Many Sides of Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, has been persistent in continuing his authoritarian reign. Throughout his nearly 40 year presidency, he has shielded Uganda from the pressure to democratize and has enforced laws that persecute the people of Uganda. Museveni is one of the longest termed presidents in Africa. From supporting anti-homosexuality laws to actively placing citizens in jail for expressing any negative opinions about the government, maintaining a tight grip on the citizens of Uganda. The evidence of his manipulation of power is everywhere.
Lately Museveni has pushed for the rewriting of some of the Ugandan constitution, particularly the sections facing presidential age limits while he is about to exceed these age limits, now well into his 70s. The opponents spoke out vociferously. The discussion of this issue even caused the breakout of physical fighting in the country’s parliament. Museveni’s vast supporters quickly spoke up about the possible discrimination against old people and how the long time President is seen as one of the wisest people in all the land and the Ugandan population should not be orphaned from his wisdom.
Museveni’s supporters have little to go on in the sense of what their President has done to improve their country. While Museveni does little to keep from trampling on human rights, he makes the effort to visit the local leaders around his country and fix minor issues facing them. Land fragmentation is a problem that contributes to the overall drought, and dividing land based on heritage limits the possibility of more productive methods. Museveni Traveled to the town of Kityerela to show the farmers there a model farm, as the president called it, that shows the successful methods of farming used to help long term poverty. Museveni does a good job of making his supporters feel as though he is watching over them. The President shows he is aware of the larger issues facing his people and frequently comments on them in the form of suggestions. Museveni’s presence anywhere seems to be the greatest gift he can give.
Although some can argue that Museveni has done positive things for his country, much of the youth under 20 making up nearly 60% of the Ugandan people, say that the President has “done his part”, and it is now time for him to move on. The majority of young people in Uganda are unemployed and have been for a long time with no help from government organizations. The Ugandan government even refused to supply schools with feminine products to help young poverty stricken schoolgirls during menstruation. Anger towards this is what landed a Ugandan schoolteacher in jail and committed to a mental institution for ranting about the President in a post to her social media.
It’s easy to see that most of the strength exhibited by Museveni is towards the goal of keeping himself in power. The chance of a peaceful transfer of power doesn’t even appear possible at this point. A majority of the registered voters in Uganda fail to even show up to vote due to the widespread lack of faith in the electoral system electing their officials. His only opposition this past election dropped out at the last minute because of the suspicion that the election itself was corrupt, urging his own supporters to boycott the election entirely. It is highly possible that President Yoweri Museveni will be able to run for reelection in 2021, continuing his reign of authoritarian control and ensuring economic misery for many.

Rwanda: Success Story or Authoritarian State Horror Film?

Similar to President Trump, Rwandan leader, Paul Kagame, often tweets. In these tweets he congratulates neighboring country’s election winners, speaks in Swahili to his citizens and champions women’s rights by recognizing women’s day by tweeting, “Happy Women’s Day!!” . As of 2010, Rwandan women are permitted to own land. In reaction to this change, laws have been passed under Kagame’s leadership to allow the splitting of total marital assets if a couple divorces. The Rwandan parliamentary system is the only of its kind in Africa, having over fifty percent of its seats go to women. Richard Grant, writer for The Telegraph, describes how Kagame’s presence in the room is felt, “His eyes have a keen, piercing intelligence, and he radiates a quality of intense seriousness that is both impressive and intimidating.” On the surface, Paul Kagame appears to be a righteous leader who leads in favor of his people, but the recent political campaigns and constitutional referendum leave critics unable to sway in his favor.

His ability to turn situations around, like that of after the genocide of the moderate Hutus and Tutsi ethnic group, has made him recognized across the world as a successful leader. When just passing through towns like Kigali and Gisenyi, Rwanda roads are free of  potholes that usually haunt the entirety of Africa. In addition to skyrocketing primary school attendance, child mortality rates have halved and the opening of the country’s first public library has paved the way for more progressed learning. Plastic bags can’t be found floating around in Rwanda because Kagame banned them. He appeals to many people. Maybe it’s because he gives cattle to the poor. Perhaps what truly helped Rwanda to pick itself up was the one hundred twenty-eight million dollars that the United States gave them. Donor aid by mainly democratic countries has helped significantly rebuild the country, receiving 17.9 % of aid based off of Rwanda’s GDP (gross domestic product). Most importantly, he has erased the divisive terms Hutu and Tutsi, nowadays, the only accepted identity is Rwandan.

However, elections since the genocide have critics thinking that his constant occupation of the Presidency is simply just a way to keep the eighty-five percent population of Hutus out of power. In Kagame’s government there are Hutu ministers, but the inner circle of the Rwandan Patriotic Front contains all Tutsi. The election results in 2010 reflected Kagame’s solid support with 93% of the winning vote. It was hard for Kagame’s opponents Frank Habineza and Philippe Mpayimana to even campaign to the general public, for the majority of radio stations and television stations only aired pro-Kagame information. They only showed his campaign commercials. His defeated opponent Habineza says,  “He failed on democracy and that is my role. He was a former rebel leader, so he has been ruling the country like a soldier.” In 2012, the NGO Amnesty International reported that scores of Rwanda civilians were arrested and held without trial or charges prior to being tortured into making false confessions. Subjected to electric shocks, severe beatings and sensory deprivation, captives were held from a range of nine days to nine months without outside world access. The acting African deputy for Amnesty International said, “The Rwandan military’s human rights record abroad is increasingly scrutinised, but their unlawful detention and torture of civilians in Rwanda is shrouded in secrecy. Donors funding military training must suspend financial support to security forces involved in human rights violations.” Rwanda held a constitutional referendum in December 2015, where 98 percent of voters backed the removal of term limits that would have barred Kagame from running in the 2017 elections. Call it what you please, but Rwanda is heading down a dark path where they may never see the end of the authoritarian Paul Kagame.


Old Dog, Old Tricks

In 1980, Robert Mugabe, champion of Zimbabwe’s independence movement, was elected as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister, promising to usher in a new era of democracy and freedom. After decades of subjugation and oppression under a white-minority government, Zimbabwe’s future seemed bright. Lauded as a revolutionary hero, Mugabe enjoyed his greatest popularity in the immediate aftermath of Zimbabwe’s independence. Mugabe’s glory days, however, are long past. Thirty-seven years later, it’s hard to imagine how Zimbabwe could look worse. Educated professionals are migrating out in droves, famine has ravaged its rural areas, about 73% of its population lives at or below poverty rates, and its economy has hovered at a state of near breakdown for years. Robert Mugabe, who has clung to leadership in Zimbabwe through this period, has driven the nation into this state of turmoil. His authoritarianism reveals a leader ready to cling to power at the expense of his nation, and unwilling to extricate himself from his country’s fraught colonial past.

Rather than promote a new, more democratic system of government, Mugabe has kept with the model established by his imperialist predecessors. Mugabe’s shift to authoritarianism was almost immediate. In 1983, three years after being elected Prime Minister, he created an elite group of soldiers, called the Fifth Brigade. Under Mugabe’s government, the Brigade led attacks against members of the Ndebele people, who were closely associated Mugabe’s largest opposition party, killing 20,000 people over four years. Mugabe has maintained power in Zimbabwe for 37 years, cultivating an environment of fear and intimidation. Despite living in a self-proclaimed democracy, the predominant mindset of Zimbabwe’s population is that of subject hood, deference to an absolute authority, rather than citizenship, assumed entitlement to certain rights. Ironically, Mugabe’s government bears a striking resemblance to the one he fought to overthrow.             

Mugabe has added a militaristic flavor reminiscent of his days as a guerilla-fighter to this time-worn authoritarian system. Since his beginning in office, Mugabe has militarized political conflicts, using force to intimidate and eliminate opposition. During the 2002 election cycles, 70,000 cases of torture and abuse were recorded. In 2008, after his opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the first round of voting, Mugabe used Zimbabwe’s army and his own forces to intimidate Tsvangirai’s supporters and keep him from campaigning. This should come as no surprise. During the Rhodesian Bush War, Mugabe led a black majority force against the white minority government, using guerilla tactics to wage a brutal resistance. Military force cemented Mugabe’s rise to power. For a revolutionary conflict, this militarism was crucial. For a fledgling democracy, it was fatal.

Mugabe has exploited the racial legacy of colonialism in an often-unsuccessful effort to gain popularity. Following the defeat of a 2000 referendum to expand his powers, Mugabe, faced with a sharp reminder of his unpopularity, launched a campaign against white land-owning farmers. To justify taking around 800 plots of land, Mugabe cited the legacy of racial injustice under the colonial government. Experts believe that this still-potent history made a land redistribution movement in Zimbabwe inevitable. However, Mugabe’s violent, dramatic tactics made the transition devastating. The seizure of white farms threatened the livelihoods of the 400,000 black farm workers employed at those farms. The land seizures had a devastating effect on Zimbabwe’s economy, crippling its fertile agriculture industry. The decision itself also stood in sharp contrast to the promises “to join hands in a new amity”. made by Mugabe during his early days in office. In 1980, Mugabe championed reconciliation, but when faced with a challenge to his authority, he fell back on divisive, anti-colonialist rhetoric.

Despite his once revolutionary zeal, Mugabe is a man still entrenched in an authoritarian past, and willing to hold Zimbabwe back with him.