Can our leaders learn from Egypt?

13 Feb

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


4 responses to “Can our leaders learn from Egypt?

  1. Martin

    February 14, 2011 at 08:31

    Thanks Steve, for yet another well written piece. May I add that the gravity/extent of power abuse by African dictators when in power determines the ease with which they can relinguish power. Mubarrak’s case seems to involve more of economic “crimes”. For some African leaders their assumed or real crimes may be far more ‘ugly’. Many of them find themselves in catch 22 situation. They realise that they cannot defend their actions while in power without the power. Hence they take steps to entrench their stay even if people do not want them. In the process they become more repressive and distructive; making it even harder for them to consider leaving power in a piece, sorry in peace. But as nothing can continue indefinitely, time comes when masses cannot take it any more. Sycophants begin abandoning the gravy train realising that the end is near and in an effort to protect their loot. A phenomenon I call “a collapse from within as the centre becomes weak or more vulnerable motivated by self preservation. I suspect that this is what may happen in the case of Uganda. You can feed people on lies, bribe MPs and compromise parliament but in the process you are re-directing resources from activities and projects that benefit those who votes you into power. At one point people have to face it that you are a “Kiwaanyi” and will take action accordingly. I hope!!!!

  2. Stephen

    February 14, 2011 at 20:41

    The seed for the Egypt uprising was planted over 2 years ago during the bread riots.

  3. simon wampa

    February 15, 2011 at 02:19


    unfortunately and factually too the likes of Mubarak, Mugabe, Museveni etc cannot and are incapable of ‘Learning’! Because power has exactly the same effect on a ‘human’ as ‘alcohol’. Once a ‘human’ drinks alcohol beyond a certain ‘level’ he becomes ‘involutarily’ DRUNK. Involuntarily because no-one sets out to be ‘drunk’ but once he attains excessive alcohol content in his blood, it automatically and without his consent makes him ‘drunk’. Effects of extended periods of state power control manifest themselves in exactly the same fashion. Excessive longevity in state power makes any human being, whoever he is (Mugabe, Museveni, Stalin, Kim jil Sung, Marcos …ad infinitum) technically and for lack of a better word…..’DRUNK’! So what do you do with a drunken person? Is he capable of reasoning at that point? Is he capable of learning? Unequivocably “NO”! For his own good and the good of others you just have to stop him and take away the bottle! That is what the people of Egypt have done to Mubarak. That is what the phillipinos did to Marcos. By the way, that is why real democracies have term limits……..they fully understand how intoxicating drinking from the cup of ‘power’ is!

  4. nilspeace

    February 20, 2011 at 17:37

    Old men sit in the shade because they planted the tree many years before – Ugandan Proverb. Because he planted the tree and seed. He believe its his right to keep it forever. The recent election proves it and we knew it in 2001 and 2006. It isn’t news, it is as expected. Secondly he want some of the oil from Bunyoro and Lake Albert. Good blog you have, therefor I have linked it to my blog. Peace bro!


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