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



Monday, January 2, 2012

When Kagame disproves critics.

SUNDAY, 01 JANUARY 2012 10:11 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

Because he has little pecuniary interest in power and no messianic image of himself, Kagame will easily retire in 2017

Since his press engagement in Kampala, President Paul Kagame has come under increasing attack from some people accusing him of being unclear about his intention to retire in 2017. Kagame has previously said people should be free to debate term limits. However, he has said repeatedly he will not accept to be a beneficiary of such a constitutional amendment. In spite of this, critics remain unconvinced.

Kagame has positioned his presidency as different from what has happened in most of Africa. Many of the actions he has taken set him apart from most of his contemporaries – thus disproving the prejudices of his critics. Therefore, nothing will validate his critics’ argument against him – that he is another power hungry African despot – than if he were to renege on the issue of term limits.

Will Kagame remove term limits and remain president after 2017? If we follow precedent across Africa and all other countries where presidents have come to power through guerrilla movements – from Angola, Mozambique, North Korea and China to Vietnam, such leaders die in office. Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia seem on course to prove this. For most reasonable people therefore, it is only natural to suspect that Kagame will follow suit.

Second, if one looks at the structural conditions in Rwanda – a dominant ruling party, a very large poor and semi-literate rural population; a small educated urban middle class; a weak and poorly developed civil society and the absence of a strong opposition make removing term limits a walk in the park. In such circumstances, most reasonable people would again be forgiven to suspect that Kagame will not leave in 2017. Therefore, if Kagame is going to leave power, the explanation has to come from his character. I am willing to bet that come 2017, he will not run for president.

Kagame has not exhibited a high thirst for the presidency like most people in his position would have. For example, when the RPF captured power in 1994, everyone would have expected Kagame to take over as president. He was the general who had commanded the armies that had captured power. The RPF mounted pressure on him to become president. He refused. Prime Minister designate at the time, Faustine Twagiramungu, led a delegation of all the other political parties to the Arusha Accords to petition Kagame to be president. He still refused.

I do not know of a successful general who wrestled power into his hands and everyone in the country wanted him to take it and he refused – not Napoleon Bonaparte, Fidel Castro, Samora Machel, George Washington, Hoh Chi Minh, Yoweri Museveni or Mao Tse Tung. In fact Kagame was not even interested in becoming the vice president, a position hastily created and which he accepted as a compromise to put in place a government. Rwanda had spent almost two weeks without a government because Kagame was refusing to be president. If he could afford to play second fiddle for six years, he can afford to leave power in 2017.

Therefore, for many Rwandans and people who know Rwanda, the biggest risk is not that Kagame will stay. The risk is that when he leaves, how much of what he has put in place will survive. Kagame – notwithstanding his one million and one imperfections as a human being and as a leader – towers above Rwanda as a moral colossus. His determination to insist that government should not only serve the privileges of the powerful but should also (and in equal measure) serve the interests of the ordinary person is something that will be difficult to sustain without him. His determined and relentless fight against corruption is another.

Without Kagame’s personal character and leadership ability and focus, it is not clear that a lot of what has happened in Rwanda under him can be sustained. This is largely because while individual leaders can make things happen, it is institutions that make things last. Yet institutions – their capabilities, traditions and norms – take generations to build. And once built, they are susceptible to reversal.

Kagame has helped put in place public and private institutions in Rwanda. He has helped endow them with particular capabilities which have allowed that country to punch above its weight. Yet as he plans to retire in 2017, there is not much evidence inside RPF, other political parties, or Rwanda’s bureaucracy that all these capacities will automatically survive and continue to thrive. As someone knowledgeable about Rwanda, I am always shocked (not surprised) at how many wrong things private and public officials in Rwanda are willing to do but for fear of Kagame.

Let me not be misunderstood to be saying that it is only Kagame who does the right thing in Rwanda. Indeed, he would have achieved very little if he had not built a strong team and instilled in it a sense of discipline, determination, focus and purpose that one finds in Rwanda’s public life. But it is not obvious that without him these qualities can be easily sustained. This is because there are many forces in Rwanda who would prefer a more relaxed moral code in the public sector – some genuinely as a way to promote elite co-optation, others for self aggrandisement.

If Kagame were the mainstream power hungry ruler, there are many choices he would already have made to protect his power. For example, he would have promoted patronage, allowed corruption, bought and sold favours to groups and individuals whose support he desires, made unprincipled compromises and given dubious concessions. Yet in most of his decisions and actions, he has demonstrated a consistent pattern of always placing his country’s national interest above his personal aggrandisement.

Across most contemporary Africa and the world, leaders base their legitimacy on trading favours among elites hence corruption. But Kagame has sought to base his legitimacy almost entirely on the performance of his government in improving the social-economic condition of his people and delivering public goods and services to them. Those are not traits of a leader desirous to stay in power for its own sake. Because he has little pecuniary interest in power, and because he does not possess a messianic image of himself, Kagame easily relinquish the presidency.

Commission of enquiry a mockery of justice.

MONDAY, 26 DECEMBER 2011 08:03 BY ANDREW MWENDA



A section of the public and critics have lately been saying Andrew Mwenda has changed. I don't agree with them, and records of my publications going back in time bear me witness. Throughout my career, I have cherished the key cornerstones of journalism - truth and accuracy, fairness and balance. I hereby reproduce some of the pieces I did back in time highlighting the position I have taken on contentious issues involving allegations of corruption. I hope this article and many more to come will guide the debate on whether I have changed at all.



This article was published in the Sunday Monitor on March 7, 2004

So the commission of inquiry into corruption in the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) became a theatre for personal fights and recriminations instead of helping us grasp the political and institutional sources of Corruption! It was apparent from the beginning that lady justice Julie Sebutinde is not a credible or reliable investigator. Why? She plays too much to the gallery. Although she became popular because of how she handled the inquiry into corruption in the police force, Sebutinde did a great dis-service to the cause of justice and due process in this country.

She declared the police officer who appeared before guilty before she could even hear their case. Sebutinde would hurl insults at them, shut down their lawyers and throw tantrums at any witness who tried to defend them. Yes, the accused police officers could have been evil men but they were entitled to due process. The public angry with, an incompetent and corrupt police force cheered Sebutinde on, and she almost became a goddess. President Yoweri Museveni, seeking to gain political advantage, played to the gallery, too calling Sebutinde "my girl"

Ssebutinde made many pronouncements that Karim Hirjr had murdered his friend Kiddu that made headlines. But she still refused pleas from Karim to appear before her commission and defend himself.

Later she wrote a report recommending that Brig. Jim Muhwezi be investigated for the murder of Lt. Shalita, yet the Brigadier’s name during the proceedings of her commission, was never called before Sebutinde to answer to these allegations.

It is this lack of impartiality that she brought into the URA investigation. She accused Jack Bigirwa of stealing money from URA to build a house in Bushenyi. Bigirwa built the house in 1984, URA was created in 1992, and he joined it in 1994. She insulted Elly Rwakakooko, shouted down Steven Akabway, no one escaped her cobra bite. Her rants and recriminations against people who appeared before her were detestable in both matter and manner; and they are a classic example of how public anger can be exploited to undermine the cause of justice.

I raised this issue during the police probe mainly on radio one’s spectrum programme, and later in articles in The Monitor. I was told that the Commission of Inquiries' Act allows the commission to adopt its own modus operandi, However, I still reject Sebutinde's style because the spirit of the law would certainly not have been to undermine the principles of natural justice that someone should not be a judge in their own case, or a prosecutor and judge in the same case. Sebutinde was carried away by public acclaim and she turned herself into a public avenger against the police, and later a public executioner of people's reputations.

However, the URA probe was going to be different because she was given the respected James Kahooza, and little known Fawn Cousens, as commissioners. Their strength of character was going to expose Sebutinde. And they did! Kahooza and Cousens did not reject the entire report by Sebutinde, but only parts of it and they stated their concerns in writing. Neither Sebutinde nor the Solicitor General, Mr. Tibaruha, has answered these issues. Instead, Sebutinde went on personal attacks against her fellow commissioners accusing them of conflict of interest. Sebutinde argues that Kahooza had a conflict of interest because his son works with URA and has used his job to accumulate wealth illigetimately.

She further says that Kahooza's wife has a company that sup- plies food to the URA and is shielded from paying taxes, Sebutinde further says that Cousens has a conflict of interest because she applied for a job in the URA, and that URA Commissioner General, Aslund Ann brit, recommended her to the commission. On this basis, Sebutinde tells us that Kahooza and Cousens reject- ed parts of her report because guilt and vested interest drive them.

I find this position opportunistic and hypocritical. If Sebutinde knew all this, why didn't she write to the minister who appointed her asking the two to be removed from the commission? I have had opportunity to read the Sebutinde report into URA and there is not a single reference in her report regarding this conflict of interest by Cousens and Kahooza. Why did she keep this vital information from the public until the two refused to sign her report? I find Sebutinde's revelations of conflict of interest against Kahooza and Cousens bordering on blackmail itself a criminal offence.

Sebutinde tells us that she knew bad things about Kahooza and Cousens but kept this information to herself. What for? To buy their silence so that she can arrogate herself power to single-handedly write the commission's report. The nation must wake up to this fraud. We trust and respect our judges in this country. There is something in law called aiding and abating a crime, Assuming that Sebutinde's allegations against her colleagues are true, and given that she kept this vital information to herself until Cousens and Kahooza disagreed with her, was she not trying to aid and abate their unethical conduct in return of their compliance?

Equally important, Sebutinde has made no effort whatsoever to answer the objections raised by Cousens and Kahooza, regarding the procedure of the commission and the contents of her report. She has rather chosen to raise matter external to the report and investigation. What does this tell us about the lady justice? Just like in the police probe and report, Sebutinde picked issues off the street and smuggled them into her report on URA which were never called upon to give their defence, I know Kahooza would never sign unto such fraud, and he refused as did Cousens. Fate, so the saying goes, is a great joker; it always laughs last!

These commissions of inquiry have been political vehicles to legitimise an extremely corrupt system by demonstrating to an unsuspecting public that some- thing is being done. This politicised and pedestrian approach to fighting corruption will not help Uganda. Year, 2000! A policeman, with a wife and four children in, Kampala is paid Shs 70,000 per month. It cannot help him survive even for a week. He takes a bribe to make ends meet. Who is being immoral here the government, which pretends to employ the policeman, or the policeman who makes a genuine attempt to feed his family? Whose morality are we talking about?

Take URA for example. The wages in that organization, were set in 1994 at II have never been revised. People are promoted on the basis of tribe, supporting The Movement or third term rather than on demonstrated competence and probity. The president constantly writes lists of people (he calls them cadres) to be hired by the organization. The URA does not offer long term career rewards, job insecurity is high. Under such circumstances, it is illusory to expect staff to pursue corporate goals. Instead, they pursue Individual maximization - steal as fast and as much as you can before you loose your job. These are the political and institutional sources of corruption that we need to deal with Sebutinde like commissions seek to name and shame the corrupt. That will not help.

Post 9/11 America and post genocide Rwanda

Post 9/11 America and post genocide Rwanda
MONDAY, 05 DECEMBER 2011 06:17 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

Who should lecture the other about how to exercise restraint in the face of severe security threats?

Last week, I was invited by Rwanda’s minister of foreign affairs, the pleasant Louise Mushikiwabo, to attend a public lecture by United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. She gave a great speech, highlighting the tragedy of genocide Rwandans faced in 1994 and the courage and resilience with which they have reconstructed their lives, their public institutions, their economy and their international standing. Most of her speech – possibly 85 percent – was filled of praise of what Rwandans have achieved.

However, towards to the end of her speech, Ms Rice said that “friends should also speak frankly to friends” adding that “the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist. That civil society activists, journalists and political opponents of the government often fear to organise peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed. Some have been intimidated by late-night callers. Some have simply disappeared.” This part of the speech was out of sync with the first part where every achievement she mentioned was accompanied with real-life examples backed with facts and figures. Here, she made assertions without any effort to substantiate them.

First, I have a problem with western leaders when they come lecturing to their African counterparts on how to manage their countries as if our leaders are children. Indeed I had always wondered whether an African leader visiting the US would be allowed to speak like that to an American president until I had coffee with the former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker in Washington DC.

Crocker told me of how he took Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to meet then President Ronald Reagan in the late 1980s. According to Crocker, Mugabe proceeded to lecture Reagan on the faults of American policy towards Nicaragua. The CIA was funding a terrorist organisation, The Contra rebels, to wreck havoc on the population in an effort to overthrow the Sandinista government. Mugabe told Reagan that policy was wrong for world peace. “It was the last time Mugabe met an American president,” Crocker told me, suggesting that Mugabe was discourteous. I told Crocker that most American and Western European diplomats do exactly that when dealing with African leaders. Mugabe may have learnt the behaviour from them. Croker looked a little unhinged at this unexpected rebut.

Rwanda has many problems – I can list a million without thinking. Yet as Ms Rice concluded her speech, I felt she was pandering to claims of international human rights organisations and a few dissidents without reference to facts or context. More importantly, the view by people in the West and their African-elite cheerleaders that our systems are primitive and theirs saintly is not only wrong but has also been the basis of many misdirected attempts to usurp our sovereignty – with disastrous results. Yet judged by US standards, Rwanda has demonstrated greater flexibility, tolerance, accommodation and understanding than America in the face of similar dangers.

On 9/11 2001, the US lost two and a half buildings, four planes and only 3,000 people in a country of 300m i.e. 0.001 percent of its population. In response to this, the US declared the “world had changed” and then proceeded to behave like a bull in a china shop. It imposed onerous rules and regulations on its own population and on all countries all over the world that make some of Stalin’s practices seem benign. It began wire-tapping everyone’s phone without court sanction, invaded and occupied two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) tens of thousands of miles away and is still there a decade later. It began bombing Pakistan and killing innocent civilians in what it calls collateral damage. It now carries out assassinations of alleged Al Qaeda leaders almost on a daily basis. It has imposed draconian rules in every airport around the world where people are finger-printed, photographed, X-rayed, undressed and indecently touched and humiliated.

The US also arrogated itself power to open everyone’s bank account anywhere in the world to its scrutiny. It officially began to run torture chambers at Abu Gren and Guantanamo Bay. It outsourced some of the torturing to its brutal allies in the Middle East, suspended many civil liberties at home and began jailing people, including US citizens, without trial. It bombed headquarters of media organisations that criticised its actions, jailed without trial and tortured journalists who reported such actions – all in the name of ensuring that not a single life is lost to terrorism again. The US has insisted that it cannot have any discussion with its enemies – it exports death to them.

In doing this, we must remember that America actually has strong institutional traditions, extraordinary intellectual resources, the best technology anyone can master, its defence budget is larger than the defence budgets of the rest of the world combined and its economy is the largest. These endowments should make America a more sober, calm, mature, confident and responsible player on the global scene as opposed to being paranoid. While some of its actions after 9/11 are justifiable in a free and democratic society, most are actually Stalinist and unjustifiable.

Yet in spite of all the above observations and criticisms regarding its response to 9/11, I still believe – by and large – in the greater moral good of America, the richness of its democratic process, the creativity of its institutional designs, the depth of its intellectual traditions and the profound goodness, generosity and humanity of its people. Indeed, I bring forth some of these criticism only to show that ensuring the security of a nation and its people is a very complex exercise that can make the actions of the most well intentioned state and leaders look draconian, unfair, brutal and unacceptable. Indeed, the first presidential order Barak Obama signed upon entering the Oval Office was to close Guantanamo Bay because he claimed George Bush was being wrong. His first term is nearing an end at this torture chamber is still running. Therefore Bush was not monster after all as Obama had tried to portray him. The issues must be more complex.

Let us now visit Rwanda, a poor country with very young, weak and fragile institutions, a poorly developed human resource base, limited technology, a poor economy amidst abject poverty of its people. Only 17 years ago, this country lost one million people (not 3,000) – almost 13 percent of the total population of the country (not 0.001 percent). Unlike America where the enemy was a foreigner from distant lands and could be controlled through border security, in Rwanda the enemy was the citizen where neighbour killed neighbour and a father killed his children and wife. It is a country where mass murder was organised by the state, mobilised by the mass media and executed by millions of ordinary citizens. And unlike America, Rwanda did not lose only four planes and two and a half buildings – it lost an entire country and 60 percent of its GDP.

As Rice concluded her speech with her carefully rehearsed qualifications about the need for economic reform to be in tandem with political reform, I was lost. I asked myself what a poor country like Rwanda would do to protect itself against the recurrence of such a catastrophe. If media mobilised for genocide, what restrictions are justifiable to limit future abuses? If political parties appealed to ethnic extremism and were willing to commit genocide to gain power, what should be done to avoid this behaviour in future? Given my own predilection to its values, my first country of reference was America. However, as pointed out above, America is an example of what any nation should NOT do when under threat. If Rwanda behaved like the US, it would have turned into a prison with roadblocks in every village and torture chambers in every locality. Neither could I turn to Britain because it has not been much different from America.

I know that the political system in Rwanda and the civic space and the mass media have many limitations upon them. Many of the limitations are products of lack of human resource capacity, a factor that Rice ignored. Some are self imposed by individuals and groups because of their experiences, something many commentators ignore. And others are imposed on society by the state justifiably and sometimes unjustifiably. I also know that for every limitation on political freedoms by the state in Rwanda, there are contestations over them. Rwanda is not a static society. It is fairly vibrant with different forces vying for increasing state control and others for greater freedoms. This is healthy as, to quote that ancient Greek philosopher, Heracleitus, strength is generated by the tension between opposites.

Kwame Nkrumah – that great hero of the African peoples – once said that “Those who would merely judge us by the heights we have achieved would do better to remember the depth from which we started.” Any judgement of Rwanda therefore has to begin from this basis. Celebrated American political scientist, Robert Dahl, once argued that democracy has two aspects; one is contestation, the other is participation. Contestation refers to how freely the political opposition contest for power from those holding it. Participation inquires into how many groups participate in politics and determine who the rulers should be.

Let us look a Rwanda on these two scores. According to the 2003 Rwandan constitution, no political party – regardless of how many votes it gets – can hold more than 50 percent of cabinet positions. The constitution also says that the president of the country and the speaker of parliament cannot come from the same party. Although the constitution does not require the president of the senate to come from a different political party from that of the president of the country, over the last seven years, the president of the senate has always come from outside of the president’s party. The current president of the senate, Damacen Ntarikuriryayo was President Paul Kagame’s leading challenger in the last election. And it is also until two months ago that for the first time since 1994 that the prime minister of Rwanda comes from the same political party as the president.

This constitutional innovation and the accompanying political practices were shaped by the experience of the early 1990s. The opening up of political space in 1990 generated a high level of political contestation in Rwanda and as a result stimulated the emergence of extremist political parties. These factors led genocide. Many Rwandans think that these extreme political positions were born of the winner-take-all system that existed then. Therefore, the 2003 constitution innovated ways to stop control of government by one group. This has reduced the appetite for extremist political contestation because every party knows that regardless of its majority, it will have to work with other parties in cabinet. So it is not good to antagonise your potential allies through extremely polarised positions.

More importantly, Rwanda has a Political Parties’ Forum whose chairmanship rotates among the different parties every month regardless of their electoral strength. Political parties meet regularly through this forum and discuss and harmonise major policy positions before going public. Because of this forum, political parties in Rwanda are less polarised and policy contestation is less heated compared to elsewhere.

Many observers of Rwanda, ignorant of these political innovations and armed with a set of prejudices about politics in Africa think that there is no significant political contestation in that country. Indeed, it is their prejudice about Africa that makes them prey to misinformation from Rwandan dissidents many of whom are either genocidaires running from justice or corrupt former officials who cannot find space in the new society that is being built. Thus, sections of the international press, human rights organisations and particular sections of the academia that lost intellectual control over Rwanda after 1994 have made themselves spokesperson of these groups.

Political contestation among the major political parties in Rwanda is less polarised because of the aforementioned constitutional innovations and political practices. Any casual visit to Netherlands or Belgium, where no single party can command a governing majority will reflect the kind of political accommodation we see in Rwanda. Because for any party to rule in Belgium it has to mobilise not less than four to six coalition partners, political parties in that country are reluctant to adopt extremely hostile political positions to other parties lest they alienate potential allies. This makes their politics less polarised and more reconciliatory in their rhetoric.

This practice is very different from the US (and until recently the UK) where you have two dominant parties able to govern without need for coalition partners. Today, American politics is so polarised, it is difficult to build a consensus on anything unless and until there is a major security threat like 9/11.

As Ms Rice spoke, I wondered whether she knows the existence of over 60 newspapers and eleven radio stations with talk shows literally discussing anything under the sun in Rwanda. In fact the unethical and often blatantly criminal practices Rwandan journalists indulge would make News of the World seem like a very responsible newspaper. Yet News of the World was closed down by its own owner because of indulging in criminal and unethical conduct, something no Rwandan newspaper can suffer. Therefore, the absence of the kinds of restraints from shareholders, society and journalist associations that we see in Europe is the biggest challenge facing the mass media in Rwanda.

Again as Ms Rice called for more political accommodation in Rwanda, I asked myself who briefs her about the countries she visits. Listening to her was the commissioner general for correctional services, Paul Rwarakabije, the former overall commander of the FDLR, Rwanda’s leading rebel group and Jerome Ngendahimana, currently deputy commander of the reserve forces who was chief of intelligence in FDLR. In fact Ngendahimana’s, wife is a MP representing RPF in parliament. RPF has found the courage to reconcile with its enemies and work with them. Where America has been belligerent and uncompromising in its assassinations, arrests, torture and prosecution of its enemies, Rwanda has sought reconciliation, accommodation and moderation.

Can America accommodate any members of Al Qaeda if they surrendered and instead of jailing them in pursuit of justice integrate them into its democratic power structure? These questions kept racing in my head as I tried to establish the source of American hubris when it comes to lecturing others about best political practices. Who should have lecturing the other: America to Rwanda or vice versa?

Post 9/11 America and post genocide Rwanda

Post 9/11 America and post genocide Rwanda
MONDAY, 05 DECEMBER 2011 06:17 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

Who should lecture the other about how to exercise restraint in the face of severe security threats?

Last week, I was invited by Rwanda’s minister of foreign affairs, the pleasant Louise Mushikiwabo, to attend a public lecture by United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, at the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. She gave a great speech, highlighting the tragedy of genocide Rwandans faced in 1994 and the courage and resilience with which they have reconstructed their lives, their public institutions, their economy and their international standing. Most of her speech – possibly 85 percent – was filled of praise of what Rwandans have achieved.

However, towards to the end of her speech, Ms Rice said that “friends should also speak frankly to friends” adding that “the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist. That civil society activists, journalists and political opponents of the government often fear to organise peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed. Some have been intimidated by late-night callers. Some have simply disappeared.” This part of the speech was out of sync with the first part where every achievement she mentioned was accompanied with real-life examples backed with facts and figures. Here, she made assertions without any effort to substantiate them.

First, I have a problem with western leaders when they come lecturing to their African counterparts on how to manage their countries as if our leaders are children. Indeed I had always wondered whether an African leader visiting the US would be allowed to speak like that to an American president until I had coffee with the former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Chester Crocker in Washington DC.

Crocker told me of how he took Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to meet then President Ronald Reagan in the late 1980s. According to Crocker, Mugabe proceeded to lecture Reagan on the faults of American policy towards Nicaragua. The CIA was funding a terrorist organisation, The Contra rebels, to wreck havoc on the population in an effort to overthrow the Sandinista government. Mugabe told Reagan that policy was wrong for world peace. “It was the last time Mugabe met an American president,” Crocker told me, suggesting that Mugabe was discourteous. I told Crocker that most American and Western European diplomats do exactly that when dealing with African leaders. Mugabe may have learnt the behaviour from them. Croker looked a little unhinged at this unexpected rebut.

Rwanda has many problems – I can list a million without thinking. Yet as Ms Rice concluded her speech, I felt she was pandering to claims of international human rights organisations and a few dissidents without reference to facts or context. More importantly, the view by people in the West and their African-elite cheerleaders that our systems are primitive and theirs saintly is not only wrong but has also been the basis of many misdirected attempts to usurp our sovereignty – with disastrous results. Yet judged by US standards, Rwanda has demonstrated greater flexibility, tolerance, accommodation and understanding than America in the face of similar dangers.

On 9/11 2001, the US lost two and a half buildings, four planes and only 3,000 people in a country of 300m i.e. 0.001 percent of its population. In response to this, the US declared the “world had changed” and then proceeded to behave like a bull in a china shop. It imposed onerous rules and regulations on its own population and on all countries all over the world that make some of Stalin’s practices seem benign. It began wire-tapping everyone’s phone without court sanction, invaded and occupied two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) tens of thousands of miles away and is still there a decade later. It began bombing Pakistan and killing innocent civilians in what it calls collateral damage. It now carries out assassinations of alleged Al Qaeda leaders almost on a daily basis. It has imposed draconian rules in every airport around the world where people are finger-printed, photographed, X-rayed, undressed and indecently touched and humiliated.

The US also arrogated itself power to open everyone’s bank account anywhere in the world to its scrutiny. It officially began to run torture chambers at Abu Gren and Guantanamo Bay. It outsourced some of the torturing to its brutal allies in the Middle East, suspended many civil liberties at home and began jailing people, including US citizens, without trial. It bombed headquarters of media organisations that criticised its actions, jailed without trial and tortured journalists who reported such actions – all in the name of ensuring that not a single life is lost to terrorism again. The US has insisted that it cannot have any discussion with its enemies – it exports death to them.

In doing this, we must remember that America actually has strong institutional traditions, extraordinary intellectual resources, the best technology anyone can master, its defence budget is larger than the defence budgets of the rest of the world combined and its economy is the largest. These endowments should make America a more sober, calm, mature, confident and responsible player on the global scene as opposed to being paranoid. While some of its actions after 9/11 are justifiable in a free and democratic society, most are actually Stalinist and unjustifiable.

Yet in spite of all the above observations and criticisms regarding its response to 9/11, I still believe – by and large – in the greater moral good of America, the richness of its democratic process, the creativity of its institutional designs, the depth of its intellectual traditions and the profound goodness, generosity and humanity of its people. Indeed, I bring forth some of these criticism only to show that ensuring the security of a nation and its people is a very complex exercise that can make the actions of the most well intentioned state and leaders look draconian, unfair, brutal and unacceptable. Indeed, the first presidential order Barak Obama signed upon entering the Oval Office was to close Guantanamo Bay because he claimed George Bush was being wrong. His first term is nearing an end at this torture chamber is still running. Therefore Bush was not monster after all as Obama had tried to portray him. The issues must be more complex.

Let us now visit Rwanda, a poor country with very young, weak and fragile institutions, a poorly developed human resource base, limited technology, a poor economy amidst abject poverty of its people. Only 17 years ago, this country lost one million people (not 3,000) – almost 13 percent of the total population of the country (not 0.001 percent). Unlike America where the enemy was a foreigner from distant lands and could be controlled through border security, in Rwanda the enemy was the citizen where neighbour killed neighbour and a father killed his children and wife. It is a country where mass murder was organised by the state, mobilised by the mass media and executed by millions of ordinary citizens. And unlike America, Rwanda did not lose only four planes and two and a half buildings – it lost an entire country and 60 percent of its GDP.

As Rice concluded her speech with her carefully rehearsed qualifications about the need for economic reform to be in tandem with political reform, I was lost. I asked myself what a poor country like Rwanda would do to protect itself against the recurrence of such a catastrophe. If media mobilised for genocide, what restrictions are justifiable to limit future abuses? If political parties appealed to ethnic extremism and were willing to commit genocide to gain power, what should be done to avoid this behaviour in future? Given my own predilection to its values, my first country of reference was America. However, as pointed out above, America is an example of what any nation should NOT do when under threat. If Rwanda behaved like the US, it would have turned into a prison with roadblocks in every village and torture chambers in every locality. Neither could I turn to Britain because it has not been much different from America.

I know that the political system in Rwanda and the civic space and the mass media have many limitations upon them. Many of the limitations are products of lack of human resource capacity, a factor that Rice ignored. Some are self imposed by individuals and groups because of their experiences, something many commentators ignore. And others are imposed on society by the state justifiably and sometimes unjustifiably. I also know that for every limitation on political freedoms by the state in Rwanda, there are contestations over them. Rwanda is not a static society. It is fairly vibrant with different forces vying for increasing state control and others for greater freedoms. This is healthy as, to quote that ancient Greek philosopher, Heracleitus, strength is generated by the tension between opposites.

Kwame Nkrumah – that great hero of the African peoples – once said that “Those who would merely judge us by the heights we have achieved would do better to remember the depth from which we started.” Any judgement of Rwanda therefore has to begin from this basis. Celebrated American political scientist, Robert Dahl, once argued that democracy has two aspects; one is contestation, the other is participation. Contestation refers to how freely the political opposition contest for power from those holding it. Participation inquires into how many groups participate in politics and determine who the rulers should be.

Let us look a Rwanda on these two scores. According to the 2003 Rwandan constitution, no political party – regardless of how many votes it gets – can hold more than 50 percent of cabinet positions. The constitution also says that the president of the country and the speaker of parliament cannot come from the same party. Although the constitution does not require the president of the senate to come from a different political party from that of the president of the country, over the last seven years, the president of the senate has always come from outside of the president’s party. The current president of the senate, Damacen Ntarikuriryayo was President Paul Kagame’s leading challenger in the last election. And it is also until two months ago that for the first time since 1994 that the prime minister of Rwanda comes from the same political party as the president.

This constitutional innovation and the accompanying political practices were shaped by the experience of the early 1990s. The opening up of political space in 1990 generated a high level of political contestation in Rwanda and as a result stimulated the emergence of extremist political parties. These factors led genocide. Many Rwandans think that these extreme political positions were born of the winner-take-all system that existed then. Therefore, the 2003 constitution innovated ways to stop control of government by one group. This has reduced the appetite for extremist political contestation because every party knows that regardless of its majority, it will have to work with other parties in cabinet. So it is not good to antagonise your potential allies through extremely polarised positions.

More importantly, Rwanda has a Political Parties’ Forum whose chairmanship rotates among the different parties every month regardless of their electoral strength. Political parties meet regularly through this forum and discuss and harmonise major policy positions before going public. Because of this forum, political parties in Rwanda are less polarised and policy contestation is less heated compared to elsewhere.

Many observers of Rwanda, ignorant of these political innovations and armed with a set of prejudices about politics in Africa think that there is no significant political contestation in that country. Indeed, it is their prejudice about Africa that makes them prey to misinformation from Rwandan dissidents many of whom are either genocidaires running from justice or corrupt former officials who cannot find space in the new society that is being built. Thus, sections of the international press, human rights organisations and particular sections of the academia that lost intellectual control over Rwanda after 1994 have made themselves spokesperson of these groups.

Political contestation among the major political parties in Rwanda is less polarised because of the aforementioned constitutional innovations and political practices. Any casual visit to Netherlands or Belgium, where no single party can command a governing majority will reflect the kind of political accommodation we see in Rwanda. Because for any party to rule in Belgium it has to mobilise not less than four to six coalition partners, political parties in that country are reluctant to adopt extremely hostile political positions to other parties lest they alienate potential allies. This makes their politics less polarised and more reconciliatory in their rhetoric.

This practice is very different from the US (and until recently the UK) where you have two dominant parties able to govern without need for coalition partners. Today, American politics is so polarised, it is difficult to build a consensus on anything unless and until there is a major security threat like 9/11.

As Ms Rice spoke, I wondered whether she knows the existence of over 60 newspapers and eleven radio stations with talk shows literally discussing anything under the sun in Rwanda. In fact the unethical and often blatantly criminal practices Rwandan journalists indulge would make News of the World seem like a very responsible newspaper. Yet News of the World was closed down by its own owner because of indulging in criminal and unethical conduct, something no Rwandan newspaper can suffer. Therefore, the absence of the kinds of restraints from shareholders, society and journalist associations that we see in Europe is the biggest challenge facing the mass media in Rwanda.

Again as Ms Rice called for more political accommodation in Rwanda, I asked myself who briefs her about the countries she visits. Listening to her was the commissioner general for correctional services, Paul Rwarakabije, the former overall commander of the FDLR, Rwanda’s leading rebel group and Jerome Ngendahimana, currently deputy commander of the reserve forces who was chief of intelligence in FDLR. In fact Ngendahimana’s, wife is a MP representing RPF in parliament. RPF has found the courage to reconcile with its enemies and work with them. Where America has been belligerent and uncompromising in its assassinations, arrests, torture and prosecution of its enemies, Rwanda has sought reconciliation, accommodation and moderation.

Can America accommodate any members of Al Qaeda if they surrendered and instead of jailing them in pursuit of justice integrate them into its democratic power structure? These questions kept racing in my head as I tried to establish the source of American hubris when it comes to lecturing others about best political practices. Who should have lecturing the other: America to Rwanda or vice versa?

Museveni's post election Black swan.

TUESDAY, 20 DECEMBER 2011 05:36 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

Why Besigye may have a chance at the presidency and how the President risks impeachment by parliament

Two things that seemed almost impossible and improbable at the end of March this year are increasingly becoming possible and probable as the year closes. One was that Forum for Democratic Change boss Kizza Besigye would never be President of Uganda (which was my position); the other was that the NRM-dominated Parliament would never impeach President Yoweri Museveni (which was the position of my critics) because he had effective control over it. Today, both scenarios are possible and probable. Both these changes show how indeterminate the future is.

At the end of March this year, Museveni was a very confident man. He had resoundingly defeated Besigye in what was perhaps the freest, fairest and least violence-ridden presidential election ever. Yes, he raided the Treasury and spent tonnes of public money on it. However, in the wider scheme of things, better a president who buys an election than one who kills for it. Wasn’t it King Philip 11 of Macedonia (father of Alexander the Great) who saw bribery and lies as humane substitutes to slaughter?

Similarly, at the end of March, Besigye looked like a spent force; his claims that he had been cheated of victory sounded like sour grapes. He had been beaten in his northern stronghold, failed to gain ground in Buganda, lost significant ground in Teso and the entire East and made no inroads in western Uganda. He had called upon his supporters to demonstrate against electoral fraud and no one turned up.

On the other hand, Museveni had not just won by 68% (up from 58% in 2006), his NRM party also swept the Parliamentary seats. Out of 375 elected seats, NRM had won 264. Of the 43 MPs elected as independents, 39 were allied to the party. If one added UPDF representatives to NRM, the ruling party’s parliamentary majority looked overwhelming and Museveni looked as secure as ever in his position. To many observers, this was going to be Museveni’s best five year term ever.

This was the context of Uganda at the beginning of April 2011 – a demoralised and apathetic opposition; a confident and seemingly impregnable Museveni and his party. But by the end of the month, the tables had turned. Demonstrations had rocked the entire country from Kampala to Mbale, Gulu, Masaka and the president’s home district of Mbarara. Besigye had re-emerged from virtual obscurity to become the main centre of attention leading the ‘Walk to Work’ campaign. What had happened in less than two months to change everything?

The genesis of Museveni’s dilemma was the way he approached the election campaign. Suspecting that Besigye had been given a lot of money by the late Libyan President Muammar Gadaffi, Museveni raided the national Treasury for Shs 600 billion and went on a spending spree. It was the most expensive election in Uganda’s history. After the election, I was the leading proponent of the view that the president had literary bought the election.

By December 2010, Afrobarometer polls were showing Museveni with a commanding lead of 67% and throughout the election campaign, all polls reflected this constant figure. On Election Day, he got 68% – meaning that Museveni’s money had little effect on his electoral arithmetic.

However, the spending spree had powerful implications on the economy whose long-term consequences he could have underestimated and some he could not have foreseen. For example, assuming that his strategic objective was to retain power, he may have realised that in the short term this required some fiscal irresponsibility i.e. excessive spending that could cause inflation. However, once he had achieved his strategic objective, he would re-establish prudent fiscal and monetary policy, bring inflation under control and have a comfortable five years.

However, the President seems to have been hit by what Nassim Nicolas Taleb calls a Black Swan – the impact of a large and unexpected event. Immediately after the election, Uganda suffered two major external shocks – the increasing price of crude oil in international markets and the appreciation of the dollar – both of which brought with them imported inflation. Then the effects of the drought that had started in December 2010 were beginning to bite in form of high food prices – the most critical driver of inflation.

Even before Museveni could re-establish control over the economy, these developments grievously hurt our already fragile fiscal and monetary positions. Indeed, they made it difficult for Museveni to regain control over inflation in the short term. To make matters worse (as if the gods were colluding to spoil the president’s renewed mandate), the effects of these shocks were most felt by urban consumers - the constituency that is most hostile to the government but equally the most strategically positioned to make demands on the State by organising civil disobedience.

It is in this context that ‘Walk to Work’ protests began – producing the law of unintended consequences. For example, the protests initially reduced the inflow of food into Kampala City, thus making inflation worse. As the protests spread from Kampala to other towns, they scared away investors and tourists, thereby reducing the inflows of foreign exchange and thereby worsening the position of the Shilling. This in turn forced portfolio investors to begin selling off their Ugandan treasury bills and bonds, further undermining the health of the local currency.

In the midst of all these developments – a seemingly failing economy and a political process out of touch with people’s concerns – the constituencies in favour of protests grew. The teachers went on strike over poor pay. The taxi drivers followed suit over fuel prices. Then traders closed their shops protesting the increasing price of the dollar. Lawyers downed their gowns in protest against government handling of the demonstrations. Beleaguered and disoriented, the government’s response to these challenges became shabbier. For example, it began charging protesters with treason, a very ridiculous thing at that.

It is in these circumstances that Besigye regained his political relevance. Sensing a weakness, Parliament also took advantage of the situation to openly challenge the Executive using alleged corruption in oil deals as an entry point. So, if Museveni does not re-assert his authority now, Parliament may run out of control. If this happens, it may even gain the confidence to try to impeach him. And if Besigye can rekindle the Walk to Work fire, it may give him a chance at the presidency.

amwenda@independent.co.ug

Separating fact from fiction

MONDAY, 28 NOVEMBER 2011 15:43 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

We cannot fight corruption using corrupt or unfair and unjust means

On the opposite page, Nicolas Rugaba Agaba criticises me for taking the now infamous oil bribery documents to President Yoweri Museveni. He insinuates that this compromised my investigation since the President has no will to fight corruption.

Museveni was one of several people and institutions with whom I shared these documents and tried to collaborate with in the investigation. Sadly, for purposes of confidentiality, I will not disclose some of the critical offices around the world that I collaborated with. But I can reveal a few: I shared the documents with the Nation Media Group in Nairobi, emailing them to Charles Onyango-Obbo on September 28th asking we collaborate in the investigation and publish the story simultaneously in The East African and The Independent?”

The East African is our competitor. Normally we would not share our stories with them. However, I felt this was a very important issue – so important that if we ould not crack it on our own, we should not be afraid to work with our competitors.

Secondly, using informal contacts, I shared the documents with police in London and Dubai. I also had a meeting with representatives of Global Witness at my office and shared the documents with them. We agreed on a joint investigation where, if we established their validity, we would publish the story concurrently in The Independent and on their website. Global Witness is based in London and is perhaps the world’s leading organisation in investigating corruption in the oil sector.

Therefore, even if Museveni had done nothing, he would not have stopped these other people and institutions from doing something. This insulated the investigation from the failures of anyone of the parties I was working with. I also knew that involving Museveni had costs. But it also had benefits. I had to weigh the two and the benefits outweighed the costs.

Rugaba-Agaba argues that by taking the documents to Museveni, I was doing what I always preach against i.e. taking every problem to the President. The people alleged to have received these bribes are ministers appointed directly by him. It was only fair that I give him the benefit of the doubt and he also helps me in the investigation using the infrastructure of the state. However, there was also a risk that if I went simply to the police and they botched up this high profile investigation, it could compromise my security. Throughout the investigation, I felt Museveni acted with utmost transparency and openness.

I told him that even if we do not prove the allegations, he can take a series of actions to protect the national interest. My source of these documents had told me that Tullow was paying these bribes in order to get Uganda government to accept international arbitration so that Heritage Oil does not pay the Capital Gains Tax due to URA. I recommended to the President three things to do in order to protect the national interest and he did all of them. Details of these are in my last week’s column. His subsequent actions and public pronouncements convinced me that he was being sincere.

I will partly concede to Rugaba-Agaba’s criticism that I am often unfair to Ugandan elites when I accuse them of intellectual mediocrity given our bad education system. The worst part of it is that our education system teaches students to memorise knowlege rather than to critique it. As a result, many Ugandans involved in public debate have a high propensity to be attracted to the obvious (which is often misleading) as opposed to the hidden (which is often the explanation); the simple but stupid (which is easy to believe) as opposed to the complex (which is demands greater intellectual energy to understant); and to being sentimental about public policy issues instead of being analytical.

We need to separate our personal biases from our professional work. As a person I too have biases against some public officials whom I suspect to be corrupt. But as an editor, I cannot rely on such personal biases to accept as valid any document accusing anyone of them of taking a bribe. Does one need to go to Harvard to learn this simple principle?

Assume a judge believes Joseph Kony is a mass murderer. If he is brought before him, his judgment has to be based on the evidence adduced by the prosecution convincing court beyond reasonable doubt that Kony is guilty. The judge is supposed to acquit Kony if he is convinced that the prosecution’s case is weak and unconvincing. To follow his personal bias instead of the evidence presented in court would be abuse of office/power.

The same applies to a doctor who believes Kony deserves to die because of what he has done. If they brought a wounded Kony to him, the doctor should treat the LRA leader diligently and save his life. If the doctor deliberately neglected him and left him to die (to suit his personal desires) he would have acted unprofessionally and would deserve to be charged with voluntary manslaughter.

Throughout this debate on the oil bribery scandal, I have been frustrated by the inability of our elites to make this simple distinction. This is not caused by bad education but lack of faith in fundamental values. Many of the senior NRM functionaries have used lies, deceit, forgeries and other unjust practices to stay in power. However, we cannot employ the same practices to advance the cause of justice and clean government.

If we believe in the principles of natural justice and in building a just and fair society, we need to subject those who disregard these values to our standard, not theirs. That is what distinguishes us from them. This is why I have always defended the right of those accused of corruption to a fair and just hearing in an impartial process.

I disagreed with those who censured Jim Muhwezi when they used forged and distorted documents to accuse him of corruption. I opposed the way Julia Sebutinde conducted the investigation into the police force and later into URA by condemning the people who appeared to testify before her during the hearings without hearing their case. My articles in The Monitor since 1998 are filled with this statement and restatement of values – that we cannot fight corruption using corrupt or unfair and unjust means.

amwenda@independent.co.ug

Ssebutinde commissions solve nothing except..........

THURSDAY, 15 DECEMBER 2011 08:17 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

A section of the public and critics have lately been saying Andrew Mwenda has changed. I don't agree with them, and records of my publications going back in time bear me witness. Throughout my career, I have cherished the key cornerstones of journalism - truthful and accuracy; fairness and balance. I hereby reproduce some of the pieces I did back in time highlighting the position I have taken on contentious issues involving allegations of corruption. I hope this article and many more to come will guide the debate on whether I have changed at all.

This article was published in the Daily Monitor of Wednesday, November 6, 2002

The Lady Justice Julia Sebutinde commission of inquiry into Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) has brought to the fore a number of salient issues. Like most commissions on corruption in Uganda, the investigation into URA focuses on an important, but small problem with the Tax authority. Thus although the critical problem with Uganda’s tax administration is political interference from mainly the chief executive, the: Ssebutinde investigation is focus on a public Ritual of naming and shaming individuals in order to appease the public.

Ssebutinde conducts her inquiry with ferocious zeal. She yells at the witness, insults and passes judgment on almost every one-long before writing her reports words like “you are a liar”, “all of you belong to Luzira”, “ he is a fraudster” etc are banded around and give hungry reporters and editors good headlines. To an angry public looking for a red herring, such public executions of people’s reputation make a lot of political capital, and a handsome public-profile rent for the lady justice.

We understand judges to be impartial and fair. That someone from the bench is therefore appointed to chair a commission of inquiry should be sign that justice and fairness to all is being thought. In fact the very essence of a judge is impartiality hearing two, often quarreling sides and deciding for one or the other party.

My own insight into Ssebutinde as a chair of this was born out of an interview I had with the former director of Criminal Investigations Department (CID). Chris Bakiza, when I called him about the information of the commission of inquiry into the police chaired by a judge, he happily said he looked forward to presenting his case before this “impartial” body so that the truth could come out. This was not to be, as Ssebutide turned the inquiry into a public humiliation enterprise against police officers.

The Uganda police force has tried its best to police this country amidst poor pay, political bashing by the president and constant budget cuts. They live in mortuaries, toilets and kitchens and waking up every morning to ensure that we are safe. The public humiliation to which Ssebutinde subjected them made a lot of headlines but did not improve their budget. Instead, it provided justification for the president to appoint an army officer to head the police and militarise it. It did not improve their welfare or professional efficiency, but as the president said the changes were to make the police vote “properly” in 2006.

This brings us the URA probe. A few days ago, former URA boss, Elly Rwakakoko was accused of taking a Shs. 55m bribe' from hotel mogul, Karun Hirji. The source of this accusation was the Special Revenue Protection Service (SRPS), a para-military outfit organised by the president at State House to fight tax evasion, Socialised through a culture of institutional methods of work, RwaKakoko fought running battles against SRPS and State House, seeking to secure the bureaucratic autonomy of his organisation against an illegal military outfit that sought to run a parallel show. He left URA but has remained an icon of Uganda's public service. Rwakakoko enjoys a rare reputation, as a man of great integrity and honour, and his opinion on, any matter in Uganda would be taken seriously by many.

Thus when an accusation of financial impropriety was raised against him, 1 was keen to hear his Side of tile story. He gave a sound explanation. Without calling him to testify before her commission, Ssebutinde, with characteristic gusto, "rejected" Rwakakoko's explanation out of hand. Doesn't Rwakakoko deserve the benefit of doubt from the lady justice! or the right to be heard? During; the police probe. Karim was accused of many things including murder; Karim applied to be allowed to testify. Sebutinde refused, saying she was not investigating him. Karim complained that so much was being said against him, that bad publicity was hurting his business, that he just wanted an opportunity to defend his name before the same commission. Ssebutinde turned him down. Today, Ssebutinde says: "He is not a bona fide- investor; he is a fraudster!'' This is a justice of the High Court of Uganda pronouncing herself about a man she has never allowed before any of her commissions.

Karim is not an angel. But doesn't he deserve fairness from a judge'! One of the principles of natural justice is that you should not be a judge and a prosecutor in the same case. Ssebutinde plays both roles in the commission. The other is that you should not make judgement of someone without hearing his or her side of the story Although the law on commissions of inquiry allows the chair to adopt his or her own style of inquiry, we expect better when the chair is a judge because we attach the virtues of impartiality and fairness to them.

I was listening to Ssebutmde question the URA Deputy Director General, Steven Akabway and it felt like she was talking to her houseboy She even yelled at Akabway, questioning his grasp of the English language and telling him that "if you don't understand English I can interpret for you."

Akabway is a highly respected public servant and to treat him with the kind of contempt as Sebutinde did was, to me, rude. Justice Ogola chaired the commission of inquiry into the banking industry, and everyone who appeared there felt listened to.

Indeed, some of the big stories from that commission reflect the kind of attitude that we need to guard against. Take the case of URA commissioner for administration. Jack Bigirwa. He was accused by Ssebutinde of building a "large mansion" in Sheema Bushenyi, and putting up a large coffee estate on his land, all courtesy of corruption in URA. Bigirwa built the said house in 1984 and the farm as far back as 1980. He has been slowly improving on both over the last 22 years Bigirwa is one of this country's largest coffee farmers and makes more money selling seedlings. He chairs the Uganda Coffee Farmers' Association and sits on the board of Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA). He is also a successful fish farmer with numerous ponds at his farm and makes good money selling fish. I am not saying that Bigirwa may not have involved himself in financial impropriety at URA. l do not know. But you cannot accuse him of stealing money from URA (which was established in 1992 and he joined ill 1994) to build a mansion in Sheema which was around in 1984. ls it a crime to be rich'!

The fact that someone is perceived to be corrupt does not mean that we can manufacture evidence against him. Politicians can be excused for employing this approach as Winnie and Nathan Byanvima did in the Brig. Jim Muhwezi censure in 1998. They got a letter written in 1992 and used it as evidence of a wrong under a constitution written in 1995. They got a house on a Shs 240m unpaid mortgage and valued it at Shs. 900m and claimed it as an asset by Muhwezi. They then published these fictitious figures to whip up public sentiment and cause parliamentary mob justice.

These public rituals called "fighting corruption" only serve the regime and actually help entrench system that thrives on corruptIon Behind the charade to censure Muhwezi, for example, was President Yoweri Museveni himself seeking to sink an ally to win public favour and stabilise his regime. Winnie Byanyima would arrange night "strategy" meetings between the president and the petitioners. But they are politicians and not judges, and many politicians by their very profession are liars. I should therefore not be misunderstood to be saying that Muhwezi, Rwakakoko, Bigirwa or Karim are saints. I am saying they deserve to be heard, they should not be accused falsely, and they deserve impartiality from a judge. We should not therefore understand Ssebutinde's style as being accidental. It is a deliberate strategy employed by the regime to appease an angry public while masking the real problems of corruption in Uganda, and at the same time serve the interests of regime survival. Ssebutinde ' herself may not be coached on how to handle the investigations. Rather, the regime exploits her unfair style to win public favour, that there is a war against corruption. Her role is therefore not to solve the problems of the organisations that she investigates but to dupe the public that something is being done, and in the process buy political capital for the regime.

Who is Karuhanga fighting for?

TUESDAY, 22 NOVEMBER 2011 11:22 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

Without arbitration, Uganda has US$ 405m in its treasury. With arbitration, we have a 50 percent risk of losing it.

I read with great pain and frustration the Sunday Monitor interview with the western youth Member of Parliament (MP) Gerald Karuhanga about alleged bribes paid to ministers Sam Kutesa and Hillary Onek in the ongoing oil-bribes-saga. Asked why he thought the documents he tabled before parliament were genuine, Karuhanga said: “we saw some people trembling; if it was not true, why were they trembling?” First, the evidence came while making accusations in parliament. Second, is this really evidence of guilt? And I am told Karuhanga is a lawyer. If we accept this as a standard for our MPs to make policy and pass resolutions then we are doomed as a country.

I was even more surprised at the ignorance of Karuhanga when he talked about international arbitration. He alleged that when Onek was minister of Energy, he was against this arbitration; that when Onek was removed, his successors decided to go for arbitration. This suggests that Karuhanga believes international arbitration is good for Uganda. He does not even know that the arbitration has been brought against the government of Uganda by Heritage Oil.

Heritage is contesting a US$ 405m Capital Gains Tax (CGT) assessment by Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). Heritage invested about US$ 150m in oil exploration in Uganda. But when it was selling its shares, it was paid US$ 1.5billion i.e. its investment had acquired extra value (capital gain) of US$ 1.35billion. According to Ugandan law, this gain is taxed 30 percent when someone sells their asset.

Under the oil agreements, for any international oil company to sell its interest, it has to get approval from government. When Heritage sought this approval, government of Uganda asked URA to make a tax assessment hence the US$ 405m bill. Heritage contested this arguing that the capital gain was accrued on the London Stock Exchange where it is listed and is therefore not liable to pay the tax in Uganda. Uganda is saying the capital gain accrued on an asset that is a natural resource of the country. Heritage called for international arbitration to resolve the dispute.

I had heard allegations that Onek was attempting to give consent for Heritage to sell even before paying the taxes. It was also alleged that many government officials had been bribed to accept international arbitration. Uganda has lost all international arbitration cases. So I felt government should not accept it. I got information that top government officials were putting URA boss Allen Kagina, under pressure to withdraw her tax assessment. I called Kagina encouraging her to stand firm.

That is when I got documents showing that Tullow was paying the said bribes to make Uganda accept international arbitration. Why would Tullow pay bribes for Heritage to avoid tax liability? Under the oil agreements, if Tullow bought Heritage shares, it would be required to farm out (sell) its shares to a third company. If Tullow sold part of its shares, its tax liability would be above US$ 900 million. It seemed to me Tullow needed to use Heritage to create a precedent on CGT.

Although the bribes paid seemed to be too high, I reasoned that if Tullow can create a precedent that allows it to avoid paying US$ 900 million, then it is worth investing US$30 million in bribes. I needed to expose these bribes, but I could not establish the authenticity of the documents. If I had to make an error, I felt I should do it on the side of caution. However, I felt that what was strategically important for Uganda was to get government to insist that Heritage pays the CGT.

The person with ultimate power to do this was President Yoweri Museveni. Armed with the documents I had, I sought an appointment with him. When I showed them to him he was shocked. Like me, I felt the President believed them to be true. But what impressed me about his reaction was when he asked me: suppose they are forged? I told the President I could not confirm their authenticity. However, there were steps he could take that could insulate Uganda from a loss.

Thereafter, the President did three things: first, he revoked any consent of sale that Onek was alleged to have given to Heritage; second, he insisted that Heritage pays all the taxes before any discussions; third, he resisted international arbitration. He wrote a letter saying there should be no consent and if it has been given, he had revoked it. He refused to meet delegations from Heritage and Tullow until they had paid the taxes. He made strong public statements against arbitration.

These actions forced Tullow and Heritage to deposit the money on an escrow account in Standard Chartered Bank in the UK pending the results of the arbitration. I supported the President’s insistence that nothing happens until and unless the money is banked in a government account with Bank of Uganda. Tullow yielded and paid because it risked losing the Block. Heritage stood its ground and insisted on arbitration.

If I had any doubts, Museveni’s actions on this issue convinced me that he was genuinely protecting the national interest. It also showed me that he is a fair person because although he believed that the documents I had taken to him were true, he was not willing to take action without first verifying them. In fact I worked with him to hire an international investigative firm to do a parallel search – in case the police investigation got compromised. None of the firms we approached in UK, USA and South Africa could do the job because of the difficulty of accessing bank records. But his actions served the public interest that I sought.

Yet Karuhanga supports international arbitration. Without this arbitration, government of Uganda has US$ 405 million in its treasury. With arbitration, Uganda has a 50 percent risk of losing that money. If Onek was opposed to arbitration, then he was defending the national interest of Uganda. I do not know how Uganda was finally arm twisted to accept this arbitration. If we lost in this arbitration, the country will forsake both the US$ 405 million Heritage paid and the US$900m Tullow is supposed to pay. If Karuhanga supports arbitration, whose interest is he fighting for?

Shar

The paradox of Power.

TUESDAY, 13 DECEMBER 2011 06:11 BY ANDREW M. MWENDA

How politicians and civil servants use Museveni as a cover to make payments to claimants from which they earn huge commissions

At the height of his power, Marshal Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire appeared as if he was in complete control of the country and its people. Yet beneath this veneer lay an ugly reality: Mobutu was entrapped. Having personalized power, or created a myth thereof, evoking his name became a key to unlock access to power, privilege and wealth – but equally a cover for public officials to swindle public resources without taking personal responsibility.

A common story goes like this: Mobutu would ask his personal secretary for US$ 1m. The secretary would instead tell the State House comptroller that Mobutu had asked for US$ 2m. The comptroller would inform the governor of the central bank that the president wants US$ 3m. The governor would withdraw US$ 4m, pocket US$ 1m and pass on the rest to the other officials each of whom would nibble off their cut until Mobutu actually received the US$ 1m he had asked for – only 25 percent.

President Yoweri Museveni may be in a similar trap. The ongoing parliamentary investigation into the compensation of businessman Hassan Basajabalaba worth Shs 146 billion is a perfect example. For an entire week, every minister, governor, attorney general and top civil servant who appeared before the committee said they acted on the “president’s instructions.” Although this defense seems true, it is an excuse not an explanation for their behavior.

The background: Basajabalaba claims that he got sub-leases and management contracts for three markets – St Balikudembe, Shauriyako and Nakasero; and a lease to redevelop Constitutional Square. Museveni revoked these leases and contracts arbitrarily because vendors in these markets complained to him. But this had no force of law since only a court can revoke a title or contract. Indeed, the government disregarded court orders allowing Basajabalaba to evict these vendors. Yet Museveni’s action was consistent with the way many in Uganda’s chattering classes would want the country to be run i.e. by pandering to public sentiments rather than to laws, rules and regulations.

If Basajabalaba holds legitimate leases to these properties, I would defend his right to fair and just compensation. I have talked to a number of real estate moguls and dealers in Kampala and the estimated value of the above properties at market prices can go up to US$ 150m. Secondly, if one factors in the business opportunity foregone when government revoked the leases, Basajabalaba’s claim can easily exceed US$ 300m. This is because the business opportunity contained in the possession of an asset must exceed the value of that asset for anyone to feel attracted to invest in it. Thus, in asking for US$ 70m, Basajabalaba is actually being modest.

However, there is an audit report by KPMG to the Auditor General which shows that the leases and contracts Basajabalaba had were given illegally. If this is true, then Basajabalaba has no claim. And this shows that corruption in Uganda is not limited to the NRM but is a problem of the wider bureaucratic and political class. At the time these contracts and sub-leases were given to Basajabalaba, KCC was actually being managed by mayors from the opposition and an opposition dominated city council.

Before I read the KPMG report, I had almost been convinced that Basajabalaba had a legitimate claim. However, I felt that compensating him was very costly to the taxpayer. In a chance meeting with the president, I proposed to him that the government should let Basajabalaba retain his titles but put conditions on the leases or in a city development plan or policy. Under such lease conditions or city policy, Basajabalaba would be required to develop modern shopping malls whose standards would be set by KCC and this re-development would be given a specific timeframe e.g. seven years.

I proposed that part of the conditions on the lease or city policy should require Basajabalaba to sell space to existing vendors giving them first right of purchase. The government would place the necessary amount of money in Housing Finance Bank and DFCU as long term mortgage finance for vendors to borrow and buy condominium stalls in the new shopping malls. This would be a win-win solution for everyone - government, Basajabalaba, taxpayers and vendors.

I felt that the president liked my idea yet it never got anywhere. I was suspicious this proposal would never be accepted by the political and bureaucratic players in this country because it would have taken control of the money from their hands to banks. This would have minimized potential for corruption. In today’s Uganda, nothing works unless individuals within the system are going to profit from it.

There is a mistaken belief in this country that Museveni can order any minister or bureaucrat to pay and they oblige out of fear. I used to hold it too. However, the reality is different as I discovered. Over the years, Museveni has issued very many instructions to the ministries of finance, justice, local government, lands etc to pay different groups and individuals. The claimants have never been paid. Instead, civil servants easily frustrate him by hiding behind procedures. None of them has been fired for not paying.

Question: why was Basajabalaba’s claim processed quickly including giving him a central bank guarantee so that he can borrow from commercial banks? It seems very likely that Basajabalaba did not take home the entire Shs 146 billion. Instead, it is possible that many officials in Bank of Uganda, the ministries of lands, local government, finance, justice and officials of KCC pocketed something in exchange for their collaboration.

Only two people tried to stop this payment - the PS/ST finance, Chris Kasami and his deputy Keith Muhakanizi. They tried to insist on an audit before payment. However their requests fell on deaf ears as the payment was rushed for a central bank guarantee.

Basajabalaba was paid, not because Museveni directed, but because the president offered the best cover for others to make commissions. All these ministers, governors and civil servants are using the excuse of “orders from above” to hide behind the president’s directive as a protection against their own complicity is abusing public funds. Like Mobutu before him, the predator has become prey. Museveni may think he is in charge. Actually he has lost control over runaway theft by government officials.

amwenda@independent.co.ug