THE LAST WORD: Why African elites are deluded to think the “international community” has our best interests at heart
THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Last week, I read with sadness, disappointment, disillusionment and frustration an article in Daily Monitor by former minister Omara Atubo. He was explaining why he signed a petition to ask the International Criminal Court (ICC) to indict President Yoweri Museveni. I have known Atubo for decades and have always held him in high esteem as among the most thoughtful politicians in Uganda. His article is widely quoted below to provide perspective.
“The long story of Museveni in power for 33 years now has been characterised by militarism, corruption, abuse of human rights and freedoms, rigging of elections, nepotism, tribalism, power greed, amendment of the 1995 Constitution, disrespect of and weakening of Parliament, undermining multiparty democracy, and violently repressing Opposition. I am very worried about the future of Uganda which should be rooted in strong institutions that can guarantee stability, peace, unity, development and humanity. What we have under Museveni is a strong personal rule, which is not sustainable.” Atubo wrote and went on.
“The ICC Petition is a desperate appeal to an external international body to assist Uganda solve its problem since there are now no available internal options. Parliament is very weak and works like an extension of President Museveni and the Executive. The Judiciary has failed to deliver justice in all the presidential election and age limit cases. The ordinary citizen and the voters are terrified and politically blind. The churches are divided, compromised and lack courage to speak for the voiceless. The elections are militarised, commercialised and rigged. In the circumstance, the only viable option is the ICC and the international community.”
Atubo’s lamentation is neither new nor unique. It is supported by many Ugandan (and African) elites who think there are kind and generous people in the international community who care deeply about our destiny and would save us from ourselves. Many people in the Western world see themselves as saviors of Africa and therefore share this view. The problem is that all these people suffer from historical and even contemporary amnesia.
Let us recall that colonialism was justified on exactly the same basis. It claimed to promote 3Cs: Christianity to save our souls from devil worship; Commerce to liberate us from our poverty and misery; and Civilization to emancipate us from the tyranny of our customs and the despotism of our chiefs. What Africa got instead was land alienation, extortionate taxation, forced labor, mass murder and racial discrimination. Africa’s struggles for independence was thus born.
It is true that many post independence governments have repeated many of the abuses of colonialism and in some cases in worse fashion. But it is our responsibility to improve the quality of governance in our countries through continued political and economic struggles. We cannot surrender such a responsibility to the international community. To say we have no capacity to liberate ourselves is to say we have no capacity to govern our countries. The picture Atubo presents above is of Ugandans as helpless victims of Museveni’s misrule and whose efforts cannot overcome one man.