms to take his blinders off and stop being a Kagame apologist. At any rate, Kagame would have been in power for more than 20 years when 2017 comes around. Go figure! In any case many of us are highly suspicious of the intentions of African strongmen who send their sons to elite military academies such as West Point and Sandhurst as is he case with Kagame’s son, Ivan Cyomoro and Museveni’s own Muhoozi Kainerugaba.

    It’s always worthy to give credit where it’s due and it must be acknowledged that both Kagame and Museveni have impressive track records that they can proudly stand on. We shouldn’t forget from whence these 2 countries have been. It can be argued that these 2 men saved their respective countries from the doldrums by the sheer power and strength of their personalities. They have delivered, especially when it comes to security and stability. Looking back to the Uganda of 1986 or the Rwanda of 1994, these men clearly have a lot to be proud of and even brag about.

    What frustrates some of us however is that even with such arguably commendable track records, they have managed to taint their democratic credentials irreparably through their heavy-handed approach to governance – especially during election time. These guys don’t need to stuff ballot boxes or send goons to beat up their opponents in order to win elections. They can just as easily win in a clean and fair fight. What then are they so afraid of?

    My problem is that they get all wound up in the belief that they are indispensable and end up over-staying their welcome. The Baganda have a saying that “Nazina obulungyi avaamu”. Loose translation: however good a dancer you are, you must at some point, get off the dance floor. When does the law of diminishing returns set in? My opinion is that Museveni got to that point a long time ago and Kagame may sadly be headed the same way.

    So, Andrew Mwenda’s decision to publish such a shameful opinion about the Rwanda election is a case study in how easily journalists can lose track of the truth and descend to the lowest levels of journalistic depravity. He is clearly compromised. He might as well have gone right ahead and replaced the byline with President Kagame’s name and revealed that the story was indeed dictated by him. And what else does he do? He calls his (and President Kagame’s) critics as nothing more than a bunch of ignorant African elitists who are so intellectually lazy and incapable of seeing beyond their noses. It’s the old ‘just-shut-up-and-get with-the program’ line of argument. Unfortunately for them, that has become such a stale defense that for so many people, doesn’t fly anymore.

    Thanks Stephen for providing a forum in which we can continue to call these guys out.

  2. Godfrey Kahangi

    August 12, 2010 at 08:54


    These are my thoughts that I posted on Facebook that I am just copying and pasting on the blog.

    You know my strong opinion on the rights of the minority, as opposed to the dictatorship of the majority. Having said this, I want to go against the grain slightly. Daniel has provided a rather impressive list of Kagame’s achievements as shown below:
    “Umwalimu SACCO (Teacher’s Cooperative that gives cheap loans to teachers), Mutuelle de Sante (Health Insurance available to all Rwandans), Ubudehe (Rural Poverty Reduction Program that is working!), Gir’Inka Mu…ny…arwanda (One cow per family), One Laptop Per Child, Convicted prisoners giving back to society through work schemes, Rwanda being the least corrupt country in EA, Rwandan soldiers and Police officers keeping peace in war ravaged areas and being an exemplary army, kilometres of fibre-optic cables in the Country, Great infrastructure, Working Hospitals with medicines, reduced mortality rates, HIV levels reduced, Malaria deaths reduced……”

    If we were to make a score card of all achievements against the challenges, how would Kagame rank? Why I ask this is my constant wonder, and some of Daniels previous blog comments have made me think; are we over preoccupied with one aspect of performance and ignore the others?

    For example, are we too occupied with some forms of human rights and ignore the litany of development? I wonder whether we are applying unfair standards to these leaders? Ok, if I can just articulate the scorecard, he has done all that Daniel has written about, and on the other hand he has stiffled opposition, he has been linked to the murder of two or so people, etc. Is this sufficient to warrant international and national condemnation? Just thinking aloud. The only problem is if Daniel’s litany of achievements was not correct.

    If we look further afield into the conduct of Bill Clinton; the conservative right wanted to crucify him on the Lewinsky issue despite the numerous domestic and international successes he had achieved. Is one wrong sufficient to justify the negation of the other successes. If, for arguments sake, it was discovered that Mandela has multiple affairs, is it right to cause him to loose all credibility?

    I wonder whether we are not using one issue, human rights/ rights of the opposition, to negate all that Kagame has worked for in Rwanda. I am just thinking aloud and don’t hve a fixed position yet on this matter.

    The trend of the facebook discussion was leaning towards a demonisation of Kagame just because he had been contextually repressive to the opposition. That, by itself, is not the only criteria that performance of a president should be judged by. If we were to have a scorecard, you find that, though he has 10% of opposition relations (democracy), he has 90% on education, health, social services, etc. Is that so bad? I think we may also be falling into the thinking that, just because a leader accepts democracy (as we would like to know it), they are good leaders. Israel is the only democratic country in the middle east, but they have atrocious records, not against their citizens but in the neighborhood. America, the paragon of democracy, has some of the worst human rights on record against enemy combatants, with the authorization of torture.

    Maybe we should criticize Kagame, but do so with slightly more restraint, given the fact that his scorecard doesn’t have only the word DEMOCRACY blazoned on it. It also has HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY, EDUCATION, WATER, ELECTRICITY, etc. How would you classify the middle east economies that provide all these services and have a very high per capita but don’t have democracies? How would yo uclassify Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc? Is the democratic system of governance the beginning and end of a good life in any society? That is the question that needs/begs to be answered? How would you relate to China or Singapore (that has a worse democratic sham record than Rwanda).

    Another one has to do with the evolution of democracy, but that is for another time.

  3. john mukasa

    August 12, 2010 at 11:29

    One person from Rwanda on sky news was trying to discribe how it feels to live in Rwanda. He said its kind of difficult to live with some one who killed your family,but also its better to move on and live together as one rwandans. He said they are trying to forget their tribes.
    To me socialism was the main target for Kagame,so rwanda is heading to be a chinise copy right state.This kind of democracy is forced on to rwandan citizen,and i realy think Kagame and m7 have the same idear. What i don’t understand is if they have to live as one,does that mean they have to use one language direct as well. Does m7 think this will work in uganda too,and if so what will he chose to be the ugandan national language. We have listened to some of his speeches,like the one he gave about development demands from one MP in Mbale Bamasaba. He replied in his mother dilog what ever that is.But he said the pipe from were the development came from was blocked by the minister. He said , the ministers action of refusing to support extension /voting in parliarment for his everlasting presidental chair,was there down fall to get help from him. This is the man who wants uganda to be as one. His the leader of discrimination,tribalism ETC if thats what his reaction was.

  4. Kakoza

    August 12, 2010 at 12:25

    Twino, i find it difficult to compare a horse and a donkey because they look alike but for sure, they are total different. That is Museven and Kagame.

    They are all black pple
    They workered together
    They are all africans
    They are all presidents
    All assumed power via use of a gun

    Their level of understanding, the nations they lead,experience,idiology,languages, age, education and their background are not the same .Is that all? and for the above reasons, Museven will never be Kagame and kagame will never be Museven

  5. Twino Speaks

    August 12, 2010 at 14:49

    A friend sent a comment directly to me but prefers to remain anonymous and requested that I post it on his behalf. I respect his position and here is the comment:

    Hello Stevo,

    I respectfully disagree as I (like Andrew) think that our societies and leaders should be judged with full appreciation of the context in which we exist or came to exist. A lot of what we see in the press about us is written by people who either don’t come to investigate for themselves (unlike Andrew who actually visited Rwanda) or don’t spend enough time on the ground to be able to differentiate between fact and propaganda by people with an axe to grind with the government (surely one can’t just believe everything people in the Oppositin say without requesting for corroboration / proof).

    You in the diaspora may have forgotten the reality of our conditions and may want to compare your circumstances with what is on the ground. The following article by Andrew ought to help put things in perspective – nothing short of a complete reordering of the power relations between the governed and the governors will help and Mr Kagame’s efforts at building institutions and insisting on efficient service delivery are steps that ought to be applauded as steps in the right direction for Africa; – Why democracy is failing us

    In addition, I think that you should read a book by Oxford University Professor Paul Collier “Wars, Guns and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places” where he provides insights from his research on the democratisation challenge in post-conflict states. See reviews of the book from The New York Times as well as The Sunday Times and The Guardian from the UK. – some excerpts from the article;

    •’Collier’s primary conclusion: democracy, in the superficial, election-focused form that tends to prevail in these countries, “has increased political violence instead of reducing it.” Without rules, traditions, and checks and balances to protect minorities, distribute resources fairly and subject officials to the law, these governments lack the accountability and legitimacy to discourage rebellion. The quest for power becomes a “life-and-death struggle” in which “the contestants are driven to extremes.”’

    •’To flourish among the bottom billion, Collier says, democracy must “gradually erode ethnic identities and replace them with a national identity.” Economic development helps, but in societies riven by ethnic divisions, it can simply increase the stakes to be parceled out among the different groups. According to Collier, what is essentially needed are visionary leaders who can build identification with the nation as a whole.’

    Finally, please read this rather long but balanced article by Dr Frederick Golooba-Mutebi of MISR in Makerere University that includes the much needed context in analysis. – Rwanda not yet a success story nor a normal country

    In summary, prior to coming to any conclusions you should either visit Rwanda or do a thorough analysis / research instead of “being influenced by the chatter of dominant opinion” in the media.

    PS. Another article by Andrew that should be insightful –

  6. Drew

    August 12, 2010 at 14:53

    A week ago Doreen posted a link to the BBC documentary “Useful idiots”!

    The phrase ‘useful idiots’, supposedly Lenin’s, refers to Westerners duped into saying good things about bad regimes.

    Am afraid Andrew Mwenda’s most recent article remin…ds one of the phrase useful idiots and appears to describe him perfectly!

    On first reading the reports of Kagame’s phenomenal victory, my first thoughts were that this cannot possibly be true. Not in any freely democratic society.

    If anything sounds like it is too god to be true, then it has got to be too good to be true. This massive win with a 93% majority more than a decade after coming to power following one of the most fractious of civil wars has got o be a miracle!

    But I am not a believer in miracles. I much prefer to see real proof and evidence. I struggle to think of any truly free thinking society that has returned a leader with a 93% majority at an election!

    In reality the only countries where leaders are returned with such large majorities are not banners for democracy. One thinks of people like Mobutu, Sadam, Ghadafi, the North Korean regimes and Cuba.

    There is no doubt that Kagame is a strongman who exerts total authority over his government and country. there is also no doubt that he has had more success in some areas than one has come to expect from out leaders particularly if one comes from Uganda. Quoted examples include austerity measures, clamping down on corruption, police discipline, clean streets, housing etc.

    A long time ago a Rwandese friend of mine who was an insider and soldier in the RPF told me that in Kagame’s army, he was the boss and the only boss. He brooked no dissent and handled it with ruthless finality! his soldiers knew it and none dared cross him .

    There are plenty of things to be admired about Rwanda. But there are lots of things about which one should be apprehensive. One of those is the personality cult built up around Kagame . leaders should come and go. But wnenever a leader shows signs of being the only institution in the land, one should smell trouble! examples abound of leaders who having come with a revolution, ate up or got eaten up by the revolution. As a matter of fact, revolutionaries seem to have the unfortunate knack of believing that the country cannot live without them and continue to remain at the helm long into their senility like comrade Mugabe or till prolonged incubence and corruption and their evils sons kleptocracy and impunity bring them down. One thinks of people like Mobutu, and Obote who did not know when to bow out gracefully to enjoy their spoils including stolen wealth!

    Mwenda is a strong critic of Museveni. As a matter of fact, he rarely ever gives Museveni credit for anything. it is therefore surprising that he has always presented without question the story of a successful and peaceful Rwanda.

    That in a country that less than two decades ago a million people got massacred within 100 days and where a significant part of the population lives in camps outside its borders and an overwhelming majority of major government and military positions are held by a minority that constitutes only 15% of the population Kagame could get a 93% of the vote begs an explanation.

    An artcle such as the one Mwenda just wrote begs the question of balance. It smells of roses. If Kagame’s minsistry of propaganda had written this story, it couldnt have come out better. regardless of the facts and the details, if this had been in Uganda, Mwenda would have written a story looking for loopholes and weaknesses in the rosy picture! this in itself suggests bias if not outright compromise of his journalistic integrity.

    As an African I love to see success stories. I also hate it when western journalists comment on Africa from positions of ignorance while making unqualified statements and conclusions. But the wish to see a success story in the middle of such hopelessness should not blind us to facts.

    Fact -Kagame is one of the longest serving rulers on the continent. He has no obvious retirement plan. like museveni, his son just graduated from Fort Leavenworth and got his pips. He brooks no criticism and controls dissent. opponents are dealth with with ruthlessness.

    He also has an advantage that blinds those who would criticise him. He can make his accusers back down with guilt by showing them the skulls -a tactic Museveni has employed for years. A tame opposition, culled in advance and a tightly controlled society are not exactly a democracy.

    Finally what is this literary gimmick of suppressing opposition to ones views by labelling them lazy elites? Methinks that all of the praise that Mwenda has received has gone to his head just like it did with Timothy! If one is confident in their views they do not have to try and brow beat and bully those who may have a different view!

    There is no doubt that Kagame has done some good things in Rwanda. As a matter of fact I wish Uganda could borrow some leaves from Rwanda.

    If Rwandese can overcome all of their differences to give Kagame almost 100 % of the vote almost 2 decades since he came into power they must better than Ugandans or for that matter most other people in the world notwithstanding their unique experience in comparison to the rest of the world.

  7. Twino Speaks

    August 12, 2010 at 21:20

    Thank you all for the comments. I am particularly impressed by the fact that most of you are debating from a point of knowledge – you have info to back up your arguments.

    First of all I would like to point out that I am not disputing the development Kagame has brought to Rwanda. Indeed his achievements on that front are very commendable. That’s why he has won international acclaim and those achievements can never be taken away from him.

    That said, his style of governance cannot be ignored. Developing a country can never be an excuse for repressing it’s people. There is a tendency for African leaders to seem to own citizens of a country such that they can do whatever they want with them – arrest, throw out of work, evict out of the country or even eliminate (read kill). That can never be acceptable and whatever development Kagame brings to Rwanda can never be an excuse for the fear he is imposing on the country. The fact that his opponents are progressively getting eliminated is a worrying trend and Rwanda is turning out to be the only country in Africa where this trend is prevailing.

    I still ask the question: Isn’t it possible to foster development without being a dictator? Nowadays people are able to make pretty accurate forecasts on many things including mortality in the next 50 years, how come we are not able to tell when we will be mature enough politically to be governed without being oppressed? I believe this is possible. Repression is only in the interest of the leaders. Then again, how come some leaders are more repressive than others. How come, for instance, we hear more of political deaths associated with Kagame than with other leaders in the region? Kagame, just like Museveni before, says foreigners should not tell him how Rwanda should be governed. Of course we know in whose interest this is.

    Many of our African brothers and sisters find it difficult to criticise or point out faults of leaders who appear to be popular and us such these leaders become institutions upon their people and take to untold excesses. It’s even worse when these leaders fought their way to power – because they are virtually uncheck-able. In Rwanda’s case, yesterday’s oppressed seems to have become today’s oppressor. There is a danger that the world may have become overly taken up by the collective guilt of the genocide that they became oblivious of the reverse erosion of human rights occurring right under their noses – once again.

    I did not know much about what was taking place in Rwanda apart from stories of a miraculous recovery until recent events caused me to focus keenly on the country. I acknowledge that achievements that have been made but I am no longer very optimistic of an admirable political future and commendable governance of that country.

  8. Philip Nsajja

    August 12, 2010 at 20:51

    Godfrey, by and large, your argument in defense of President Kagame’s record of performance is spot-on. I do agree that he has delivered on many of his promises and given that country hope and a sense of optimism. As I’ve mentioned before, we can’t just criticize leaders because it’s vogue to do so and ignore the numerous accomplishments. I try not to fall into that trap. Kagame’s accomplishments are many and you’ve pointed those out, so I will not repeat them here. Demonizing the man who brought his nation back from the precipice is also foolhardy. I still remember 1994 very vividly. My problem however is that we’ve see this movie played out before and the ending is never pretty. One needn’t look any further than in our own backyard. When the NRM rolled into town about a quarter-century ago, we were told then that what Uganda needed was not free and fair elections, but a protracted period of political stability which would then usher in economic prosperity and democracy. The argument then was that the country needed to heal from decades of repression and mismanagement; that the people needed to mature politically. You remember all the talk about the evils of sectarianism. We were also told that once this political and economic stability had been solidified, anchored by a large middle class, then we could start talking about pluralism and a return to representative democracy…blah blah blah. You remember all that talk right?

    It was a very persuasive argument then and Ugandans did buy into it, giving the NRM government a well-deserved benefit of the doubt. People were so tired of the anarchy. They just needed a break. What happened after that is a case-study in how not to give African strongmen blank checks. We won’t go into the details of how the NRM government has executed its strangle-hold on power, but let’s get back to Rwanda.

    The destinies of Rwanda and Uganda are inextricably entwined. The RPF government in Rwanda is for all intents and purposes, an out-growth of the NRM. They may bicker and fight every so often like siblings would, but they are operating from the same template. In Rwanda’s case, the argument has hinged on the ‘G’ word – genocide. As I’ve mentioned before, we all clearly remember the horrors of 1994. Back then, I was a freshly-minted Makerere graduate, working in South-western Uganda and was based in Kabale. My work regularly took me to Kisoro and other border areas in the region. We occasionally crossed the border into Rwanda proper and I saw some of the carnage up-close. Many of us also lost colleagues and school-mates, who left to join the struggle to pacify Rwanda. For us, and many other Ugandans, Rwanda’s struggle became personal.

    We have therefore watched with pride as they have carefully extricated themselves from the hell-hole they were in back then and are impressed. They also have very valid reasons to be a little tentative with the pace of democratization. Indeed there are times when a heavy and steadying hand may be necessary to guide people in post-conflict nations. It is also true that imposing a pluralistic democracy and insisting on elections in countries that are just emerging from ethnic conflicts, very often leads to disaster. There may be room in a nation’s growth for the likes of Kagame and Museveni. At a certain point in history countries such as ours may indeed need ‘benevolent dictators’ to impose a sense of order, clean up the system and set the country onto a path of genuine progress. Naye Bakulu, that is beside the point. Should this be reason enough to give such leaders a free pass? No way!

    It’s a fine line to tread and when we do not hold such leaders to account and insist that they fulfill their promises, there is a tendency for impunity to creep in. Unfortunately, we may be seeing the seeds of this being sown in Rwanda. We can’t just sit back and see this very promising country go the way of our own Uganda, where the NRM seems to believe that it has a monopoly on virtue. They have decided that they alone have the answers to all our problems and that any divergent viewpoints need to be stymied. This shameless belief in their self-worth is frightening. Such hubris has very often led to the downfall of many a great man.

    In reference to the anonymous submission posted above, I take issue with the tendency to dismiss the views of people in the Diaspora as being naive and out-of-touch. It is a classic tool that apologists and despots alike employ in an attempt to quash the opinions of their most ardent critics, who very often live abroad. We choose to live here out of choice and there is nothing wrong with that. So, what are we supposed to do? Pack up and abandon our lives here and head back home just so we can appear legit in our criticisms of the powers that be? And how far would that get us really? Granted, compared to the past, there is relative freedom of expression in Uganda and to an extent in Rwanda. But the key word here is ‘relative’. People can shout and scream all they want – but only to a point. Initially, they’ll ignore you as irrelevant and harmless but when you start stepping on the toes of powerful people, they will very often come down hard. It’s no secret that some dissenting voices get muzzled and in some instances eliminated. I know of a friend who was hounded out of Kigali because powerful forces there didn’t like what he was publishing. He’s just a decent guy, doing his little bit to advance his country. We still have some pretty draconian laws meant to stifle free expression. Should we then sweep such instances of bare-knuckled brutality under the rag just because we have good roads, drugs in our hospitals, high-speed internet access and shiny new buildings? When do we realize that holding our leaders to a higher standard is actually not a vice but a hallmark of political maturity? Why do we have to constantly defend ourselves and apologize for demanding that our leaders be answerable to us? When do we stop anointing them as heaven-sent saviors; messiahs who can do no wrong?

    It’s indeed time for a balanced scorecard of Kagame to be written. This means that we commend and celebrate him for his accomplishments and also vehemently criticize him for his pitfalls. We can’t just whitewash his record under the pretext of “the good out-weighs the evil”. That is setting the bar too low and very often, that’s the excuse African leaders need to stifle dissent. The only problem is that whereas Godfrey and I can respectfully disagree on a few issues, we are not disagreeable. We respectfully debate them as mature, informed adults and hopefully learn from each other. We do so with a modicum of decency. This may not be necessarily true in Kigali or Kampala. Back there, people quite literally go for the jugular, opting to do away with their critics in one way or the other – lock them up, chase them out of the country or simply shoot them.

    I hope I’m proven wrong in the long term because my admiration for President Kagame compels me to wish him success in his endeavors. But deep down there, many people are beginning to see how this movie is gonna play out. I will keep my fingers crossed come 2017 but I will not hold my breath. President Kagame has another 7 years to consolidate his achievements. We are not saying that he should then just pack up and leave. I mean, if the Rwanda constitution allows him to stand again, he can go ahead and do so. And as I’ve previously mentioned, Kagame and Museveni can comfortably run – AND WIN – on their records alone without having to resort to ballot-stuffing or beating up their opponents. What are they so afraid of that they find it necessary to resort to such medieval tactics? They can win a free and fair fight again…and again…and again…and again, without having to subject us to this 93% farce. And therein lies my beef with Kagame and Museveni. At what point do these gentlemen realize that they’ve served admirably and that it’s time to exit the stage? After 20, 25, 30 years? Don’t they have any confidence in the ability of the institutions they have established to out-last them? And while you are mulling that over think of those West Point and Sandhurst Cadets (Ivan Cyomoro and Muhoozi Kainerugaba) who are waiting in the wings.

    I have seen this movie before. Arouse me when the credits start rolling.

  9. Drew

    August 13, 2010 at 00:55

    Philip states my position on granting our leaders particularly in view of the evolution of Rwanda’s sibling NRAM/A revolution in Uganda!

    Many years ago as a young university student, I visited Rwanda. The guns had barely been silenced and in retrospect it was a very foolhardy thing to do. Certainly my parents were not impressed as they had not been told were I was until i came back after having had a nasty road accident in which i almost died as the practice then was if driving at night to drive at breakneck speed in case one came across an interahamwe roadblock and became a statistic! Interahamwe still roamed the countryside! The car got written off! At the time I was impressed by the orderliness of the refugee camps which had not as yet got dismantled! Uptill now, I believe the orderliness of those camps were a good sign of things to come.

    Each time I read of skirmishes between RPF and the NRA or between NRM politicians and Rwandese counterparts I am amazed at the naivety of commentators particularly those who would see the Museveni/Kagame entreprise fail! Having watched them as a boy get into taxis in jeans and windbreakers on the way “home”, I have watched Rwanda’s progress over the years with interest. I have found a lot to be proud of in their progress. One a member of their elite went out with me many years later. He revealed that his business dealings as were those of another of out classmates extended deep into Congo which offered them a much bigger market than did small Rwanda! these “boys” are rumoured to be multimillionaires -in real money!

    But depsite Museveni’s protestations, that the RPF “boys” left without his knowledge at a time when he was abroad, anybody who was in Kampala on the day they left would have no doubt that military intelligence knew exactly what was going on! The “boys” were quite frank and clear as to where they were going and they caused a shortage of taxis in downtown Kampala as they hired taxis to take them to the border. In addition kinyarwanda tapes of Rwigyema had been playing on Kampala streets for quite sometime.

    A young Ugandan -Rwandese lady I knew at the time also had close links to players in both the NRM as well as the RPF/A. She introduced me to some interesting characters among them the late Jet Mwebaze. While Jet was older and a ‘commander”, he was actually very charismatic and easy person to talk to. Through him one got to get a very good understanding of the NRA/M officers relationships with the LRA front in the north, the RPA/M, SPLA/M and various congolese factions. The story at the time of his death is that he was carrying a significant amount of money to Congo on one of his private business deals. He had his pie in many interesting pies and business deals that were more revealing than what one heard from the government or through the newspapers. An example was a meeting in Kampala between Bashir and Museveni at which Museveni denied any links with the SPLA. The same week, I was introduced to SPLA commanders by Jet -business partners of his with whom he had negotiated deals to provide hundreds of millions of shillings worth of sugar and foodstuffs. it was not too much of a stretch for one to imagine where arms could come into that equation. given Jet was a big player in Gulu at the time, it also demonstrated just how much serving army officers were involved in private business deals that potentially undermined the northern war! Here was an army officer who was very well connected being the younger brother of Kazini a then senior army commander hobnobbing in full daylight with SPLA officers in Kampala while the president was pleading plausible deniability with Bashir in the same city. I got to meet Kazini the same day again in the presence of the SPLA officers! I must say Kazini was drunk and not very happy with his younger brother. Am not sure whether this had anything to do with the obvious embarrassment and conflict of interest of the presence of the SPLA officers! Through the same young lady as well as another mukiga girl at university who worked for Salim Saleh, I got to meet him too and heard some quite interesting stories! I met Ugandan coltan exporters years before Ugandans knew coltan even existed as well as gold dealers from Karamoja. At the same time I also happened to know some French people in the embassy so got to hear their chatter about Rwanda and congolese politics the way the French government and local embassy staff viewed it. I know that thousands of Ugandan Rwandese crossed the border while so called UN troops were patrolling it to attend a big meeting in the Rwandese mountains! And I heard stories about what befell Rwigyema’s assasins long before rumours ever started appearing about them! Among those boys who crossed the border with hopes and aspirations for self determination were boys i went to school with. Some still leave in Kigali and are players there.

    Through these chance meetings I got to be able to connect dots between these players years before they happened. And for these reasons I believe that the individual problems between Kampala and Kigali are overplayed and over exagerated. Regardless of what happens, Kagame and Museveni still appear at major functions together and appear to have a fairly good relationship. Am almost certain that if Museveni had to run away from Uganda, kigali would offer him a safe haven as would Kampala offer Kagame and many of his men who have homes in Uganda and send their children to school in Uganda!!

    I have always wondered what the difference was between Kigali and Kampala. Why very similar movements have in some ways taken different paths. Is it because Rwandese have spent more time in exile and lived in other lands where clean streets and orderliness are important or is it because the leader in Rwanda is able or more willing to exert more total control? Why is it that an increasing number of my professional colleagues are finding safe haven and working conditions better in Kigali where they are paid better and have freedom to do a more satisfactory job? Really the people in Kigalia are not very different from the people who took over Kampala in 1986. Both have guerilla backgrounds and received their training from similar sources. Both subscribe to similar ideologies. Why then do the results seem to be different. Does the use of one language in Rwanda (except of course for the popularity of luganda) help when compared to our fractious tower of Babel? Is it possible that such extreme enemies can set aside their difference to vote for one leader and one dream?

    Going by their cousins experience in Kampala, I find this hard to believe. If it quacks like a duck, and it looks like a duck, it is a duck! The Kigali regime is in many ways not different to the one in Kampala. in many ways they follow the same template even though the veneers are different.

    There is no doubt that Kagame has more toatal control than Museveni has in Kampala! But one wonders is this a good thing? like Philip says very eloquently, we should be looking at the Kampala regime to determine whether it is a good thing to grant Kagame a blank cheque!

    Both have military and guerilla backgrounds. Both led paesant revolutions. Both took over very fractious and conflict ridden societies. Both have armies and political offices largely dominated by one ethnicity! Both have paesant generals who have risen to be kings of commerce. Both have been involved in cross border wars. Both revolutions have directly or indirectly led to genocide -allowing them to justify thei revolutions. Both have argued for stability at the expense of democracy!. Both lead politically complex societies in which ethnic sectarianism can lead to thousand s of deaths in an instant. The Buganda riots of last year are a perfect demonstration of how deadly Uganda can become within minutes while the Rwandese genocide still beats most other genocides in the speed and devastation it caused in turning seemingly innocent neighbours into deadly genocidaires!

    My conclusion is that we should not grant our leaders carte blanche to do whatever they want. Our leaders need checks and balances. We should never be beholden to one man for our freedom. And we should have mechanisms to retire our leaders and put them out to pasture on a timetable we chose and not one of their own! The more I look at Kampala, the more I believe we are headed for the war we have been trying to avoid for the last 20 years! it took almost 50 years for the Rwandese cycle of ethnic massacres to repeat itself as it did Yugoslavia. That Museveni argued very eloquently for institutions and then in his later years argued for the destruction of those same institutions while installing himself as the only institution in the land should give anyone pause and concern. That Mugabe has in his later years brought down the hope and aspirations of the people that fought for him and supported him for years should make us think! Leaders need to demonstrate their credentials and a country should not be something that is controlled and run at the whim of one man and his family however altruistic or benevolent he maybe!

    In saying this i do not claim to be an advocate of “democracy”. Certainly not the simplistic democracy mouthed and parroted by many westerners as an ideal and imposed on societies with complex conflicts that go back decades! I refuse to give our “opposition” a blanket cheque even though i would like to see Kaguta retire to Rwakitura! I have argued for balance in judging Museveni while remaining firm in my belief that he must go or be pushed! I will argue for the same balance and have tried to maintain balance in judging Kagame but will still argue that allowing him unfettered control with no check and balance except at his whim is bound to backfire.

    History is filled with empires that were held together by one strongman. They all crumbled and fell to the Generals when the strongman died. In allowing Kagame and Museveni to be the only institutions in Uganda and Rwanda, we set ourselves up for a fall -a nasty one. And if anybody thinks that putting off the fight we have to have is useful, that person needs to revisit the Kenyan riots! The elections in kenya and Zimbabwe raise the question of whether we have a plan for a run off and the chaos that will surely follow if that were to happen!

    I also have to admit that I sat in Lee Kuan Yew’s chair in the Singapore parliament and have a photo to prove it. I also read his book “From Third World to First”. I have visited Singapore manytimes and admire the society he built from nothing. I wish more of our leaders woulkd read his book. I know that Rwanda has been sending their young cadres to Singapore so there is someone reading his book!

    I also have known many people who were born in and left Singapore and now live elsewhere. Their own stories go deeper than the concrete and glass buildings and apparent sophistication. Of course one could argue that it is easier to demand freedom once one is well fed!

    I do not believe in democracy in the simplistic way it is fed to third world nations by western nations. And do not believe that China or Iran have to open up to western scrutiny. I do believe that they do have to open up to scrutiny by their own nationals though who should have a say in how they are governed and at what pace!! I must admit to being less than impressed by the appointment of Hilary Clinton as overseer of our nascent democracy! i believe every nation has got to find the right balance!

    But my experience of Uganda teaches me that the dreams and aspirations of a whole nation cannot be concentrated in the goodwill of one man and his family and cronies -even one who has no cronies like Kagame is rumoured to be or Museveni who claims to have no friends!

    And like Philip, those West Point and Sandhurst graduates in the wings of Kampala and Kigali worry me. After Kabila following Kabila, and Eyadema following Eyadema and even the Odinga following Odinga politics next door in Kenya as well as or very own Obote to Obote to errh Obote (that one was nipped in the bud), I am kind of leary of any society where the “man” is the only institution!

  10. Twino Speaks

    August 13, 2010 at 06:25

    Drew, this is quite a telling analysis you make. I have also heard some of the things you mention but I don’t think I would ever be able to relate them with such eloquence.

    One would wonder why we are so concerned with Rwanda! The fact is that the Rwanda and Ugandan stories are inter-linked. Having grown up in Mbarara, a few kilometers from the Rwanda border, I grew up and went to school with friends that ended up in present-day Rwanda. One of my best friends in my childhood neighbourhood, together with his brother, perished in the battle to capture Kigali. Another good friend at university, who I had never thought had a connection with Rwanda, ended up as a Rwanda diplomat in Europe.

    Besides, most of the present Rwanda leadership was cloned out of the leadership in Uganda – Kagame himself having been Uganda’s head of military intelligence before being recalled from military training in the US to head the uprising in Rwanda. Rwanda and Uganda fought alongside each other in DRC and installed Kabira as president. In South Africa, I meet friends who speak my native Runyankole but are from Rwanda. Our stories are therefore linked. And in any case, Rwanda’s stability or instability has a huge bearing on Uganda.

    Having seen the political path Uganda has followed since 1986, riding on a similar euphoria of success like Rwanda, there is a reason to raise alarm bells when one sees the trend Rwanda seems to be following. There are very vivid lessons to draw from but unlike Museveni, Kagame seems to be uncompromising in his non- tolerance or rather clampdown of dissent. Where Museveni relies on debate and charm, Kagame seems to rely on iron. That’s a cause for concern, more so in a country with a history that Rwanda has.

    Phillip asks a good question: when shall we stop apologizing for asking our leaders to be answerable to us – or for asking our leaders to respect us? When will our leaders realize that they are in power because of us and not that we are citizens because they are in power? There needs to be a reversal of this thinking if we are to have leaders that respect the people they lead. This cannot happen with the trend of leaders we have in the region.

    By far, Rwanda seems to be more organized in its state of services compared to Uganda and this is very commendable when one looks at the amount of resources at each country’s disposal. But it may also be important to note that Rwanda had good systems in place even before the RPF came to power. Unlike NRM, the RPF can be credited with not having run down the system and instead improved it. What Kagame needs to do is also improve on his governance. Most importantly, he should take note that just as Museveni passed his pinnacle point in the year 2000 and hit the downward slope, he may also be entering a phase where he will be seeing more of a downward than upward trend.

  11. omuzinyi

    August 13, 2010 at 11:28

    No one, including the western media discounts the contributions Kagame has made to Rwanda’s progress, but there is no justification for the repression of dissenting opinions and its going to be counterproductive in the long run!

    “In a knowledge-based economy and in an increasingly competitive global marketplace, every mind matters!”

    “The democratic State cannot afford to exclude any considerable body of its citizens from full participation in its affairs. It requires at every point that superior insight and wisdom which is the peculiar product of the pooling of diverse streams of experience. In this lies the strength of representative government. Upon it depends the superiority of the democratic Civil Service over its totalitarian rivals”

  12. Twino Speaks

    August 15, 2010 at 19:30

    Phillip Nsajja, this is a response to you from the same contributor above who prefers to remain anonymous:

    It certainly wasn’t (and it isn’t) my intention to pass moral judgement on people’s decisions to live in the diaspora as well as on their right and competence to comment on events going on “back home”. I was only stating the obvious in stressing the need for commentary based on a comprehensive understanding of the context as well as a need for a healthy skepticism when reading allegations made by people who may have an axe to grind as we ought to insist on proof / corroboration.

    Now to the issue at hand, it appears that this debate is really about what is ideal and what is possible i.e. realpolitik. Clearly both viewpoints have merit and the challenge we should focus on is how to make the ideal a reality while taking into consideration the challenges we face i.e. context of our situation. The key challenge is that it takes time and effort (with persuasive arguments, etc) to change perceptions / mindsets on power relations in our societies so as to inculcate a democratic culture (a tolerant and humane society). From the very basic – when you view both the rural and urban sectors of our countries; what proportion of homesteads, schools, social groups, etc actually practice “internal democracy” and “respect of human rights”? Personally, I think the war for “hearts and minds” should start here in addition to constructive criticism of the “powers that be”.

    I would like to leave you a quote from US President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech at the Sorbonne in Paris on 23 April 1910 – it was titled “The Man in the Arena”;

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
    I thus think that we should give credit to “the men in the arena” while criticizing them when they fall short BUT we must also seek to come up with better strategies on how to make what we desire a reality in our countries. We need to answer the question, what can we do differently to transform our societies (politically, socially, economically, etc) e.g. a complete reordering of the power relations between the governed and the governors by way of a new constitution like Kenya is doing now?

    PS. – Please give Kagame a break, Rwanda is no ‘normal’ country

  13. Philip Nsajja

    August 16, 2010 at 04:27

    That specific quotation by President Roosevelt is one that has impacted my view of the world immensely over the years. It is so powerful; I even have it plastered on my Facebook profile! It also has the potential of being used as a convenient excuse by virtually any leader (from corporate CEOs to third world despots, from fascists to Hummer-driving pastors) in order to justify their actions at the helm. Richard Nixon even titled his memoir ‘In the Arena: A Memoir of Victory, Defeat, and Renewal’ and he opens the book with this particular quotation. Now, whether or not being the man in the hot seat and whose face is “marred by dust” is reason enough to pardon all his misdeeds, is up to debate. Suffice to say that after reading this book, my attitude towards the man changed drastically. I took a more nuanced view of his presidency and I found it a little harder to simply dismiss him as a crook. But in the same breath what would have stopped Adolf Hitler from using Roosevelt’s words as a foreword to ‘Mein Kampf’? Afterall, he was right there in the struggle to reclaim Germany’s rightful place in a post-war world. His actions in the fulfillment of this end would therefore be justified, right? You be the judge.

    I hate to be in the very unenviable position of criticizing the immortal words of Theodore Roosevelt, but Mr. President, the critic DOES count. The man who points out where the strong man stumbles, DOES count. And especially in our nascent democracies, where the possibility of a nation falling down the precipice is so real, pointing out where strongmen stumble is so critical to nation building. And as Drew so eloquently remarked above, “…we should not grant our leaders carte blanche to do whatever they want. Our leaders need checks and balances.”

    In his opinion that Rwanda is no ‘normal’ country, Gitaru Warigi rightfully argues that the wounds in Rwanda are so raw and that this is not the time to play democratic niceties so as to appease liberal western critics. It is indeed a delicate balancing act that Kagame is playing and I can’t over-emphasize the importance of taking measured steps as the country tries to re-emerge from the horrors of the genocide. As he states, “The tricky part for Kagame has been to engineer a new country and a new politics”. My concern however is whether in the process of patching up this fractured country and engineering a more perfect nation, he may be falling prey to the disease that has ailed autocrats through history – hubris. Mr. Warigi also suggests that this 93% farce could be explained by the Hutus staring down the abyss and stepping back, not liking what they saw. That they didn’t have much of an option but to back Kagame – “for their own sakes.” Problem is that this is the kind of excuse that our leaders use to hang onto power – that powerful fear of the unknown. It’s akin to our very own “twebaka ku tulo” (we sleep peaceably at night) phenomenon that the legions of Museveni’s loyal supporters still cite – even a quarter century later – to keep him comfortably perched at the top. This is precisely what Koestler was referring to when he remarked that “Our leadership worship is more Byzantine than that of reactionary dictatorships.” It’s the kind of worship and cult of personality that the likes of Joseph Stalin used to subjugate their traumatized, post-conflict nations.

    The history of this world is littered with tragic instances of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The Catholic church of the 12th through the 17th centuries is a case in point. It felt it had a monopoly on virtue and considered itself above criticism or reform. Consider for a moment the words of Dietrich Von Nieheim, Bishop of Verden. Writing in ‘De schismate libri III’ in 1411, he stated that:

    “When the existence of the Church is threatened, she is released from the commandments of morality. With unity as the end, the use of every means is sanctified, even cunning, treachery, violence, simony, prison, death. For all order is for the sake of the community, and the individual must be sacrificed to the common good.”

    Fast-forward to 21st century post-genocide Rwanda and replace the word ‘Church’ with ‘Rwanda’ (or any other struggling democracy for that matter).You follow my drift, right? This is the kind of unchecked free reign over a nation’s destiny that we do not need and are trying to point out. Give the Kagames and the Musevenis of this world their due, but asking them to be more accountable to the people over whom they reign is not too much to ask for, is it?

  14. Drew

    August 16, 2010 at 05:39

    @ Philip,

    Thats a very good response. I had just read the anonymous response on Twino’s blog and was kind of bothered by it!

    Here we are, 24 years into Museveni’s reign about to embark of project extentd Museveni’s rule, yet we are supposed …to continue giving him a blank cheque because he is down in the trenches while we are enjoying our iphones and ipods!!!

    Kagame is in his 16th and has just got a lease on 7 more years but his right to stand for further office should not be questioned or his record because he is in the pits sweating it out while the lazy elite opine in cyberspace without getting their hands dirty!

    You mention Adolf Hitler and mein Kampf. I was thinking more about all those other revolutions where the elite were attacked and massacred.

    We have the Bolsheviks persecution of “petite bourgoisie” just like the French revolution turned on the more cerebral of its members and devoured them. We have pop pot and the Khmer rouge where all of their educated elite were massacred as enemies of the revolution! how about Mao’s china that elevated paesant Generals and ostracised or dealt a final solution to “enemies of the peoples revolution”?

    This same quotation can be used for evil and interpreted in a way that suggests that the thoughts of a seratin part of the populace are ‘enemies” to be suppressed or eliminated for their ‘unhelpful thoughts. there are other equivalents in western thought -liberals which can be a dirty word depending on who is using it and in what context. These liberals were branded comies and persecuted at the height of McCartite madness reminsicent of the churches own inquisition!

    Without reformers, the Catholic church would not have been able to reform itself and probably would not have been able to survive through the ages. Drivers of change in any organisation can be form within or from without. Its those who criticise us who allow us to rexamine ourselves as well as our motives and also allow us to modify our own behaviour! its part of why all modern democracies are based on the principle of a government in power and a shadow government in opposition providing cheques and balances on the tendency for the people in power to abuse their power!

    Incubency has a corrupting influence on even the best of motives. I am very sure that even Museveni would not recognise himself on the day he was sworn to power in 1986. Many of the quotations from that time are risible today as the movement has been around long enough to contradict themselves on almost all of their original motives codified as the ten commandments.

    Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Prolonged incubence breeds corruption and impunity! unchallenged power breeds contempt for the normal controls that govern most of our usual behaviours. the belief that out leaders are a separate special breed with motivations and a vision for which the rest of us are incapable is promoted by many despots the world over!

    In a world where it is ‘undemocratic” for one to have a dissenting opinion and the space to disagree becomes narrower and narrower, some people will conform or just stop voicing their disagreement. All will agree with the kings courtiers that the king who is actually naked is really clothed in the finest of clothes!

    Sometimes it takes a child to point out to all of the wise men and courtiers that the king is indeed naked!

    Museveni is at that point where only a child would be able to point out that he is naked and his courtiers are all corrupt!

    Many years ago alex mukulu staged a play. My parents took me to that play. museveni also attended the play. In the play Mukulu depicted all of the past presidents as busts without eyes or ears. He concluded that all of Uganda’s past presidents had no eyes and ears -they could not see or hear. He stated that Museveni was still in school! that his report card was yet to be assessed. that with time Museveni could demosntarte that he too was a failure like all of the other previous students without eyes and ears!

    The New Vision just published a national survey today of Ugandans aspirations for the next elections. The NV however put a spin on the results. they failed to present the results in the context of the prolonged incubency of the current president.

    in my opinion, those wishes of ugandans should be seen as a report card! What I find most interesting is the disconnect between the NRM and the peoples. the NRM sees its main achievement as having brought security! in the national survey, Ugandans placed that at the bottom of the list and listed ordinary concerns like healthcare!

    In my opinion, if this survey were used as a measure of Museveni’s performance over the last 24 years, he should be booted out!

    But in a country where Museveni (and Kagame) really stand against themselves, who is going to point out that they are tired and need to hand over to someone else!

    The NRM of 1986 used to pride itself on their internal democracy and individual merit! I will only believe that when I see a successful internal challenge from within or without their own organisations that is not viewed as high treason!

  15. Twino Speaks

    August 16, 2010 at 18:37

    From Anonymous. I like the issues raised and analysis done here:

    There appears to be a misunderstanding of what I am trying to say. I fully empathise with the views elucidated by the two gentlemen i.e. we should criticise the “men in the arena” when they fall short as no one is perfect BUT that this criticism really ought to be based on proven / corroborated fact and with an appreciation of the context in which the “men in the arena” operate i.e challenges they face.

    I also want us to move from only constructive criticism to actually doing something about the problems our countries face. And yes we will need to “get into the arena” and “face the bull in the bullfight”. This will certainly need a bit more effort and risk from you, I and the rest of our people. American Cultural Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) once said “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”. While the Greek Philosopher Plato (427BC-347BC) said “Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber”. The only way to get rid of bad governance in our countries is to have an engaged / enlightened / active citizenry who would put their leaders to account.

    Generally speaking, we need new leaders who are prepared to suborn their personal interests for the national good. From the people on stage right now, I don’t see many (or any?) who can really transform our country – most would do the same as the current lot … witness the lack of internal democracy in their own parties. Many of them are still living in the “glory days” when their parties were strong (and they still want to retain influence – big fish in a small pond) and can’t countenance being a small fish in a much bigger pond. And hence they will have to be swept away by a “tsunami”.

    So we (concerned citizens) need to answer the question, what can we do differently to transform our societies (politically, socially, economically, etc). My take is that nothing short of a complete reordering of the power relations between the governed and the governors by way of a new constitution is needed (like Kenya is doing now) in addition to a truth and reconciliation commission to help heal the wounds our societies have suffered over the years.

    My view is that we (concerned citizens) need to “get out of our comfort zones” and go to the villages, towns and cities across our countries to understand the issues of the common man and thus be able to craft credible solutions (via a political party, pressure group, movement, etc) addressing the national interest which should be able to “capture the imagination” of the people. I believe that this would result in an awakening of the population’s political consciousness to start asking for things (public goods) that governments ought to provide such as good roads, good education, free and fair elections, basic human rights, functioning hospitals (with doctors, nurses, surgery equipment and drugs), etc. This would require a sustained effort at building and sustaining a support base (branch network at grassroots level) across the country which would then be galvanised around the party values, ethos, strategy, etc as well as tactics such as vote protection to kill the “vote rigging phenomenon”. This would go a long way in changing the way our countries are run and I acknowledge that it is hard work to change mindsets but there’s no other constitutional way. As John F Kennedy (1917-1963) put it “Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. And however undramatic the pursuit of peace, the pursuit must go on”. You may replace Peace with Political Change.

    We thus need to have a good people-driven message/vision (developed after understanding the key common issues affecting the general populace) that can capture the imagination of the people, a good organisation at grassroots to keep the people “on message” and credible leaders/spokesmen to articulate our message/vision.

    As with all initiatives, it’s all about how, where and when to start … As we keep up this vigorous discourse on our countries coupled with research on success stories from other places, I am sure we will reach a point where we all decide (to quote M7) “this must stop … gasiya tu!”. As British Economist, Sir Josiah Stamp (1880-1941) once said “It is easy to dodge our responsibilities, but we can’t dodge the consequences of dodging our responsibilities”.

    In the meantime, we can start by talking to our family, friends, relatives, village mates, co-workers and all other people we interact with e.g. shopkeepers, market women, gardeners, security guards, etc to raise their political consciousness so that they may also start asking why things (public goods) that governments ought to provide are not available despite their paying taxes (directly or indirectly). We can also encourage the people we interact with to practice more “internal democracy” and “respect of human rights” in their personal lives. Who knows what we can come up with – As John F Kennedy (1917-1963) said at his inaugural address in 1961 to the US People – “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”. So are we prepared to take the plunge and change the course of UG history & mindsets like John F Kennedy did in the US?


  16. Daniel

    August 16, 2010 at 19:36

    I have made a lengthy comment on this via where i conclude -inter alia- that – To discount the 93% votes given to Kagame as a result of a non-existing opposition is in my view problematic. In the absence of evidence to show that those who wanted to vote for the opposition were forced, hounded out of their homes and ‘made’ to vote, I will find it hard to believe so.

    I do agree that we should condemn leaders who are ‘‘heavy handed’’ Who as you state, ‘think… everybody who has a different opinion does not deserve any space”.

    However I should add that such condemnation must be done on the basis of credible or at least convincing evidence rather than mere conjecture. In the event however that such condemnation is based on the latter, it should be made clear.

  17. john mukasa

    August 18, 2010 at 14:54

    Hi every one, i would like to say this was nice to read after all the commotion,it still points to the gov’t which has been in power since 1985/86. Ugandan’s have asked questions day in and out to each other,including M7. It seems the president has been investigating cases with not a single result,whilst the files are getting bigger and bigger. Should we say its going to be for life every ugandan to talk and ask for a mistirious answers. It must be to much overtime for NRM,hence terrible perfomances. Look at the ministers sleeping in the parliament when m7 is speeking, does’t that mean anything to anybody. Its bad leader,bad gov’t and NRm should admit and retire in peace.
    Have another read at the lines below.

    In the meantime, we can start by talking to our family, friends, relatives, village mates, co-workers and all other people we interact with e.g. shopkeepers, market women, gardeners, security guards, etc to raise their political consciousness so that they may also start asking why things (public goods) that governments ought to provide are not available despite their paying taxes (directly or indirectly). We can also encourage the people we interact with to practice more “internal democracy” and “respect of human rights” in their personal lives. Who knows what we can come up with – As John F Kennedy (1917-1963) said at his inaugural address in 1961 to the US People – “ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”. So are we prepared to take the plunge and change the course of UG history & mindsets like John F Kennedy did in the US?

  18. Twino Speaks

    August 19, 2010 at 19:57

    I posted the following comment on my facebook wall:

    Strange things indeed do happen. In a sudden turn of events Paul Kagame has made his neighbour Museveni look like an angel in terms of human rights and political tolerance. I hear people now say ‘at least Museveni…..’
    The following comments, in response were interesting:

    Bwesigye Friday Brian: Really? When yesterday (wednesday), youths wearing Tshirts written on words as “We want a Free and fair elections” were beaten in the process of arbitrarily arresting them and detaining them. Just recently in Rwanda, some political activis…ts were also arrested for possesing Tshirts written on We want democracy and justice! Perhaps that in Uganda, a more alert media will report the violations more prominently than in Rwanda. But I think that is because Museveni is a transactional president who can exchange some media freedom (if it does not hurt the life presidency plan) in exchange for credibility while Kagame refuses to negotiate at the expense of anything. In Congo, just like Uganda, Rwanda was blamed for human rights abuses by the International court of Justice, and Uganda’s fine is heavier than Rwanda’s! So I think both Museveni and Kagame do not believe in civil and political rights but like other principles, those willing to push can move Museveni to allow a limited space to favour his credibility in a typical corrupt and transactional way than a genuine conviction that Uganda needs human rights.

    Rodney B Barugahare: NA! Birds of the same feathers

    Stephen Twinoburyo: Very good analysis Brian.

    Fact of the matter is both Museveni and Kagame thrive on absolute control and can only maintain this by curtailing on human freedoms in their countries. And again, it seems both are scared to death about the prospect of ever losing power – and maybe the consequences of such. So they have to maintain an iron – and possibly blood – hold onto power. However they differ in approach. Museveni can tolerate some space and in many instances tries to win over his opponents by persuasion or coercion, something Kagame does not have. Museveni’s method has actually helped him up to now and I hardly see how Kagame will maintain his method for a period as long as Museveni’s. The part that Museveni plays cleverly is to make life difficult for the opponent through intimidation, suffocation of opportunities like jobs, business, career etc.

    Another thing, elimination of the opponent as purported in Rwanda will never solve the problem but will instead worsen matters and perception as we seem to see for Rwanda’s case now. Assassinations and similar attempts have not made the Rwanda goverment feel better. One can kill the physical body but camou kill the spirit. In fact Museveni knows that speaking to an opponent has better results than eliminating. South Africa has recalled it’s ambassador from Rwanda in protest, only the 3rd country after Nigeria on Saro Wiwa and Israel on the flotilla. I don’t think this makes Rwanda feel better despite the ‘strong man’ statements we hear. Fact of the matter is, Rwanda is likely not to be viewed in the same favourable light as it erstwhile has, all because of the perceived excesses of power – or abuse if one may choose to see it that way. I am one of those who had viewed Rwanda favourably until recently. Though I am a small entity in a big environment, I believe there are many more who are feeling that way.

    Brian you mention a good point about the press. Uganda has a far more open press than Rwanda where many of the things reported in Uganda are unlikely to be reported upon.

    Ruhindayo M Rumanda: Hello Steve; M7 has always been an angel.. you now see the light bro.

    This story in the Monitor is pertinent to this argument:

    PS: Daniel, I am still going to respond to you – hopefully at the weekend. It’s been a busy week.

  19. Twino Speaks

    August 22, 2010 at 18:48

    Hullo Daniel

    I apologise for taking a while, due to task commitments, before responding to your post above but nevertheless, now I do.

    I begin by emphasizing my personal opinion that Mwenda, just like anybody else, has a right to express himself on any topic. That has never been in doubt or question. I however reiterate that I find this particular article compromised in the sense that having previously considered his opinions independent, just like his magazine states, I no longer hold that view considering the analysis that glaringly ignored the shortfalls of Kagame’s election campaign and in fact endeavours to rubbish the claims of those that have been at the receiving end of Kagame’s wrist-control.

    I post below a few links to some commentary about Rwanda. President Kagame also gives his own explanation. I can post loads of them but these few are enough to carry my view:

    Financial Times:

    • An analysis by Financial Times’s Africa Editor, William Wallis:


    • Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame, also in the Financial Times:,_i_email=y.html

    • Rwanda’s democracy is still the model for Africa,_i_email=y.html

    Two articles in the New York Times:

    • ‘Disturbing Events’ Marred Rwanda Leader’s Re-election, U.S. Says

    • Rwandan Leader Heads to New Term Under Shadow of Repression By Jeffrey Gettleman.

    On the issue of the kind of opposition President Kagame faced, my view is in full agreement with that of FT’s William Wallis and NY Times’s Jeffrey Gettleman. And this is not because I belong to the group of ‘ignorant African elite’ but because that’s what I believe, as somebody who has taken time to read about what’s has been happening in Rwanda lately. And yes, this is an era of technology; I don’t have to be there.

    Of course Kagame has done great for that country and I applaud that. But for how long shall we give leaders a blank cheque to go on endlessly simply because they have made a contribution to their countries – something that is expected of them as leaders anyway? That’s an insult to the masses of such countries, Rwanda in this case, to claim that there is nobody else who can continue the work Kagame has done and an insult to all the rightful thinking minds in the country. This kind of argument has been carried in other countries like Uganda, Lybia and Ethiopia but it’s an indication of the leaders’ lack of development of institutions. So does Kagame – or Museveni/Zenawi/Gadhaffi etc need 50 years to put the country on what they deem to be a good footing? Mandela came to the leadership of SAfrica at a very difficult time but his system, or that of the ANC, put in place a firm foundation that enabled continuation. That’s what those leaders need to do rather than claim that they are the only ones that can ensure the survival of their citizenly. Amazingly, even Mobutu and Amin claimed so, and there were many people who believed them and would die to defend them.

    Kagame himself came to power after the death of Rwigyema and many, including myself, had never heard of him. When Rwigyema died, we all thought that was the end of RPF. How come RPF did not fall apart and now, ‘the previously unknown’ Kagame is even purported to be the only one capable of running Rwanda – or uniting it? There has never been a worse insult to human intelligence and capability. Just like him, others too would manage. Any lack of managing would be due to his lack of setting up proper institutions, thus him remaining the only institution. I don’t know why these leaders never realise that it is actually sweeter to step down gracefully than keep in power against the tide. From what has been occurring in Rwanda recently, and as we have seen in parts of Africa, Kagame now must be entering a difficult phase of his presidency.

    Of course the arrest of General Kayumba Nyamwasa’s brother, Lt. Col Rugigana Ngabo, by security forces in Kigali on Friday and the fact that by Sunday today his whereabouts are unknown does not help brighten the image on Kagame. Of course I don’t think he cares.


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