the death of ugandan democracy

11 03 2007

In The Monitor today, there is a piece written by Mulini Mulera that addresses some of the topics that I touched on yesterday:

Dear Tingasiga: I need to set the record straight. The headline of my column last week, which stated: “Abandon the illusion, democracy is dying”, was not of my choosing. The headline I had suggested to my editor was: “Abandon the illusion, democracy is dead.”

Where the Executive repeatedly ignores unfavourable decisions of the Judiciary, democracy is not dying. It is dead. Where the Executive unleashes its military might on the Judiciary and the Legislature, democracy is not dying. It is dead.

Where the ruling party uses its highly partisan army, militarised police and other armed organisations to terrorise and frustrate the constitutionally legitimate opposition from exercising its rights, democracy is not dying.

It is dead. To pretend otherwise is to engage in unhelpful self-deception.
Events this past week have given me no reason to change my mind about the death of democracy in Uganda. According to news reports, President Yoweri T. Museveni blocked a critical report by a parliamentary committee which condemned the military invasion of the High Court (Sunday Monitor, March 11).

Government security operatives reportedly stormed Parliament’s printing department and took away copies of the report to prevent them from being circulated to MPs.
Now pause a moment, Tingasiga, and think about this.

Military personnel invade the High Court of Uganda. A few days later, state security operatives invade Parliament and seize documents that belong to the Legislature. Then the president waltzes into Parliament and tells his MPs to abandon all talk of a government apology for the criminal deed at the High Court.

And as usual, Gen. Museveni gets his way with them, not through debate, but through intimidation and a long story about the so-called People’s Redemption Army (PRA) rebellion.

He ignores the fact that in a democratic society where there is rule of law, the decision of the High Court is always binding on the Executive, even when that decision is most unpalatable.

Had Museveni cared about democracy, the independence of the Judiciary and the rule of law, he would have simply issued a statement to the effect that notwithstanding intelligence evidence that the accused men had plotted to overthrow his government by force of arms, he accepted and respected the High Court’s decision to grant them bail.
Instead he chose to re-arrest them on silly new charges that did nothing but confirm our view that his military regime did not believe in the rule of law.

Were you not amused, Tingasiga, to hear Gen. Museveni feigning innocence in the criminal invasion of the High Court by his armed men? No surprise there, of course.
The president has never accepted responsibility for any errors, failures or outright criminal acts by his regimes. But only the irredeemably gullible would believe that the Black Mamba boys or whichever edition of the president’s military men invaded the High Court, would have done so without the blessing of Gen. Museveni himself.

UPDF soldiers and the police can beat up a few MPs in Acholi or rough up a Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) rally without seeking a job-specific approval from the president.

They have a blanket permit to do that sort of thing. But where the job involves arresting a high-profile leader such as FDC president Dr Kizza Besigye, or invading the High Court of the Republic of Uganda, the orders must come from very high up.

It is unthinkable that Internal Affairs Minister Ruhakana Rugunda and/or Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura would have ordered the militarised Uganda police to re-arrest the so-called PRA suspects. Likewise the military commanders would not have done so without clearance from the boss.

Do not forget that this is a regime where ministers and other public servants must seek the president’s approval to take the most mundane decisions.  So the president may feign innocence in this saga, but the judges of the High Court and the sober citizens of Uganda know the truth. The buck stops at Rwakitura.

Happily not all news about this episode was bad. We learnt with great pleasure that the NRM parliamentary caucus has in its ranks a few brave men and women who actually believe in something.

It may be the kiss of death for me to mention them by name, but I cannot let pass an opportunity to salute MPs Mary Mugyenyi (Nyabushozi), Henry Banyenzaki [Rubanda West], Perez Ahabwe (Rubanda East), William Oketcho (West Budama North) Asumani Kiyingi (Bugabula South), John Kigyagi (Mbarara Municipality), Rose Namayanja (Nakaseke), Sam Lyomoki (Workers) and Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo).

By standing up for justice they have earned the respect of many. I encourage them not to let up or be intimidated into the silence that has destroyed our country.

If you’re still interested in the tragedy at this point, here is his article from last week:

Dear Tingasiga:

Ugandans face a decision of awful moment. They must choose between democracy and dictatorship. The illusion that Uganda is a democracy vanishes when one reflects on the state of its five pillars, namely, the citizens, the news media, parliament, the executive and the judiciary.

Citizens have been beaten into fearful submission. Yes, there is an illusion of relative freedom of speech and the people participate in periodic farcical elections. Yet if you listen carefully, you hear a very loud silence across the land, where people gladly whisper their disgust in private, but live in mortal fear of the state.

Fear for future

They fear loss of jobs and other crumbs that fall from the high table of the land. They fear the wrath of Gen. Yoweri T. Museveni’s armed courtiers who have repeatedly unleashed vicious dogs, tear gas and lethal ammunition upon citizens in a show of force that is designed to remind them who is boss.

They fear each other, no longer sure whom to trust, everyone suspecting everyone else of being a state informer, a circumstance that has always worked perfectly in favour of dictatorships. Kitandugaho [don’t quote me] is the motto of the land.

Of course, there are many Ugandans who genuinely support the dictatorship. The groceries are flowing their way, the illusion of kasita twebaka otulo [enjoying peaceful sleep] remains vivid in their imagination, and their shared kinship with the most powerful rulers feeds a bizarre belief that they too are in power.

Some, of course, agree with Gen. Museveni’s actions and policies, while others support the dictatorship because they are too cynical to believe that there is a better alternative. We respect their choice.

Yet shutting their eyes against the painful truth that democracy in Uganda is dead will not alter the fact that democracy is really dead. If you doubt me, Tingasiga, consider the following:

Parliament has been bought with cash in a cynical move designed to neuter MPs, whose role must be to continue to provide the cosmetic appearance of a parliamentary democracy at work.

Not even the MPs from the Forum for Democratic Change [FDC], the main opposition party, could resist the temptation to exchange their freedom and moral authority for a few shillings that they, like the ruling party MPs, are drooling over with deep gratitude to the executive branch.

The executive branch itself was stolen again on February 23, 2006 when Gen. Museveni retained the presidency not by free choice of the citizens. And to erase all doubt, Gen. Museveni, the retired soldier, prefers his military uniform to his Saville Row suits.

The news media, while continuing their valiant struggle for some air, swim in shark infested waters and will soon be drowned by an increasingly intolerant military regime. Ongoing efforts to muzzle Daily Monitor, KfM radio and its sister television network, NTV Uganda, are examples of the regime’s determination to suffocate the freer press.

For their part, many journalists, unwilling to risk loss of their “freedom” or groceries, engage in understandable self-censorship. Others gleefully cheer the assault on their own profession, blinded by short-term interests and transient groceries.

And the single most important pillar of a democratic state, the judiciary, has been desecrated and raped. Last week’s invasion of the court house was the latest of the regime’s acts of complete contempt for the rule of law. It was a clear missive from the president to the people of Uganda telling them the simple truth that the military rules supreme and all else is pretence.

Happily, the judges read and understood Gen. Museveni’s missive. Rather than continue to play along as enablers of the dictatorship, they have laid down their gavels and gowns in an act of defiance that has earned them the respect of freedom lovers around the world.

Their action challenges all Ugandan citizens who desire the rule of law to stand up and be counted on the side of justice and democracy.

Students join struggle

News that Makerere students are laying down their pens in solidarity with the judges and magistrates gives us hope that the younger intellectuals may be ready to answer the call of duty in defence of their freedom.

But it will take more than the noble actions of the judges and the university students to defend freedom and the rule of law. All citizens must make a choice, either to accept military rule and all that it brings, or to join advocates of freedom and the rule of law in a peaceful and non-violent resistance against the military dictatorship.

The time for fence-sitting which has, for far too long, been the refuge of those who have chosen to remain silent in exchange for groceries is long gone. Today it is the High Court under attack. Tomorrow it will be you, Tingasiga.

flying back home

8 01 2007

I have returned home from my trip.  I’ll try to start writing inflammatory ideas, lessons, thoughts, and opinions again soon.

i am bound for the promised land

3 12 2006

24 hours from now, I’ll be in Chicago. I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do in Chicago all day, but I’ll find something to fill my time.

The Steelers found a way to win today: turn the ball over less than the team that they are playing. Pittsburgh beat Tampa Bay 20-3 in a game that I couldn’t watch due to the change to a 4:15 PM kickoff. Of course, this interferes with Vespers here at the College, so I missed a brief glimmer of light in this dismal season. I’m not a fan of this NFL flex schedule. First, it’s dumb to put games on the NFL network when most of the country can’t watch them. Second, it’s a major inconvenience to people who plan events around Steeler football games. There are all sorts of fans that fly in for a game and have already booked tickets when the good ol’ boys at the NFL decide that they can make more money by pushing the game around to a different time.

In other news, Gwyneth Paltrow thinks that the British have better dinner conversation topics. She says that they don’t discuss money. Hey, we don’t either at Hicks Cafeteria. We talk about how we don’t have money and how the food sucks. Maybe she should come eat dinner with us.

It looks like Hillary Clinton is going to make a bid at the 2008 Presidential election. That is fantastic news for the Republican party and scary news for the Democrats.

I was reading the Ugandan newspapers today and came across two things worth writing about. First, Lake Victoria’s level is up 4 cm due to all the recent rain in the East African region. This is great news for Uganda because it will help them make more power to supply the awful grid there. Second, take a look at the “Lonely Hearts” section of the paper. Seriously, what are these guys thinking? That there are loads of white women with money that are longing for a poor Ugandan man? These are my favorites:

I NEED A sugar mummy. I am Paddy, an employed man, living and working on western Uganda. I am HIV negative. The sugar mummy should be financially stable, aged between 35-45, HIV negative- for a safe sex relationship. Call 0782482926

poor, unemployed driver, 25 is looking for a rich or working lady, between 20 and 30 who is ready to take good care of him. She must be HIV negative. Contact me on 0782563561 Augustin Ceasar.

by a Ugandan born-again Christian man for a serious relationship leading to a marriage. She should be from the UK, USA, Canada and Denmark. HIV test is a must. Call 0782540336.

Well, ladies, there you go. You even have phone numbers to get in touch with these Ugandan gentlemen if you are a RICH WHITE LADY.

P.S.  I need a sugar mommy.  I’m a part time employee who is also a college student.  I am HIV negative.  I’m looking for someone between 20 and 30, but I might go to 40.  I suppose we could get married, but I’m not into pre-nuptial agreements where I don’t get anything if you die or divorce me.  Regardless of what country you are from, if you’re a HIV negative, rich, financially stable, and sexy woman, contact me.

ted haggard and the church

13 11 2006

Since my worthless post on Ted Haggard was so popular, it’s time to at least briefly summarize what I have been thinking about the situation.

Ted Haggard screwed up.  He has admitted he screwed up.  His exact transgressions are unknown to me and even though I want to know, it’s not any of my business.  Ted Haggard let down his family, his church, and Christianity.  Here’s the kicker:  we all have.

Ted Haggard is in a huge spotlight.  He has lived and is still living in a fishbowl.  As the pastor of the 14,000 member New Life Church, his actions and words have always been watched.  Unfortunately, Ted Haggard still had a sin nature.

Perhaps he said it best in the letter to his church:

I am a deceiver and a liar. There is a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I’ve
been warring against it all of my adult life. For extended periods of time, I would enjoy
victory and rejoice in freedom. Then, from time to time, the dirt that I thought was gone
would resurface, and I would find myself thinking thoughts and experiencing desires that
were contrary to everything I believe and teach.

Paul said very close to the same thing in Romans 7.

 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Does this excuse Ted Haggard’s behavior, whatever it was that he did?  No, of course not.  Romans 6 tells us that as Christians we should not continue in our sin.  We’ve died to it and should not remain in it any longer.

Christians sin.  Ted Haggard was in a position that made it very difficult for him to admit to any sin without a huge fallout.  Again, I’m not condoning his actions, I’m only trying to explain to myself and to you the reader why the events transpired as they did.  Haggard is the victim of a church that doesn’t accept sexual sin.  By church, I mean American Christian church, not specifically his church in Colorado Springs.  The only appropriate sexual sin to bring up in church is teenage boys looking at pictures of naked women.  What if Ted Haggard had admitted a few weeks ago that he had a problem with sin and was struggling with something?  I’d like to think that his church would have rallied around him and that he would have been surrounded by men and women who would help him be restored.

Haggard was a man with everything to lose.  He was the pastor of a huge church and the president of the National Association of Evangelicals.  He was exalted to a high place and named as one of the most influential Christians in America.  American Christians don’t want sinning leaders.  American Christians want figures who are as perfect as Jesus.  Here on earth, that will never be attained.  It’s unfortunate that we have created an environment where the very men who are calling on us to repent cannot repent without fear of losing their position.  Instead, I think that they feel that they must hide their sin.  The Bible speaks again and again about hidden things coming to the light and that is what happened in this situation.

The unbelieving world needs to see Ted Haggard go through the process of restoration that he spoke of last week.  Ted Haggard’s personal life is no longer personal, which again may be part of the problem.  I don’t know.  Evangelical Christians have an unrealistic of sexuality.  They start with the truth, but they want people to live up to God’s standards.  EC’s are okay with divorce, lying, and perhaps deceit, but nothing sexual.  I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, that homosexuality is a sin, and that pastors who do meth with male prostitutes are out of bounds.  EC’s need to understand though that people are going to sin.  There’s a difference between accepting that someone is going to sin and accepting that sin.

At first, I was angry with Ted Haggard.  I felt that he had made Christians look bad.  I ranted to myself that he was a hypocrite.  I was upset that he couldn’t control his urges and that he would succumb to temptation.  And why wouldn’t he admit his sins before he got to such a place?  But when I began to reflect on my own life, I realized that I’m not much different than Ted Haggard.  I still need grace on a daily basis and I still sin.  I’m still a man in need of a Savior.

You can read Ted Haggard’s statement here and his wife’s statement here.  These are both PDF’s.

49 steps

8 11 2006

There are 49 steps going to the basement to Lincoln Hall. I walk down these steps to do my laundry about every other week.

In Uganda, Ruth always did my laundry when I lived at Maggie’s house. It was such a treat to have a washing machine and someone to do my laundry for me. I washed by hand sometimes, using Omo. Omo is the soap of all soaps. It’s used for clothes, dishes, cars, and everything else that needs to be cleaned. It’s quite simple. If it needs cleaned, use Omo.

Here, we have hand soap, body soap, car wash soap, and laundry soap. Let’s simplify. Pass the Omo.

The Democrats took control of the House last night and possibly the Senate. One of my friends eloquently put it best. He said, “I’m excited that the Democrats won, not because I agree with all of them, but because it will light a fire under the Republican’s asses and turn them to ideals.”

a confusing opinion

7 11 2006

The following article was written by Abila Patrick and published in the East African today. If anyone can explain to me whether Uganda should actually become like Botswana or not, please let me know and then explain and defend your position. The article is entitled Lessons Uganda Should Learn From Botswana.

Since independence, Botswana has registered the highest average economic growth rate in the world, averaging about 9 per cent per year between 1966 and 1999. Growth in private sector employment has averaged about 10 per cent per annum in the country’s first 30 years of independence. The government has consistently maintained budget surpluses and has substantial foreign exchange reserves totaling about $6.2 billion to date

The impressive economic record has been built on a foundation of diamond mining, prudent fiscal policies, international financial and technical assistance, and a cautious foreign policy. It is rated the least corrupt country in Africa, according to the international corruption watchdog, Transparency International.

Through fiscal discipline and sound management, Botswana has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income one with a per capita GDP of $10,000 in 2005. Two major investment services rank Botswana as the best credit risk in Africa. Diamond mining has fuelled much of the expansion and currently accounts for more than one-third of GDP and for 70-80 per cent of export earnings. Tourism, financial services, subsistence farming, and cattle rearing are other key sectors.

FOUR DECADES of uninterrupted civilian leadership, progressive social policies, and significant capital investment have created one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. In the export area, Botswana has increased its earnings from $250 million in 1976 to $1,733 million in 1994, leading to a massive build-up of foreign reserves. Amazingly, Botswana is one of the rare African countries that lend to the IMF and World Bank, unlike other African nations, which are perennial beggars.

In the social services, the country has registered the highest increase in human index of any nation in the world, tying with Malaysia in number one position, according to UNDP. The country has undergone structural change as the percentage of people living in urban areas increased from 5 per cent in 1966 to more than 60 per cent in 2000, the highest rate of urbanization in the world. Where does Uganda stand in this very high standard?

AT INDEPENDENCE, Botswana had only five kilometres of tarred road. Now, virtually all national roads are surfaced and the country boasts of well-equipped hospitals in all major centres. Due to dry weather, the Southern African country had limited options in agriculture except for cattle ranching, so in 1997 it launched a major industrialization drive, based partly on value-added industries in the cattle sector such as meat and hide processing, and the production of cattle and chicken feed.

Botswana, though a land-locked country like Uganda, is now an upper middle-income country with huge foreign exchange reserves and one of the two African countries to have sustained a multiparty system of governance since independence, the other being Mauritius. The country also offers free education from primary to university level and has a free competent healthcare system for all citizens.

On the downside, the government must deal with high rates of unemployment and poverty. Unemployment officially is 23.8 per cent, but unofficial estimates place it closer to 40 per cent in a country with a population of just 1.7 million people. HIV/AIDS infection rates are the second highest in the world, threatening the country’s impressive economic gains, according to The World Fact Book. Life expectancy is also very low at 33.7 years.

FINALLY, BOTSWANA has failed to pursue a successful policy of export diversification, to move from 80 percent reliance on diamonds for its export earnings towards export of manufactured industrial products. However, there is renewed impetus to the country’s industrialization program. The story is much the same in a small but growing number of African countries including Namibia and Senegal.

By the way, the author of this plagiarized the CIA Factbook. The fourth paragraph is word-for-word from the CIA’s Background section on Botswana. I also fixed the spelling errors in the article.


7 11 2006

I had a phone interview today with a Pittsburgh based, multi-national corporation.  I say with, but really it was with a third party company that does the company’s phone interviews.  Phone interviews are tricky little buggers.  With no facial expressions or hand motions,  you are left only to your voice.  I think the worst part is the silence as the interviewer types notes about your responses.  Dead time on the telephone seems like eternity.

Dan was in my room the other night and we were chatting about the future, relationships, and Uganda.  He asked me if I could see myself working at an engineering firm in Pittsburgh for the rest of my life.  I replied, “No, I have too much potential.”

Dan found this to be an incredibly arrogant statement and laughed at my lack of humility.  Perhaps it is a conceited comment, but I still think it is true.  My skill set isn’t geared for me to sit in a cubicle and hate my life while I pretend to be Dilbert until I retire.

I don’t think I can fully explain what I meant by that comment without sounding like I think I am too good for a steady, well paying job.  Perhaps I just think I have a shot to do other things outside the realm of research or calculations and I’m not content to sit there and pine away for adventure.

Maybe I’m still young and stupid enough to believe that life can be exciting and that there’s more to it than just punching the clock and going home for 50 years.  I don’t know.  Perhaps my dream of a life of adventure will be dashed and I’ll live in the suburbs and commute in my sedan to my cubicle in the sky.

So here I am at Grove City College, looking for a job.  Do I have the courage to do what I want to do and what I think I can do?