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Peep into Kadaga’s experience

What the uproar about her visit to a shrine tells us about the crisis of post-colonial Africa

THE LAST WORD by Andrew Mwenda

Rebecca Kadaga caused uproar when she visited a traditional shrine to thank the spirits of her ancestors for her election as Speaker of Parliament. Every pundit of any heft was in the mass media denouncing her for indulging in “devil worship”. The uproar only reaffirmed the tight hold colonialism has on our minds. Assuming Kadaga had gone to church for a thanksgiving service to honor Jesus Christ for her election, who would have complained?

We have totally internalised the ideology of our conquerers. Colonialists labeled our traditional religions “devil worship” in order to get us to accept Christianity. Our traditional doctors were labeled “witch doctors” thereby throwing away centuries of knowledge in local herbal medicine. True our society had not yet separated medicine from religion. But the stranglehold of the colonialist can be seen in how we deride anyone who visits a traditional shrine for spiritual healing or a traditional doctor for medical care.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

The conquest of our minds has been thorough. Today, debate on the development (or lack of it) of Africa is conducted in terms that are akin to religion. Indeed, development itself has become a religion, perhaps the largest religion in the world today. It has a following larger than that of Christianity and Islam combined. And like all religions, it has developed creeds that are accepted on the basis of faith than evidence. Violation of these creeds is a sin that its high priests tell us is punishable by remaining mired in poverty and misery.

Take the example of corruption, one of the sins of development, which it is claimed, is the stumbling block to our rapid economic transformation. As I have argued before – to the ridicule of the development faithful – almost every country that rapidly grew from poverty to riches had high levels of corruption during its intense period of transformation. Today, China is industrialising as if on steroids yet corruption is endemic and getting worse. So why is corruption said to be Africa’s biggest development impediment?

As a caveat, I also think that in many of its manifestations, corruption is unfair. Public funds meant to serve a common good are diverted to private bank accounts to serve purely private appetite. But that is a moral not a development issue – and some can ask: whose morals?

In any case, corruption is a cousin of capitalism. Karl Marx’s critique of capitalism, especially his Labor Theory of Value, suggests a similarity between a capitalist and a corrupt official. Both “steal” from the public. Capitalist ideology may praise one and criminalise the other. But Marx would not have seen moral differences between the two.

Take another creed: that to develop you need democracy and respect for human rights as preconditions. Do we know of any country that had democracy and respected human and women’s rights before it industrialised? Certainly not UK, USA, Canada, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, etc. – the countries that make the biggest noise about democracy and respect for human rights being necessary (sometimes absolute preconditions) for development. African elites (including me of old) argue this creed with religious fanaticism. But it is based on faith, not evidence.

12 comments

  1. “… resisting WTO rules that relegate us to producers and exporters of raw materials…”. Andrew, could you please cite and explain any two or three WTO rules that relegate us “only” to producing and exporting raw materials? And, how exactly/practically do you want us to resist those WTO rules?

  2. “Our leaders, like ourselves, are slaves of these ideas.” Is this a vote of no confidence in the African leadership? Should we, therefore, state that we have come full circle and that we should be recolonised? Or, should we simply outsource “state managers?” Because some of us our brains are sometimes “awol” (absent without leave), I am requesting that you “breakdown” all you want to state in a “limited version.”

  3. Andrew Mwenda has become quite adept at creating false dichotomies. Who says we can cannot discuss/debate/demand human rights, governance and transparency from our leaders while at the same time fighting to improve our terms of trade in the global market. etc?

    Just because the “developed” world had to stumble and fall through centuries of human rights abuses, inequity, authoritarianism, absolute mornachs, while developing by learning from experience, before they got to where they are now, does not mean we have to chart the same course.

    We are fortunate enough to be able to leapfrog some stages and learn from their mistakes.

  4. Denis Musinguzi

    Kadaga should choose between being Christian or traditionalist. Being both is contradictory and, understandably, would attract that kind of uproar. As for development creed, corruption is not an incentive to development, although some countries may have developed despite with corruption. Africa’s development path can be paved with critical balance between development demands and calls for transparency and accountability. What we need is a home-grown approach, as the case with Rwanda, as opposed to compliance with so-called ‘best practices’. The development creed as professed by the West is neither ideologically innocent nor politically altruistic, but serves to perpetuate western imperialism. Until we divorce with erroneous creeds of the west, our search for development and human rights will remain an outright illusion.

    • Dennis,what is the “African creed” according to you? What is so innocent and altruistic about Rwanda? Is it the so called Gacaca courts, which at best are anodyne to genocide and not solutions? Is it the redistribution of wealth as through 2004 the Land Act? Or, is it the Kagame presidentialism that antedate the Mwami of old? What is ‘African’ about Africa? I hope you quench my curiosity.

      • It seems what mesmerises most observers Denis included, is the turn-around that Rwanda experienced barely 20 years after genocide that made the country nearly emptied of productive population; both skilled and menial. The country has been fighting insurgents, armed and political for the entire duration of the present regime’s existence; local animosity;albeit veiled not lacking by allegedly francophones who see the present top leadership as ‘usurpers from Uganda’ anglophones. I hear they are hosting the AU conference and auditors have given thumbs-up that they are sufficiently ready….. a country that before the genocide could not accomodate and did not have 500 hotel rooms.The so-called success story may be on the surface as some commentators put it but all the same one cannot deny that Rwanda boasts an IATA certificated airline complete with air bus 380 and other achievements that are impressive. as for genocide ,gacaca and other pertinent issues related and resulting from the genocide, it seems Rwanda is qualified to deal with them…. at least from the way thing look.

  5. As a matter of fact, corruption is an easy tool employed by west to getting these bad deals for Africa signed by bribing the responsible officials and bureacrats. Remember the the way EPAs were signed with all the carjoling , blackmail etc? You can’t expect transparent and good deals for Africa, when it is represented by slopy and self-centered individuals seeking to only enriching themsleves at all costs. In fact, it sounds like getting fair trade without socially-oriented patriots on our side to negotiate them, is not only a dream but nightmare.

    • Musinguzi there is an interstice between your two statements. 1) “..,corruption is an easy tool employed by west to getting these bad deals
      for Africa signed by bribing the responsible officials and bureacrats.” 2) “You can’t expect transparent and good deals for Africa, when it is
      represented by slopy and self-centered individuals seeking to only
      enriching themsleves at all costs.” In (1), you tend to suggest that, corruption is a “western vice” being imposed onto well intentioned and purposeful Africans (read: responsible officials) and in (2), you tend to suggest that the officials (mentioned in (1)) are “slopy” (read: sloppy). Where is the bridge? Which comes first, is it the corruption, or, the sloppiness? Sorry, but now days I carry a limited head (or have I carried it ever since?) I seek for short and precise answers. Thank you.

      • Corruption isn’t a western vice,alone. It is a vice afflicting us that even the West takes advantage of to get their agendas pushed through. We can’t therefore say we are corrupt but let us forget about this vice first and deal with strategic interests for corruption will always get in the wayas the few get paid out individually in exchange for the public benefit. I therefore sought to suggest that we need to look at both corruption and trade deals as important issues to tackle concurrently and not sweep one under the carpet as Andrew suggests

        • Thank you Musinguzi for the clarification. I was looking for the causation as opposed to the narration here. I want to think that you are giving away too much than what this article really deserves. Mwenda has successfully muddled up religion with capitalism. He thus looks at corruption with two different eyes- a cousin of capitalism (which he accuses as part of dogmatism) but at the same time he so “cleanses” it (corruption can develop Africa). CAUTION: DO NOT MORALISE this argument.

  6. James jones bantu

    Andrew mwenda, I disagree with you on the idea that no developed country observed democracy while still developing. First my concern with mwenda is how he defines or interprets democracy, democracy is just a set of rules that are spelled out in the constitution to cater for delivery of justice, equality, and representation. You mentioned the UK as an example of countries that developed while not observing democracy, Andrew England has been observing democracy since 1212 when the barons forced king John to make peace. The magna carta was made, it spelled out a few important issues that the king John had to abide to.one of the clauses was ” no free man shall be seizes, or imprisoned, or striped of his rights or possession,or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in anyway, nor will any authority proceed with force against any one, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land” this clause was meant to deliver justice to citizens, “to no one we will sale,to no one we shall deny or delay right or justice”. a committee of 25 people’s was established to monitor and compel the king to observe those rights and the king’s property could be confiscated in case he failed to comply. It is this magna carta that most consistution around the world derive from. So can simply say that since 1215, democracy has been observed in England and it has guided England in the right direction. My position is that democracy must be observed at all times.

  7. Andrew your maxim of “giving truth and pay the price” is flawed. When Hon Kadaga was being baptised; there is an invocation she repeated after the priest. If she can dare to back-track on it, then even the parliamentary one she might. And Andrew cease meddling into sensitive affairs pertinent to religious beliefs. to some of us it is life-line. By talking back to the ArchBishop, she proves already rebellious.There are no two ways about it. either you are a Christian or you are not…. no grey area.

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