Monthly Archives: February 2011

Is Museveni’s ‘victory’ helpful to Uganda?

By Stephen Twinoburyo

So the Ugandan electoral commission has declared incumbent president, Yoweri Museveni, the ‘winner’ of the recently concluded presidential election,   with 68% of the vote? That Museveni would ‘win’ should never have been in question. Matters, conduct and events leading up to the polls all indicated one thing – a Museveni ‘victory’.

The whole campaign was so steeped in his favour that even a mosquito placed in his position could have won. First of all I must acknowledge the lack of violence that had characterised the previous elections. In fact most of the pre-election violence we saw was between NRM candidates themselves that fought bitterly to have a seat on the plunder-train that the NRM has become. Never in the history of the country have we seen state plunder that is a simple matter of course as we have seen under the NRM. Never before have we seen the state president have absolute control and misuse of state resources as we have seen Museveni do. This then is what played in the elections.

Throughout the campaigns, Museveni has been physically giving out state money to all and sundry as he pleased. Newspapers reported that all government ministries had run broke midway through the financial year and all payments had been put on ice because all the money had been diverted to president Museveni’s re-election campaign. The Minister of Finance later confirmed the financial paralysis in government. Reports from Bank of Uganda (BOU) indicate that some officials have indicated their intentions to resign and that the governor himself has become a broken man because of the way the president has turned the institution into his money purse. It is alleged he ordered the bank to release all the money available and divert the rest from designated projects against the will of the BOU managers, and that even some in the institution who have traditionally supported him feel let down. This brings to memory the way Iddi Amin run the institution. However in Iddi Amin’s case, he used the money, without planning, to add to the country. Museveni instead has been reducing value from the country. What a pity! It’s this money that has been used to bribe people massively, right from parliamentarians going down. In a country where 84% of the population is rural – and living on presidential handouts – this works very well.

The situation has also not been helped by the army, which has indicated on many occasions that it can only serve Museveni. During the campaigns, as hospitals run without medicine, we saw scores of armoured riot vehicles and trucks being imported from China, all on display to box people into fear. The army also became very visible. All this, together with talk of chaos if Museveni were to lose, was designed to intimidate people into fear and make them choose ‘stability’ over delivery. The army has thus been portrayed as a machine of Museveni’s sustainance rather than an institution for the people. This played very well during the campaigns and elections. However events in Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia have shown that the army is made up of brothers and sisters of the common man that they also suffer under the same disrepair and poverty as their kin.

Just like has happened in many African countries where long-serving despots entrench their positions in power, I think Museveni and his supporters have pushed for extension to his 25-year rule more out of fear and individual opportunistic needs rather than what he has to deliver. Few, if any, expect him to deliver anything to the country that he has not done in 25 years. When one looks at North Africans making changes in their countries, one wonders what planet we in black Africa live on. Those North African leaders have delivered far more to their countries that we can ever dream to receive from the likes of Museveni even if he were given another 50 years, yet we seem to be in a slumber of ‘comfort’. Whenever the international TVs would briefly turn to Uganda to report on the elections, the scene would appear like it had been taken from a pre-history channel. The brown, muddy and dusty environment didn’t seem to be from a country that has been boasting of “the largest economic growth in Africa” for the last 25 years, and least of all a country on the same continent where Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia are. Ugandans should wake up and realise that they are living in a country that is one of the poorest and least developed in Africa, and not getting any better. Uganda should also be ranking among the most poorly managed countries on the continent, and there is a lot in the country to affirm this.

There were times when I wondered whether an election boycott would have made more sense despite the fact that I am generally not in favour of boycotts. However I think the campaign gave us an opportunity to learn more about Museveni. I generally think Ugandans are now more aware that Museveni is going nowhere peacefully and few genuinely expect anything positive from him. Campaign euphoria and living happily under the ‘elected’ government are two different things. As the reality sinks in, there will be greater realisation that we are deeper into the abyss than we have ever been in our history. I am more than convinced that each day longer that Museveni stays in power is a greater loss for the country. Already the country is likely to bleed from massive inflation due to the money that has been withdrawn from the country’s coffers and misused. To this, will add projects that will no longer be undertaken or essential supplies that will no longer be acquired.

I must also point out that the opposition had their failures too and did not help themselves sufficiently. The fact that they spent more time fighting each other at the beginning than tackling their opponent must have made Museveni sleep so soundly. These fights also demoralised many Ugandans that could have voted for them. That almost half of the registered voters didn’t vote says a lot. The opposition to be frank, was not inspiring. They focused more on Museveni’s failures rather than what they can deliver. Many seem to be in politics for the same reasons we want those in the NRM out. I have been involved in many facebook debates and we invited the opposition groups to briefly tell us what their programmes were so that we could debate them but none came forward. Up to this day, post-elections, I don’t know what most of the opposition groups stood for. It’s in fact people from the ruling NRM that came in to argue and debate on behalf of their parties. if the opposition thought such forum are not helpful, they then have not caught up with the latest communication methods – and politics is about communication. Uganda definitely needs a new political space, most preferably among our youths. Uganda needs leadership that see real value for the country and are determined to make a difference. Leadership that has an upright  moral mindset.

Yes, Museveni has ‘won’ but the mood in the country seems to be that of uncertainty than celebration. I was young then but to me this increasingly resembles the post-1980 elections period. Nothing, and not least the recently concluded elections, convinces me that Museveni should still be our president. I will continue to argue, debate and ally myself with those who say he shouldn’t.


Posted by on February 20, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


Can our leaders learn from Egypt?

By Stephen Twinoburyo

“The lesson many took: If it could happen in only three weeks in Egypt, where Mubarak’s lock on power had appeared unshakable, it could happen anywhere.

Perhaps more surprising was the genesis of the force that overthrew Mubarak. The protests were started by a small core of secular, liberal youth activists organizing on the Internet who only a few months earlier struggled to gather more than 100 demonstrators at a time. But their work through Facebook and other social network sites over the past few years built a greater awareness and bitterness among Egyptians over issues like police abuse and corruption.” Yahoo News.

Uganda's Museveni: Thinking about retirement is crucial.

Many African countries face what the Egyptians faced under Mubbarak or far worse. Mubbarak  – and Tunisia’s Ben Ali – delivered more to their people than many Africans will ever hope to get from their leaders – economy, infrastructure, education e.t.c. Why then were the people in these countries more determined to push for change than their fellow Africans who live worse lives and get worse delivery from their leaders? I guess I would do well not to mention Zimbabweans.

Since the Ugandan situation is no better than that of the Egyptians and what has been delivered in the 25 years of one regime pales in comparison to what Mubbarak gave to the Egyptians, can we expect that what happened in Egypt may flow upstream to the source of the Nile? And can we expect the kind of maturity we saw expressed by Egyptians and most particularly the army?

Unfortunately for Uganda, UPDF can never be neutral and we should never have any illusion that they can behave like the Egyptian army. However many armies will now be judged according to the Egyptian standard.

To save the country, the Egyptian army took over, but this after weeks of restraint. Even the previous vice president seems to have lost his position as he announced Mubbark’s resignation. Egypt of course faces enormous challenges as there is no clear leader – a position created by Mubbarak himself. However that Mubbarak has gone, a new order will somehow be established, difficult as this may be. This is a situation that has existed in all countries where despots have had a firm grip on power without setting up structures that could ensure smooth transition. They are always followed by a period of confusion. Examples are: Iddi Amin, Saddam Hussein, Ben Ali and it may even happen to Uganda after Museveni.

Uganda of course lacks a unified group and a professional army. This poses a challenge to the kind of resistance Ugandans can form. That however doesn’t stop resistance from taking place. Each situation has its challenges and way of approach. For instance in both Tunisia and Egypt, people’s uprisings overthrew tyrannies but it was done in different ways. While in Tunisia it was mainly violent youths and an equally brutal security machine, in Egypt it involved people of all walks of life including babies on their dad’s shoulders. The Ugandan situation would also adopt itself to the prevailing conditions. For example much as Museveni succeeded in the bush in Uganda, this could have probably been impossible in Kenya. What matters is people to be fed up and yearn for change. Such uprisings don’t even have a time table or predicted kick-off event.

Back to Mubbarak, isn’t it unfortunate that leaders spend all their lives behaving like they are super human only to end up the way he did! A few days ago, I had a debate with a S African friend who was very supportive of Mubbarak, Mugabe, Gbagbo e.t.c – only because he hates Americans (or whites) and thinks these leaders are fighting Americans. He correctly pointed out that at one time all these leaders were supported by Americans. I told him that yes, the Americans supported them but the problem with these African leaders is that when they receive support from America, they forget their own people and think they’ve been elevated to another human state and that their people are to be trampled upon. America never asks these despots to torture, starve or kill their people. They forget that eventually the world will judge them according to their people.

They also forget that for a leader to stay for 25 years, there will have been more than three American presidents in which case foreign policy and interests may change. Therefore none of these leaders should blame America for turning their back on them like they did on Mubbarak, Ben Ali, Mobutu, Saddam e.t.c. America never asked these leaders to do all those horrible things to their people or overstay in power or plunder their countries. These leaders place their trust on ice forgetting that when temperature rises, ice melts. Note how Switzerland was quick to freeze Mubbarak’s assets even before he had found a new home.

Both Nelson Mandela and Thabo Mbeki never had foreign bank accounts when they left the presidency in S Africa. This is because they were not worried of anything happening to their money since they had done nothing wrong financially. Nobody except the courts of law could make a decision on their money and this was not going to happen since their financial dealings were clean. In fact Mandela gave most of his salary to charity and Mbeki refused a salary increase for many years.

History is replete with examples but our leaders never seem to learn. The two deposed leaders of North Africa had numerous examples to learn from, but they went the same way. There are others too  that have seen the way these two leaders have gone, but will wait until they go in a similar fashion. Interestingly when then Vice President Mubbarak succeeded the assassinated president, Anwar Sadat, he declared that he was not interested in politics and would rule for no more than five years. 30 years later, he was disgracefully expunged from the Egyptian system, that to a man who only a month ago would land anywhere in the world and a red carpet would roll, now he would struggle to get a country to allow him set foot – leave alone have a home.

Lessons lessons lessons! Our leaders you need to learn! You are also human but just given an office. Don’t take your people for granted!


Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


FDC South Africa’s final campaign push

By Stephen Twinoburyo

The FDC South African Chapter held their last pre-election meeting in Johannesburg on the afternoon of Sunday 13th February 2011 and I had the pleasure to attend.

Just like the previous meetings I have attended, the commitment of the members was phenomenon. Being the last meeting, most matters have been dealt with and this one only looked at last minute considerations. The meeting mainly looked at two matters that may impact on the elections.

The Chapter has sponsored radio adverts that will be run on Ugandan radios to support the FDC/IPC campaign.

The Chapter collected an amount of money as a contribution to FDC President DR Kiiza Besigye’s final week of the campaigns. Members present collected money and phoned around for contributions but what was most astounding is that whoever was phoned agreed to and indeed contributed money. A substantial amount was raised.

The Chapter will during the week send sms messages of support both voters and IPC contestants encouraging them on the monumental task they are going to embark on this Friday 18th February 2011.

The FDC SA Chapter chairman will inform members when the next meeting will take place as the agenda will be set by events on the ground after the elections. The meeting will take place in Pretoria.

To all Ugandans, may you have peaceful and fruitful elections.


FDC Power of Five:

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Posted by on February 13, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs


The Powder Keg that Egypt Became (But yes, i am okay and thanks for all your concern!)

By Stephen Tio Kauma

Stephen Tio Kawuma: Perspective from Egypt

Having left the office on Thursday 28 January 2011 after penning a memo to staff about closure of the office on Friday due to planned demonstrations, i honestly thought it would be over quickly and that i would be back to the office on Monday to business as usual. (How wrong i was!) I proceeded to my local for a drink and at 10.00pm realised that my BB was off. Next morning, i realised the mobile phone service was off too, thanks to the “magnanimity” of a government which believes its their right to curtail my freedom to communicate as they see fit.

Having lived in Egypt for two years and counting, i have developed a sort of love-hate relationship with the country. Its a country of 85 million people, 20 million of whom live in Cairo, a GDP of over 200 billion dollars (Uganda is approx. USD 10 billion) and an annual budget of almost 60 billion US Dollars (Uganda is approx. USD 5 billion dollars). The country has fairly well developed infrastructure (including 95% electricity coverage compared to slightly over 5% for Uganda), good private education and health facilities, lovely restaurants, cafes and clubs and some of the most amazing and pristine holiday destinations you can find in the world.

The economy has been largely transformed in the last 10-15 years with economic liberalisation which opened up the country to investment,efforts credited to a “super” economic team unofficially headed by Gamal Mubarak who on top of being the President’s son, also holds a top job in the main political party (NDP), which has been in power since 1978. This liberalisation has created a large group of wealthy people (including 3 billionaires(USD) on the Forbes list), and a construction boom that that has spawned numerous international hotel chains, American style mega-cities with the attendant mega-malls, in Cairo’s outer suburbs that were bare desert only a few years ago.

However, most of the goodies created by the economic boom are inaccessible to a majority of the Egyptian people, 20% of whom live under the poverty line and an estimated 40% to 50% hovering just above it. A poor quality public education system has spawned a large number of half baked graduates,many of whom can barely speak a word of English. The public health system is atrociously inefficient while the civil service is bloated, generally corrupt and is known for its legenadary red tape.

So why my love and hate relationship with Egypt? I love Egypt because aside from its rich history, economic transformation has created a “first world” which i, being an expatriate, along with a very tiny Egyptian minority enjoy and relish in most respects. But i hate that Egypt which has large parts of its population that can only look into this “first world” from the outside as dirt poor farmers, poorly paid factory workers, housekeepers, door keepers, taxi drivers, deliverymen, civil servants (teachers, policemen), many of whom are underemployed and frustrated university graduates.

That such a large part of the population is locked out of this “first world”  is aggravated by the fact that they are also locked out of a political process that is seen as largely autocratic, corrupt and non-representative, so much that in the last parliamentary election, only 20% of the voting population bothered to vote. To this mix, add a repressive 30 odd years’ emergency law  that gives the police enormous powers that are often brutally exercised against rogue elements, but also against people who are seen to be anti-establishment, and you have a powder keg.

That powder keg exploded in Egypt last week, putting to rest my misguided belief that it will all be over quickly and that i will be in the office on Monday; an attitude, i have come to realise, is a dangerously delusional one held by many of us who form a tiny privileged section of any society and often inevtably, also form its leadership.

The Egyptian powder keg may have been avoided if the government had reminded themselves of the reason why they are in power in the first place. I am particularly intrigued by the concept of social justice(see John Rawl’s book” Theory of Justice” –NB I am yet to read the whole book). He argues that every society has social, political and economic relationships between its people which inevitably evolve into a trusteeship arrangement with some people becoming trustees (the leaders) for others (the led). Trustees, by the nature of their status, have the duty to ensure basic liberties and freedoms and apply them to ensuring that all the people they lead have  equal opportunities to personal, economic and social development.

A political system that relies on the concept of social justice will not create a society that splits society into the haves and have nots because government will provide adequate social services such as quality education, health and infrastructure that will ensure an optimum level of equality of treatmentand opportunity.

Indeed most political organisations i know have every intention to apply the tenets of social justice, including the Egyptian government, who i know have many schemes in place meant to address social inequality.  In practice, however, many fail in their public duty to do so because the road to social justice is riddled with many obstacles which they fail to overcome with disastrous poltical consequences. These obstacles as espoused by the Egyptian protesters include among others corruption and self aggrandisement,subverting the public good to the individual good, political expediency at the expense of the long term good, delusions of invincibility,nepotism, political competition that is coloured by repression and authoritarianism, all practiced by the very trustees supposed to fight these obstacles to social justice.

The Egyptian keg has been preceeded by others such as Kenya, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast and Tunisia. It is no coincidence that all of the above countries were once lauded as success stories in Africa before they exploded,  in the misguided belief that economic growth(unequal) and fancy “first world” developments, irrespective of high levels of inequality and political repression, represented success in its entirety.

In fact, we now know that economic growth without attendant social justice is as empty as Cairo’s many lovely hotel rooms today, as hollow as the burnt out shells of the magnnificent seaside villlas belonging to ex-Tunisian President Ben-Ali’s relatives and as bizarre as the two Presidents in Ivory Coast today.

It is our duty as the elite who form the bulk of the people’s trustees to let history become our teacher rather than our jail keeper.


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Posted by on February 6, 2011 in Stephen Twinoburyo's blogs