US Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, has provided an important restatement of American policy towards Uganda in the aftermath of the World Cup bombings. The American government recognises President Museveni as the “senior representative” of Uganda; and further that Mr Museveni won a democratically organised election.
American policy from thence will be concerned more with “developing and deepening” democracy in Uganda through support for institutions rather than other legitimate policy objectives like regime change- a U-turn from his own personal position of appointing a representative Electoral Commission; the same position a section of the opposition has painstakingly hinged their hopes on through public demonstrations.
After the World Cup attacks, of course all sorts of help have been here. Washington sent Attorney General Eric Holder, their top law enforcement official, to Kampala. Carson has become a regular face in Kampala and this visit is as remarkable since on his last visit, he faced open rebuke from President Museveni and his Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa for publicly supporting the replacement of the Electoral Commission.
A few weeks later, Carson rewrote the institutional memory that informed the unanimous opinion of seven Justices of the Supreme Court that the 2006 election was “flawed” and fell short of “guarantees of a free and fair election” written in the 1995 Constitution but whose result was upheld by another long-standing precedent, the failure of Dr Kizza Besigye, the challenger, to show that the “weight of the malpractices” justified the overturning of the declared result.
Carson’s public remarks must show the gullible sections of the opposition of the depth of declaratory policy including the periodic reports the Secretary of State must deliver to the US Congress on Uganda’s democratisation process. In fact, by repudiating his widely published remarks on term limits, Carson joins others like Besigye who have not grasped the implications of entrenched power. Besigye is in the midst of preparing for a record third time against his perennial rival- President Museveni.
One of the shortcomings of American foreign policy is its obsession with the status quo, predictability and who is on our side versus who is on their side mentality? Museveni, exhausted after two decades in power, seems to offer the reassurance that Uganda on its own can serve as a bulwark for American interests in the region and now backed by its newfound oil wealth, need not continue on a sustained path to greater democratisation and respect for human rights.
One of the benchmarks Museveni’s challengers have been obsessed with; is showing that they have attained credibility with the important capitals in the global political economy, mostly London and Washington. In fact, one of Besigye’s publicised photo ops is with new British Prime Minister David Cameron. Similar hopes were painted in the yesteryear with the arrival of Tony Blair at 10 Downing Street and the soaring speeches of US President Barack Obama.
Museveni, like the patient hunter, seems to have mastered the nothingness of public rebuke, the opportunistic posture of his opponents and the reality of wealth and power that his incumbency has brought him. He has lived long enough to see all these observers and pundits eat their words.
The Americans could not sustain the democratisation rhetoric in the face of oil and the “terrorist threat.” Neither can their public officials in the face of a well oiled lobbying machine that recruits former government officials at will. Ask how many ambassadors are happy to be of service to these machines?
Second, the opposition, desperate to capture power, will play along with a few dollars here and there for all sorts of niceties like the Briton’s big show of bicycles donated to the opposition FDC to “monitor” elections unwilling and impatient to deliver a more and effective rationale for uprooting Museveni. In fact ,Uganda’s fluid political system today does not require politicians to “cross”. Those who cross like MP Alex Onzima have been crossing for years without resigning their seats in Parliament.
Carson is saying in a few words, we understand the complexities of the system. We prefer to deal with the defined quantity Museveni, a product of years of experience, be nice to the opposition through cups of tea and other empty platitudes. After all, most of these individuals have no core beliefs themselves.
Who will for example blame Fr. Gaetano Batanyenda who, along with his NRM colleagues in the CA, supplied vote after vote to entrench the Movement system? Councillor Batanyenda at the time did not observe the papal ban on priests serving openly in political settings.
Clr and CA Delegate Batanyenda, while blaming Ms Hope Mwesigye for turning the Movement into a “constitutional dictatorship”, forgot that one of the many motions he voted for along with his home boy Besigye were Mwesigye-sponsored motions to create a “Movement political system”, keep political parties in abeyance whose spirit was to ban political discourse forever.
To Johnnie: this is Africa, no more questions!
Mr Ssemogerere, an attorney and social entrepreneur, practices law in New York