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, May 13, 2019

Uganda’s democratic contradiction

Why I think Museveni is a liberal democrat while Bobi Wine and Besigye are potential tyrants

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Last week, police using heavy-handed methods stopped the MP for Kyadondo East, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, from holding a concert. Even President Yoweri Museveni agreed that the brutality police employed was uncalled for. To make a bad situation worse, the Uganda Communications Commission then ordered television stations to fire reporters, programmers and producers who were involved in the live coverage of this event.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The road to serfdom

How Ugandans have cultivated a mindset that is making them servants of foreigners in their own country

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | My friend Henry Mayanja left Uganda as a teenager and lived in the UK for 20 years. He worked for the UK government earning a salary and thinking he had made it. When he visited Uganda in 2011, he found some ordinary guy he left in Hima – uneducated, riding a bicycle and selling milk – a successful entrepreneur in Kampala with 24 lorries and investments in real estate. The guy explained to Henry that he had grown from the bicycle to a boda boda, to a small pickup, to the lorries.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Is Uganda’s debt sustainable?

How Prof Hyuha Mukwanason’s response to my article fails to move beyond abstract theoretical arguments

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | Prof Hyuha Mukwanason wrote in Daily Monitor of April 13 a 4,214 words-long article responding to my article published in The New Vision of January 21 (2,400 words). In his response, he purported to demonstrate that Uganda’s debt is unsustainable. Yet nowhere in that long article does he make any effort to meet this promise. Instead he went into a host of irrelevant theoretical abstractions about debt generally that have little or no relevance to Uganda’s actual debt situation, ironically the very issue he was criticising me for.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The fall of Omar Bashir

Why the Sudanese leader is a hero not a villain for nurturing the progressive forces that removed him

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Finally prolonged popular protests have brought down the 30 years long rule of Sudanese president, Gen. Omar Al Bashir. This was inspiring news for the Ugandan opposition who wish President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 33 years now, suffers a similar fate. Sadly, these wishes are unlikely to yield anything because actions, not wishes, are what really bring down governments. Most likely Sudan may provide Museveni an opportunity to look for ways to manage future uprisings better.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Japanese versus European colonialism

How Japanese colonialism in East Asia was transformative compared to its European counterpart in Africa
Kampala, Uganda | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I spent about ten days between late February and early March in Japan; talking to government officials, academics in universities, policy wonks in think tanks, tasting Japanese cuisine, visiting technology museums and art galleries.
I was intrigued that the Japanese do not want to speak about their role as colonisers because many of them think it was their nation at its worst.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Our country’s misguided priorities

How the debate on Lubowa hospital exposes the self-indulgence of Ugandan elites and their poverty of ideas
Two weeks ago Uganda government approved $380m (or Shs1.4 trillion) to build an “international specialised hospital” in Lubowa. On the face of it, this is a great idea. It is prestigious for a poor country like Uganda to own a state-of-the-art hospital that can handle highly complex medical problems. Besides, if our country is to attract high-end tourism, it needs such a highly specialised hospital so that rich tourists can visit our country confident that in case of a medical emergency they can be handled.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Uganda’s storm in a teacup

How our MPs invented a scandal around Uganda Airlines’ shares and our chattering elites joined the chorus
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” Voltaire
Last week, our parliamentar- ians alleged that some unscrupulous ministers had stolen government shares in Uganda National Airlines Company Limited (UNACL) by registering them in their private names on the shares allotment form. A “vigilant” committee of parliament “unearthed” this fraud. Parliament went hysterical with the deputy speaker, Jacob Oulanyah, saying he would have fired the ministers if he were president. On traditional and social media, pundits outdid one another denouncing this blatant theft.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma Part3

Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it
So we come to our third and last instalment on how post-1986 Uganda cultivated groups and interests hostile to local firms. First to be discredited were local banks, followed by locally owned construction firms. They were accused of doing “shoddy work” at a high price. New procurement laws requiring international competitive bidding effectively locked them out of key contracts.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma Part2

Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it

We begin from where we stopped last week. Uganda’s growing economy served three critical purposes: It increased government revenues, gave greater confidence to donors to give more aid, and increased resources available to government to pay for patronage, provide basic public goods and services and fight armed insurgency thereby aiding legitimacy and political consolidation. Consequently, Museveni gradually shifted from implementing these reforms as an opportunistic beneficiary and became a believer in their efficacy.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Uganda’s strategic dilemma

Why Uganda’s economy is dominated by multinational capital and what cannot be done about it

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Uganda is facing a dilemma. The country is investing tens of billions of dollars in huge infrastructure projects – dams, airports, highways, bridges, railways, water systems etc. Many Ugandans are complaining that all the big contracts are won by foreign firms especially Chinese, who even bring their own workers and materials. They argue therefore that these investments bring little value to the citizens as local manufacturing and construction firms get little or nothing. Consequently, the debate on and demands for local content have become loud.

Monday, March 11, 2019

The Rwanda-Uganda conflict

How Kampala has mismanaged her relations with Kigali and why Rwanda closed her border

Let me do what politicians always do – claim they run for office due to popular demand. Many people have been asking me to comment on the heightened tensions between Uganda and Rwanda. By writing this article, I am yielding to popular pressure. I think Uganda and Rwanda will most likely degenerate into war; something I have shared with friends since October last year and this is the reason it is critical that I share my views.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Fortune favours the bold

Why government of Uganda should heavily invest in Kiira Motors even in the face of many impediments
Uganda wants to manufacture cars. It doesn’t have any comparative advantage in this field. It does not produce iron ore from which to make steel, an important input into the car manufacturing industry. It is landlocked. It has no prior experience in manufacturing anything significant. And it is trying to do it using a state owned enterprise, Kiira Motors Corporation (KMC), in a government riddled with corruption and incompetence.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Wrong thinking on health services

Why expecting a Ugandan peasant to have the same quality of healthcare as an American is madness

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, I attended the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE)’s monthly State of the Nation seminar on public spending and governance on the health sector in Uganda. Like all such conferences on African issues, context is always missing. So we discuss the state’s ability to deliver public goods and services as if poor countries have the same resources – both human and financial – as rich nations.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Museveni’s AU speech

Why there is a big disconnect between Museveni the intellectual and Museveni the politician

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, President Yoweri Museveni delivered an impressive speech to fellow African Union (AU) heads of state in Addis Ababa about the need for regional and continental integration. According to social media, the president even got a standing ovation. The speech was Musevenisque in its historical sweep, breadth of perspective, depth of analysis and strategic foresight. It showed how Museveni the politician contradicts Museveni the intellectual. It also proves that leaders are human – they have egos and other emotions that stand in the way of their strategic ambitions.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Impunity at Bank of Uganda

How institutional independence allowed the central bank to indulge in gross mismanagement and incompetence

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week was the most shameful for Bank of Uganda. During hearings before the parliamentary committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (COSASE) it was exposed that BoU sold the assets and liabilities of the now defunct Crane Bank Limited (CBL) irregularly in blatant violation of the law.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Michela Wrong’s war on Kagame

How racial prejudice led The Guardian to publish an article that is basically a hit job on Rwanda

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On January 14, The Guardian newspaper in England published a 5,800 word long article by Michela Wrong titled “Rwanda’s Kashogi.” It accused President Paul Kagame of Rwanda of complicity in the murder of former Rwandan spy chief, Patrick Karegyeya. Wrong makes no effort to substantiate her claims with even the most rudimentary evidence. She relied on a litany of rumours.

Monday, January 28, 2019

URA’s unnecessary headquarters

Why government of Uganda’s approach of owning buildings to save on rent is economically unproductive

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week President Yoweri Museveni officially opened the new Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) head office building in Nakawa. As a work of art, the building is majestic. As a source of national pride, it is inspiring. At 22 floors high it is the tallest building in Kampala, a beautiful piece of architecture that improves our city’s skyline. But as an economic investment, the building is a disaster.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Uganda’s growing public debt

PUBLIC DEBT: Why is it growing? Is it prohibitive, unsustainable?

Kampala, Uganda | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On January 10, I watched with increasing depression a debate about Uganda’s national debt on the NBS Frontline show. Although the Minister of State for Finance, David Bahati, made many good arguments in defence of government, his delivery was not effective.

The value of loyalty

The value of loyalty: What the story of a simple attendant at a fuel station can help us learn about building successful organisations

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On Tuesday January 8, 2019 I passed a Total service station in Luzira to load Mobile Money. Because there was no V-Power Petrol on all Shell stations in Kampala and I had a few minutes to spare, I decided to ask a fuel attendant at this Total station, a one Vincent Komakech, whether their fuel is fit for my car.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Museveni’s land politics

Why the president’s defence of squatters is humane but economically retrogressive

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | During his New Year speech, President Yoweri Museveni reiterated his commitment to defend squatters being evicted by “land grabbers”. Yet he also promised to protect the ownership rights of title holders. In trying to please both, Museveni may be doing good politics but it is bad economics. Here is why.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Museveni and African hairstyles

Why the President’s emphasis on hairstyles to assert the African identity addresses the form and ignores the substance
THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | On December 30, 2018, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted thanking Miss World Africa, Quiin Abenakyo, for heeding his “advice” to keep her hair “natural”. Museveni claimed that this asserts her “African identity”. “God beautifully created Africans and there is no need to add or subtract anything,” the President tweeted.