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Cracks in Museveni relations with donors

The President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni receives the EU Commissioner for Human Aid and Crisis , HE Stylianides Christos , EU Ambassador Kristian Schmidt together with their delegation shortly before their meeting at State House Entebbe on Nov. 10.

Professors show why Museveni will win

Cracks are developing in President Yoweri Museveni’s relations with the West, according to a group of academicians and civil society leaders in Kampala. They cite a growing forcefulness in criticism from the donors and Museveni’s equally forceful response to them.

One such case is Museveni’s Nov. 18 comment on U.S. elections and the UK referendum in which he bluntly warned foreigners to stay out of Uganda’s local politics.

Museveni wrote that, in his view, western donors always add more problems to situations they invite themselves to than solutions they claim to come with.

The academicians say the impending removal of the presidential age limit and the changing geopolitical dynamics are likely to determine the future of Museveni’s relationship with the West.

In their view, removal of the presidential age-limit is certain to jeopardise Uganda’s democratic progress. But, they say, it is unlikely to hurt the alliance between Museveni and the donors in any significant way.

For donors to withdraw their support altogether, Museveni would first have to become “more of a liability than an asset in pursuing their interests”, they say in the conclusion of their new multi-themed book titled `Controlling Consent: Uganda’s 2016 Elections’. The authors are mainly academics from Makerere University in Kampala.

Additionally, they would have to “grow too weary of his tactics of blackmail and find a suitable alternative “big man” in the region to replace him with”, notes part of the 540-page anthology, which inquires into the disputed 2016 general polls and what they portend for the future of Uganda.

“Over the last 30 years donors have developed a critical stake in the NRM regime from which they have found it difficult to disentangle,” the book notes in its introduction.

“While Museveni has over the years become more abusive, disdainful and even dismissive of them, the donors still believe that he is their best option to retain “peace and stability” in Uganda, as well as to play a crucial role on the issue of security and containing the terrorist threat in the wider Eastern Africa/Greater Horn region.

“Will the same considerations still apply as we move on to 2021…Will donors continue to back him even after (or rather, when) he lifts Article 102(b) from the Constitution?” that, the book says, is the million dollar question.

Although donor support to Kampala has diminished (currently at around 25% in direct budgetary support), they retain significant influence over the country.

For instance, the decision by the World Bank to suspend lending in August contributed to the current economic tailspin. This forced government into negotiations for the reopening of taps, which the Bank has promised to reconsider.

Uganda’s leading donors have, however, remained silent over the nascent manoeuvres to remove age limit.

An official at the European Union (EU), the country’s top donor, said they could not comment on it.

The silence underlines recent frosty exchanges between Kampala and its diplomatic corps over what the latter see as increasing regression in the former’s democratic gains.

In May this year the Head of the EU in Uganda directly called for change if the government wanted to preserve its legacy, to ensure peace and stability, and to secure the future.

“Even if you just want steady progress, change is needed,” said Mr Kristian Schmidt, channelling the NRM’s campaign slogan in the 2016 elections.

But as the West has criticised him and sought to decrease direct support to Kampala, Museveni has sought and found new sources of aid from the likes of China, Russia and even North Korea.

As academicians see it, these have relieved Museveni of the burden to constantly reinvent himself to curry favour with Western donors, which he has done all of his three decades in power to date.

The changes explain why he is increasingly forceful in pushing back against criticism, and why he gets away with it.

One comment

  1. These are international guests of the country of Uganda who know well their interests in this country much more than this African President. It was the same issue with Mobutu of the Congo whom they kept in leadership for some 40 years. One cannot blame them. What of Gaddaffi!

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