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Cooking up rankings?

By Haggai Matsiko

Experts say the Mo Ibrahim Index’s latest ranking of Uganda would be flattering if it weren’t so fictitious

Experts have criticized the latest rankings of the Mo Ibrahim Africa Governance Index as a fiction, out of touch with realities in Uganda.

The main bone of contention is the index’s flattering ranking of Uganda – as the second best governed country in East Africa, after Tanzania, 20th in Africa; the least corrupt country in the region; and East Africa’s leader in the rule of law and judicial independence.

On the Africa-level Uganda was 17th out of the 50 countries assessed on good governance; 11th best on corruption and human rights; and 23rd on political rights, in the ranking led by Mauritius and tailed – predictably – by Somalia.


Experts argued that the ranking released recently did not reflect the reality in Uganda now, nor 2010 on which the assessments are based, not even for the entire lifetime of the index that started in 2006.

Referring to the latest treason and terrorism accusations against peaceful protesters, “preventive arrest” detentions against opposition leaders, secretive oil deals in which top government leaders appear to have banded with foreign oil companies to rob the country, and accusations of corruption against key ministers in government – including the prime minister – experts said the once-prestigious Mo Ibrahim Index had lost relevance.

Opposition party FDC leader, Dr Kizza Besigye, arrested and detained in his Kasangati home to prevent his participation in the walk-to-work protests, said if the index had any credibility, it demonstrated the depth of Africa’s governance crisis.

Besigye is suing the police for illegal detention and inconvenience caused when police barred entry and exit to his home for three days, cutting off his household supplies and associates. His two aides Sam Mugumya and Francis Mwijukye face treason for participating in the protests.

A day before their arrest, the Inspector General of Police Kale Kyihura, presented to journalists audio recordings he alleged were evidence that leaders of Agents for Change – organizers of the protests – were plotting to overthrow the government.

Charges against Mwijukye and Mugumya alleged that they mobilised the launch of riots across the country until government was overthrown, but did not indicate use of arms –  the essence of treason, according to the defendants’ lawyer, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi.

“Treason does not arise in this case because it has to involve the use of arms,” Rwakafuzi said.

Livingstone Ssewanyana, executive director of the Foundation for Human Rights Inititiative, agreed with Rwakafuzi, and said mere utterances could not be treasonous, and were in fact protected by the constitution under free speech and expression.

Rwakafuzi argued that in fact Uganda’s human rights record was getting worse.

“Ugandans have a right to movement and to demonstrate,” he said. That a government that so blatantly flouts these rights is rewarded with praise for its governance record means there is need to fear, the lawyer said.

Judicial independence

Rwakafuzi also contested Uganda’s 1st position in the region on judicial independence.

Having witnessed the aborted siege on Kasangati Magistrate Court on Oct. 20 in an attempt to re-arrest bailed walk-to-work protesters – a move the opposition likened to the Nov. 16, 2005, siege of the High Court a paramilitary militia Black Mamba, Rwakafuzi declare; “We are back to the days of Black Mamba.”

The Mo Ibrahim Index came out at the heels of the United Nations Peer Review of Uganda on Oct. 11, which castigated the country’s human rights abuses, especially regarding treatment of protesters.

Referring to the violent crackdown on the initial walk-to-work protests in April in which 10 people were killed and Dr Besigye and others injured following a police crackdown, the UN recommended that state agents accused of excessive use of force be held to account. The riots have been declared the worst in Sub-Saharan and international media labeled President Museveni one of the worst African dictators.

Critics say that Uganda’s poor human rights record predates 2010. At least 40 people were killed by military police as it crashed protests set off by government’s blocking of the Kabaka of Buganda Ronald Muwenda Mutebi from visiting Kayunga district on September 11 2009. Scores were arbitrarily arrested and two years after, an uknown number of suspects are still in detention.

A 2008 Freedom House ranking in the Freedom in the World report, agreed that; “The executive [in Uganda] does not guarantee the independence of the judiciary. Sensitive human rights issues such as police brutality, rape, domestic violence, and vigilante justice, remain serious concerns. Prolonged pretrial detention, inadequate resources, the security forces’ intermittent refusal to respect civilian courts, and poor judicial administration combine to impede the fair exercise of justice.”

Corruption

For failing to capture the state of corruption and lack of accountability in Uganda, anti-corruption activists dismissed the index as based on flawed perceptions, not research.

“Government officials are doing [corrupt] things and getting away with them. Parliament cannot access oil PSAs [production sharing agreements], neither can the public. How we can be second when our transparency is so poor?” asked Cissy Kagaba, executive director of the Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda.

Parliament recently resolved that implementation of oil deals signed between government and foreign oil companies be halted until a legal framework was put in place, and confidentiality clauses be expunged. A recent report of the Inspector General of Government indicated that Uganda loses Shs 900bn a year to corruption, up from Shs 500bn in 2006.

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Founded by Dr. Mo Ibrahim, a Sudanese philanthropist and businessman, and once chaired by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the Index rewards good governance and leadership in Africa

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