About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic



Sunday, May 24, 2015

Nkurunziza’s slippery slope

How the current crisis in Burundi is likely to ignite a regional conflagration 

Pierre Nkurunziza wants to remain president of Burundi. His opponents don’t want him to. Nkurinziza says the constitution allows him another term in office. His opponents say the Arusha Accords, which formed the basis of the constitution, do not. The Constitutional Court of Burundi ruled in favour of Nkurunziza. His opponents reacted by organising mass demonstrations on the streets of the capital, Bujumbura, and beyond. This seemed to take the country to the precipice. Seeing vulnerability, some army officers staged a coup, which Nkurunziza’s spokesperson called a “joke.” He was right! The coup makers lacked sufficient support in the military and police. That sealed their fate.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Re-examining the impact of elections

Why elections in India select criminals for politicians but produce dedicated public servants in Norway and Sweden

I have argued before that the very specific way democracy has evolved in Uganda is injurious to the common good. I use the word “very specific” because I am aware that other countries have had a different experience. Yet Uganda is not unique. Last week, I concluded this column showing how India faces a similar crisis as Uganda. Indeed, many democracies in Africa may have faired better than autocracies. But they too have evolved a pattern of politics where the public sector hardly embodies a collective vision. Instead it reinforces a pattern of politics that confers privileges on a few at the expense of the many.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The dynamics of Uganda’s elections

How electoral competition eliminates public spirited candidates and increases the numbers of self-interested ones

Around election-time,many candidates for office from across the political divide come to me for advice or assistance. We discuss practical political issues: How do I raise money for my campaign? Who are the individuals (there are hardly any organisations) I can approach for financial contributions? Who are the political godfathers (in the church, state or business) I can court? What issues should inform my platform? Which political party ticket should I stand on? In answering these questions, one realises how far removed from theory our actual politics is.

Monday, May 4, 2015

When should Kagame retire?

The benchmarks that Rwandans should discuss as forming the basis for sustainable peaceful transfer of power

President Paul Kagame believes in presidential term limits and desires to retire in 2017. I say this with a lot of confidence because I have had many discussions with him on this matter and his views have been consistent. He is also an admirer of former Tanzanian president, Julius Nyerere, whose example of voluntary retirement inspired(s) him. Fortunately for Kagame, he can still retire. The question is: When? Unfortunately for him, 2017 is not an appropriate year. Tanzania in 1985 was very different from Rwanda today.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Xenophobia in South Africa

How the flaws in the post-apartheid political settlement have shaped the current anti-immigrant sentiments

Last week, “popular” anger in South Africa exploded into a new wave of violence. Youths wielding machetes and looking like Rwanda’s interahamwe in 1994 roamed the streets burning and/or slashing their victims without pity. The violence was both saddening and illuminating. It was saddening because it reinforced the stereotypes about Africans as being of barbaric disposition. It was illuminating because it demonstrated the fundamental flaw in the political settlement in post-apartheid South Africa.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The war against NSSF and Umeme

How improved performance of the two companies tends to attract increasing hostility from parliament and the public

The Members of Parliament in Uganda, supported by a loud section of our chattering elite class, seem determined to hold to wrong things dearly even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Last year, a select committee of parliament recommended that government terminate a concession agreement with electricity distributor, Umeme. It provided considerable grist to the anti Umeme mill. Then two weeks ago, another select committee recommended that then-minister of Finance, the chairman of the board and the managing director of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) are punished for buying shares in Umeme; a company they claimed is “making losses”. Again, the anti NSSF-Umeme coalition went wild in celebration.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

To stay or not to stay

How the debate on amending the Constitution to remove term limits is evolving in Rwanda and the issues to consider

President Paul Kagame recently said he does not want Rwanda to amend the constitution to remove term limits. But I do not think this will stop calls by ordinary citizens who want him to stay. If I were not conversant with Rwanda, I would have thought this is an argument by the president’s courtiers telling lies to retain power. Whoever underestimates the amount of pressure on Kagame to stay should try a referendum. Indeed Kagame has rigged the debate by taking a position. This places senior politicians and military and security chiefs in a difficult position of having to openly disagree with their boss. But even this may not stop the momentum that has begun at the grassroots.