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Museveni’s empty Pan-African rhetoric

As long as African leaders only challenge the West in high-sounding speeches but do nothing tangible to protect true African sovereignty, they are worse than the West they are keen to vilify. Case in point, Uganda’s President Museveni.

Museveni’s version of Pan-Africanism
There’s been some late consistency to Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s rhetoric on Pan-Africanism. Hints of this anti-West, pro-Africa refrain started showing during the 2011 Libyan crisis that led to the ousting of one of the latter-day Pan-Africanism godfathers, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Speaking recently at the tenth anniversary of the Pan African Parliament, Museveni reflected thus:

“During the Libyan crisis, a plane carrying African Heads of States on the AU mission in that crisis, was stopped by NATO planes over African soil! The African input in the Libyan crisis was totally ignored. Up to now, Libya is in crisis. When the conflict began in Libya, the African Union formed a committee of six African Presidents. I was one of them. We were mandated to look for a solution for Libya. One time the Excellences including the Chairman African Union, President Jacob Zuma and my Foreign Affairs Minister entered a plane to go to Libya and mediate. They were told by NATO to go back. Imagine African Presidents on African soil, on an African mission, with the African Union’s mandate, to be ordered by NATO not to land.”

Considering Museveni has been accused of destabilising the Democratic Republic of Congo in the post-Gaddafi era by sponsoring the M23 rebels, his comments are riveting. Even, before the M23 rebels emerged, Uganda had been convicted by the International Court of Justice, for invading the DRC. How Pan-African! The interesting bit about the M23 débâcle is that Museveni was posing as a mediator in the crisis. In November 2013, the M23 leadership handed themselves in to the Ugandan government, finally exposing the stinking egg on Museveni’s face. Is this the sort of Pan-Africanism Mr. Museveni means?

Conflict of interest, Mr Museveni? Mediator for peace and sponsor of M23 rebels. Photo: Reuters
Conflict of interest, Mr Museveni? Mediator for peace and sponsor of M23 rebels. Photo: Reuters

Earlier, in April 2013, the same man was at his best posturing against the West, and hit hard on the Leave Africa alone drum. Commenting on the International Criminal Court’s Role in the Kenyan crisis, he said:

“I want to salute the Kenyan voters on the rejection of the blackmail by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and those who seek to abuse this institution for their own agenda. The usual opinionated and arrogant actors using their careless analysis are now using it to install leaders of their choice in Africa and eliminate the ones they do not like. What happened here in 2007 was regrettable and must be condemned. A legalistic process, specially an external one, however, cannot address those events. Events of this nature first and most importantly, need an ideological solution by discerning why they happened. Kenyan actors are the ones best qualified to sit and delve into their history in order to discover the ideological stimuli the Kenyan society needs.”

There is no denial of the truth in Museveni’s statements. Indeed, there is widespread agreement that the West approaches the continent with too much condescension. But when these criticisms are made by someone like Museveni, the same leader who referred Joseph Kony’s case to the ICC, the same man leading his country into invading other African countries, it starts to feel very uncomfortable agreeing with him. Here is a case of the vessel poisoning the medicine it carries.

President Museveni receiving a Pan African Award from the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Bethel Amadi, in South Africa on the day of his speech.
President Museveni receiving a Pan African Award from the President of the Pan-African Parliament, Bethel Amadi, in South Africa on the day of his speech.

Obama’s boy
Uganda is one of the African countries that have signed agreements with the United States guaranteeing immunity to US forces, where they are accused of crimes before the ICC. Uganda in other words is one of the states that are helping support the impunity of US forces worldwide! Indeed, as Barrack Obama said recently, Uganda is one of the key allies of America. The bulk of military aid received by Uganda, is from the US government. In 2012, the US sent its forces to Uganda and Central Africa to help hunt down Joseph Kony, with Museveni’s approval. Was this in the interest of Uganda and Africa? What happened to Africa solving her problems? Why does Museveni allow himself to be treated as a baby by the American government? Is this how the contempt builds up?

What happened to Museveni the socialist?
Lately, he has chosen the sensational subject of sexuality as the rallying point against Western hegemony. He signed a barbaric Anti Homosexuality Law, literally with his middle finger in Obama’s direction, with the full effects, telling the West to go and eat their mother’s something something (a very abusive and vulgar thing to say in the Banyankore culture to which Museveni belongs). While speaking, at the Tenth Anniversary of the Pan African Parliament, he justified his ignominious actions thus:

“There are even attempts to attack the core African values on the family in, for instance, the matter of homosexuals. Indeed, in the West, they, for instance, criminalise polygamy by law. In Africa it is and has always been part of our way of life. Yet we do not complain. When, however, we legislate against homosexuals, in response to the provocation by Western sponsored NGOs vis-a-vis our traditional values, we are threatened with sanctions.”

Again, Mr. President makes a valid point. Sanctions are not necessarily a smart tool of diplomacy. But is he the right person to make this point? Is he the right person to defend so-called African values, even if hypothetically, agreeing that indeed homosexuals threaten the family? When, in the 1990s he shed his socialist pretensions and adopted Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs), largely to keep himself in power, what had happened to the African Values of brotherhood that had earlier informed his Economic Policy, including barter-trading with other countries? Did he not know that SAPs are a tool of Western hegemony? Is Museveni an opportunist playing both sides?

I young Museveni of the 80s encountered Museveni today [650]

High-sounding speeches
Indeed, there are problems with how the West treats Africa, African states and leaders. But as long as the same leaders only challenge the West in high-sounding speeches and do nothing tangible to protect true African sovereignty, indeed cooperate with the West to undermine African interests, they are worse than the West they are keen to vilify. Enacting grotesque legislation criminalising citizens’ sexuality for example, does nothing to strengthen so called African sovereignty. Respecting fellow African states’ sovereignty does. Working together with other African states to establish an African justice system to punish those who massively violate human rights goes a long way in defending African sovereignty. For a man who has ruled Uganda for twenty eight years (longer than I have lived on earth), blaming Western Hegemony for all his failures should not be enough for us. We should be singing, like Fela and Nneka did and have done, that a teacher who knows nothing should not teach us nonsense.

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