Wednesday, February 22, 2006

A Ugandan "man of the people" with wide-brimmed safari hat

Uganda was only decade ago praised by everyone from US's former president Bill Clinton to South Africa's former president Nelson Mandela as the continent's success story. It was thought Uganda future was going to be different. Not quite. Ten years down the line not much have changed for better. Civil society is alive, but not flourshing, primary education is not free and tailored after World Bank's proposals, war in north is still raging, children as still being kidnapped into slavery by Lords Resistance Army and indeed President is the same as it was then. In fact he changed the Constitution to allow him to run for third term of office.

"African leader should not stay in office more ten years" said Ugandan President Museveni 10 years ago. However, After 20 years in power, Museveni changed his mind and constitution. With the term limits now gone, he says he hopes to stay in power until 2013, a total of 27 years. It is a fact that most of the African leaders have had such a habit of clinging to power.

Uganda is nowadays in disarray, the incumbent government controls only half of the territory, the other northern part is controled by rebel group Lords Resistence Army (LRA) who advocates for living according 10 commandments with instant murders, totrutre and ethnic cleasing. The rebel group has become notorious for kidnapping children into slavery and mutilating civilians. The war in norther Uganda rages already for 20 years country's brutal 20-year war in the north, where LRA has driven more than 1.6 million people off their farms and left tens of thousands dead.

There is no need for Ugandans to call Museveni a president when he is reality self-proclaimed king. What kind of the message is he sending to the rest of Africa? Once his wide-brimmed safari hat, his modest ranch and his beloved cattle, stood for something - better future and progress - but now... However, one may add than Uganda has quite strong democratic institutions such as courts, a constitution, a more or less free press.


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