Monday 1st of September 2014 11:58:02 PM

You buy the Truth, we pay the Price

Monday, 01 September 2014 05:34 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How adherence to public procurement is inflicting high costs on the taxpayer and creating a disaster for the country

Public procurement procedures have become a noose around the neck of Uganda. Over the last 16 years, nearly every major government contract or tender has violated some procurement procedure. This often leads the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Police, State House, security services, PPDA, Parliament and the press to intervene and investigate. Once this happens, the contract gets bogged down in endless quarrels and recriminations. The State is paralyzed to act while citizens are denied the service. By the time it is resolved, it is five or six years later and the contract sum has tripled or quadrupled.

Many Ugandans think that violation of procurement procedures is a sign of a corrupt intent. This leads them to believe that adherence to the rules is a sign of an honest and transparent procurement process. Both these assumptions are only partly true. Formal procedures can be used to create opportunities for corruption. For instance, a public official can frustrate a government contractor by being excessively proceduralistic in the hope of a bribe to speed things up. The counterpoint is that violating a few rules may not always (and necessarily) be motivated by a corrupt intent but by mere pragmatism. This is because rules can sometimes be stupid, arcane and mutually contradictory.

Monday, 25 August 2014 05:22 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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The opportunities and risks China faces as it begins its transition from middle income status to a rich nation

I spent the whole of last week in China literally flying from one city to another – sometimes covering two cities per day. The speed of change in China is mind boggling. I had not visited Beijing since 2008. In just six years, I could not recognise it. Even cities that I had visited in 2011 have expanded so rapidly I could not recognise them either. Skyscrapers grow like mushrooms even in rural areas where small towns are building high raised apartments to accommodate the mass of people leaving farms.

In 1984, Beijing was a city ruled by bicycles. From the video documentaries of that age that I have, you can hardly see cars on the streets. Today, China has overtaken the United States as the largest car market in the world. During rush-hour, it can take someone four hours to drive the 40km from the airport to Tiananmen Square in spite of the impressive investments in rails, highways and flyovers. Even in the small cities and municipal towns I visited, like Wei Hai and Qingdao, China’s success is evident.

Monday, 18 August 2014 05:20 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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Why Africa needs trade and investment from America, not lectures on democracy and human rights

Last week, we were in Washington DC to attend the America-Africa Summit. China, the European Union, India – even Turkey – have all held summits on Africa and with African leaders to discuss how to engage our continent in trade and investment. Given that America is governed by a “black” president, and given the hope and expectations many Africa elites had in Barack Obama, it is interesting he has joined the new “scramble” for Africa this late in the game. Good that Obama thought of his “home” even belatedly.

I was struck by exhaustion and spent much of my time on a drip in hospital than at the summit. However, I was impressed that Obama avoided bringing in the issue of governance (democracy, human rights blah blah blah) on the agenda and hence focused on common interests through trade with investment. I was pleased not because I think governance issues are not important – I think they are very, very important – but because they should be left to local players. If Africans want democracy, they should fight and sacrifice for it and not outsource it to Americans.

Sunday, 10 August 2014 21:45 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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Will the anti gay community try to write a new bill and mobilise quorum in parliament to pass a new law?

Last week, the Constitutional Court in Uganda declared the Anti Homosexuality Act null and void because it was passed illegally i.e. without quorum. Since then, a chorus of Western media has been arguing that the courts did this because of pressure from their governments via suspending and withholding aid. Equally baffling was the claim that the decision of the court was delivered at the time it happened in order to help President Yoweri Museveni arrive in Washington DC for the America-Africa summit in order to meet Barack Obama with a better face.

Western society has increasingly grown arrogant and self-obsessed. For them nothing happens elsewhere in the world, but most especially in Africa, which is not a reflection of what they have dictated. In our struggle for democracy, it is not the voice and sacrifice of domestic actors that count but rather the pressures and demands of Brussels, Washington, Paris and London. Even in economic policy change, it is not the interests of locals but the pressures of World Bank and IMF that will be credited for reform. Thus, from the perspective of the Western media, the efforts and courage of progressive intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, judges and gay activists amounted to nothing in the struggle for gay rights in Uganda.

Sunday, 03 August 2014 21:52 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How power sharing in Rwanda has worked and the lessons Ugandan politicians can draw from it for our good

Just imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and find the following in Uganda: Yoweri Museveni is still president of the country. His vice president is Mugisha Muntu. The speaker of parliament is Olara Otunnu. Museveni has just reshuffled cabinet and replaced Amama Mbabazi with Nobert Mao as prime minister. The deputy speaker of parliament is Nandala Mafabi. And Kahinda Otafiire is deputy prime minister. All these men are not yelling and shouting at each other. Well this is because of the above power-sharing arrangement. To make it work, there is something called a Political Parties Forum where differences between the different political parties over public policy are debated and final positions are adopted entirely through consensus.

In this forum, all political parties regardless of size have equal representation and the chairmanship rotates among each one of them every month. No voting is allowed. If there is a dispute over a given policy, they are required to sit and negotiate until a compromise is reached. They can hold as many meetings as possible until a compromise is arrived at.

When you interview the leaders of these different parties, they say they accept this approach to national politics. They argue that this is because the winner-take-all political competition among different parties almost tore the country apart. They say now the country needs to heal wounds and achieve a minimum political consensus in order to achieve shared objectives.

Monday, 28 July 2014 04:26 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How the internet has led to the growth of radicalism and the erosion of restraints associated with democracy

The growth of social media has created an important avenue for people to express themselves to audiences freely without the restraining hand of the governance structures of traditional media – newspapers, television and radio. These governance structures involve a hierarchy of power through which information is collected, processed (verified and assessed) and finally published and broadcast.

Usually, at the top sits the executive editor and below him/her are editors of all ranks down to the reporter in a hierarchy governed by a set of editorial rules and ethics that ensure every story meets a particular standard. This governance process allows a rigorous sieving of news to establish truth, accuracy, fairness, balance, integrity, context etc.  But as Karl Popper said decades ago, human society is inherently imperfect and a perfect society is impossible to create. So we have to content ourselves with an imperfect society.  So all too often, the governance structure of traditional media has failed us – untrue stories are published or broadcast, unfair and unbalanced attacks are made on individuals and organisations.

Sunday, 20 July 2014 21:21 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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Although bar gossip and street rumours can be true, here is why journalists should always look for proof

Yusuf Serunkuma is a PhD candidate at Makerere University’s Institute of Social Research. In that capacity he also teaches students. He regularly writes commentaries in newspapers and features on radio and television discussions on major national issues. He is loved, admired and respected by his family, friends, colleagues and the wider Ugandan newspaper-reading public. Quite often international organisations seek his advice on public policy by hiring him as a consultant.

Haggai Matsiko is a 25-years old reporter with The Independent, a newspaper that is read by Uganda’s elite and aspirational classes, ambassadors, business leaders and the academia. While in a bar with friends, the discussion (kaboozi) comes down to Serunkuma. Joseph Ekomoloit, a friend of Matsiko, claims that Serunkuma is a very unethical lecturer who gives female students high marks in exchange for sex. Ekomoloit claims he has spoken to many students at Makerere who have told him this story.

Sunday, 13 July 2014 20:06 By Andrew M. Mwenda By Andrew M. Mwenda
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How Rwanda’s growth since 1994 measures against other economies and what explains the figures

Rwanda seems to be a country of extremes. Its turnaround since the genocide has been as astounding as the tragedy itself. The scale and speed of the Rwanda genocide was unprecedented. Rwanda’s rapid state and economic reconstruction has been equally unprecedented. One measure for success of a country is the growth of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Because this is based on statistical evidence rather than on opinion, it is a more preferred way to assess the performance of any government.

For example, statistical evidence shows that very few countries in the history of humankind have sustained economic growth rates above 7% on average for 25 years. These include South Korea, China, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Mauritius and Botswana. Many countries have had short sprints at growth but have not been able to sustain it over a long period.

Sunday, 06 July 2014 14:04 By Andrew M. Mwenda
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East Africa has been billed as the next manufacturing hub for global markets. Will our politics allow it?

The South Korean ambassador to Uganda, Park Jong Dae, recently referred me to an article by George Friedman in the online journal, Geopolitical Weekly titled The PC16: Identifying China’s Successors. I became an admirer of Friedman’s work after reading his intellectually stimulating book, TheNext 100 Years; A Forecast for the 21st Century. He has an interesting way of looking at future global trends.

China has enjoyed fast economic growth averaging 10% per annum for over 35 years by making itself the hub for the manufacture of cheap products for global markets based on low wages. However, Friedman believes that China’s growth has reached its zenith and henceforth will be declining. This is because labour costs have started rising in China, thus reducing the competitiveness of her manufactured exports. China’s future growth will come from changing the structure of its economy into high-wage high-value goods hence leaving poorer countries to export cheap manufactures.


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