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, December 24, 2018

Museveni’s anti-graft crusade

Why the president’s efforts against corruption may be politically appealing but are strategically of little value

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, President Yoweri Museveni launched an “anti-corruption unit” in his office. This is one in many efforts the president has tried and failed in the last 32 years. The NRM’s Ten Point Program had “fighting corruption” as its number two priority. Yet Museveni has presided over the worst levels of corruption in our post-independence history. For our “analysts” this is because Museveni is a dishonest man. Nonsense!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Uganda’s painful truths

Why the always-blame-government-for-every problem mantra is popular but destructive

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW MWENDA | Many Ugandans are angry feeling the country is not going in the right direction. This is especially so among those who feel they can do better, which is understandable. However, they always attribute their frustrations to factors that are politically convenient and emotionally satisfying to them. I have learnt over the years that the pursuit of accurate knowledge and the pursuit of ideological or emotional satisfaction are inherently conflicting goals.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Uganda’s boat tragedy

The recovered vessel. PHOTO – UGANDA POLICE MEDIA
Why accidents like the one that killed tens of revellers will continue to happen
THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The sinking of a boat in Lake Victoria killing many revellers on November 24 was a classic tragedy. And typical of the Ugandan character, social and traditional media have been awash with finger pointing and apportioning blame. Pundits say the government failed in its obligation to save Ugandans from themselves. It is a claim I have increasingly grown sceptical of and hostile to.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Uganda’s performance paradox

How Museveni behaves like his critics in undermining the credibility of his own government 

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | There is a suffocating sense among a large cross-section of educated urban Ugandans that our country is falling apart. In my frustrated moments, I too feel the same way. The growing potholes and traffic congestion in Kampala, the impunity of boda boda riders, and the general lack of a vision around which people can be mobilised, ensure a grim national mood. One, therefore, understands why some Ugandan elites rally behind demagogues that denounce the status quo and call for radical change.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Role of trust in prosperity

Why many Ugandans are stuck in poverty and unemployment even in the face of opportunities

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | I have lately been arguing in this column that one of the most important drivers of prosperity is human capital. The better the human capital the higher the chances for an individual or nation to become prosperous. Economists use average number of years spent in school by a given population as a proxy for levels of human capital development. I see human capital much more broadly to include possession of marketable skills, labour productivity, shared mentalities such as work ethics and most importantly, trust within the society.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Bobi Wine’s Kyarenga concert

Why Uganda (like other African countries) keeps rotating around the same roundabout

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last weekend, Kyadondo East Member of Parliament (MP), Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, held a “mega” Kyarenga (it’s too much) concert at his One Love Beach in Busabala near Kampala. Drovees of Ugandans flocked there to watch their new messiah sing his new song, “Tuliyambala engule” (we shall wear the crown). It is a song promising to liberate Uganda from the “dictatorship” of President Yoweri Museveni.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The destiny of nations

Why some nations prosper and others stagnate and what we cannot do about it 

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has 187 countries in its list of nations whose Gross Domestic Product (GDP) it captures. Of these, 39 are listed as “Advanced Countries” (AC) and only five of them – Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong are none European. Taiwan and Hong Kong areprovinces of China and Singapore is 76% ethnic Chinese. All the other AC countries are European and its offshoots in North America (the United States and Canada), and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand) – plus Israel in the Middle East. That means only three ethnic groups – Chinese, Japanese and Koreas from one cluster of this globe, East Asia, have made the transition that Europeans made.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Chasing the wind

Why the belief that Ugandans are angry because youth lack jobs and other economic opportunities is mistaken

Last week, President Yoweri Museveni inaugurated a $600 million fertilizer and aluminum plant in Tororo. A few days before, he had opened a new $150 million bridge over the River Nile in Jinja. And a few days earlier he had been to Kapeka where he opened a Chinese ceramics factory that will produce 40,000 square meters of floor and wall tiles per day. Even a few days before that he visited the $2 billion Karuma hydro electricity project that will produce 600MW of electricity.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Museveni’s forgotten railway unit

Why 30 years later, we should not condemn but sympathise with the president’s fanciful and failed dreams
Last week someone sent me a video of President Yoweri Museveni speaking on December 22, 1988.
In it, the President who was just two years in power says: “We must have our own capacity to build houses, roads, dams, railways.”
Museveni boasted that he was “using the Kasese line as an opportunity to build a railways construction unit.”

Monday, October 22, 2018

The triumph of colonialism

How European claims to promote `civilisation’ in Africa remain the supreme aim of all our governments

One of the most successful ideological projects in contemporary history has been European colonialism, or what Marxists used to call imperialism. Vladimir Lenin called imperialism the highest stage of capitalism. The growth of capitalism imposed certain demands on the European bourgeoisie. They needed to find new sources of raw materials for their industries, areas to invest surplus capital, new markets for their manufactured products and cheap labour.

Friday, October 19, 2018

The fall of Jennifer Musisi

Finally Jennifer Musisi has resigned as executive director of KCCA. This was inevitable. However, her resignation points to a deeper malady that our nation faces: the gulf between our theoretical ambitions and the pettiness of our politics. Musisi has fallen because she aspired to do great things for a city the majority of whose residents are driven by petty politics.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Africa’s highway to a dead-end

Why our obsession with foreign direct investment as a driver of our transformation is misguided
It is the Italian thinker-philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, who coined the term hegemony. He used it to refer to the sum total of beliefs, values, explanations and perceptions that a dominant class develops and which subordinate classes accept as the norm i.e. as the normal way things are and should be. Hegemony is therefore the universally dominant ideology that justifies the existing social, political and economic status quo as natural, normal, inevitable and beneficial to everyone. Yet any such status quo is actually an artificial social construct developed by and for the benefit of the dominant social group.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Recasting debates on development

What a reading of Marx and Lenin teaches us about the effects of multinational capital on poor nations
Raymond Mujuni of NBS television tweeted that he has began his masters’ degree in development studies with a reading of Karl Marx. This column is a conversation with him on Marx’s insights on development. Marx was the first thinker to show the link between economic development and political action. Later thinkers within the Marxist tradition carried his ideas further. In this article I want to introduce Mujuni to the ideas of Marx and Vladmir Lenin.

Monday, October 1, 2018

The future we must fight for

Why our democracy will not be strengthened by a violent contest but dialogue and compromise

The current struggle between President Yoweri Museveni on the one hand and the two most popular opposition groups to wit Defiance led by Dr. Kizza Besigye, and People Power led by Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine on the other, is over power not democracy or policy.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Closing and merging public agencies

Why the new government reform measures should not throw away the baby with the bathwater

The decision by government of Uganda to reduce the number of semi autonomous government agencies, commissions and other bodies is a very good and long over due. Beginning the mid 1990s until only recently there has been a proliferation of these bodies many of which duplicate roles and functions. Therefore the justification for merging some of them and taking others back to their mother ministries is agreeable. However, and like many reforms, this one runs the risk of throwing away the baby with the bathwater.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The strategy of radical extremism

On the night of Friday August 31t, one of our top musicians, Bebe Cool aka Moses Ssali, was nearly lynched by supporters of Bobi Wine aka Robert Kyagulanyi, the rising star in Uganda’s turbulent politics. They hurled bottles, chairs and other objects at him. They would have killed him were in not for intervention of the Uganda police. Bebe Cool’s only crime is that he holds a contrary view from theirs.

Friday, September 7, 2018

How Besigye and Bobi Wine play directly into Museveni’s hands

So two things happened yesterday. First I read a letter by President Yoweri Museveni to Speaker Rebeca Kadaga, where the president referred to Bobi Wine supporters as “terrorists.” Throughout the letter the president kept referring to the violent activities of his opponents to justify military intervention in politics.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

How people power threatens our freedom

In the 20th century, strong states like the Soviet Union, fascist Italy and NAZI Germany were enemies of freedom. This led to the development of the idea of freedom as entirely a struggle against the state. This idea was then transplanted as common sense reality to the rest of the world. Yet the reality in most poor nations is that the main threat to freedom is not necessarily the strength of the state but its weakness.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Who will stop the hooliganism of people power?

And so it was that on Friday night Bobi Wine supporters physically assaulted Bebe Cool by throwing bottles filled with urine at him, literally chasing him away from a concert. Bebe Cool’s only crime was to hold an opinion different from that of Bobi Wine and his hooligan supporters.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Kayihura, Kagame, Museveni

Behind the worsening relations between Kampala and Kigali
On August 24, former Inspector General of Police in Uganda, Kale Kayihura, was charged in a military court martial with kidnapping (by omission or commission) “Rwandan exiles” aided by junior officers between 2012 and 2016. Although the accusation is in plural, only one victim was named – a Lt. Mutabazi. This same charge was made against police officers close to Kayihura last year.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Between Museveni’s frying pan and Bobi Wine’s fire

Uganda has a new hero: Bobi Wine. He is being presented to us domestically and internationally as the symbol of our struggle for democracy, freedom, liberty and social transformation. Even some of our “intellectuals” are treating him as an alternative to President Yoweri Museveni. This is the pathway to disaster.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The dangers of public opinion

Why the recent state brutality towards opposition politicians and journalists should make us revisit liberal traditions

The 19th century cartoon character, pot-bellied bourgeoisie Monsieur Prudhomme, carried a large sword with a double intent: primarily to defend the republic against it enemies, and secondarily, to attack it should it stray from its course. In the same manner my professional work as a political commentator has always had two purposes: one, to defend the cause ofliberty, freedom and democracy;and two, to attack pseudo democrats who claim to fight for these ideals in their reckless pursuit of power.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Museveni’s government is in disarray but why won’t it fall?

Museveni decorates Kayihura before he fell from grace. Kayihura made very many mistakes but his role is already being missed on many fronts

The recent crackdown on pro “Free Bobi Wine” protesters in Kampala is not a sign of President Yoweri Museveni’s strength but vulnerability. This crackdown is being conducted by the police reinforced by the army. The soldiers have been excessively arbitrary, not distinguishing protesters from journalists. They brutally assault anyone they can land their brutal fingers on.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The disintegration of the FDC

Why liberal minded Ugandans should celebrate the breakup of FDC and rally behind its enlightened leaders

 The inevitable is happening. Uganda’s largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is breaking up. Twenty two out of its 36 Members of Parliament (MPs) are quitting the party to form another. They will initially present the new party as a pressure group to avoid the requirement that they seek re-election upon crossing the floor. However, one year to the 2021 elections they will officially announce the new party whose leader will most likely be Mugisha Muntu.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Why we must all condemn brutal arrest, torture of Bobi Wine

COMMENT | Andrew Mwenda |  I have read the report of the Uganda Human Rights Commission on the way Bobi Wine was arrested and tortured and it is disturbing. He was not at the scene of the incident where the president’s convoy was pelted with stones. The SFC soldiers who arrested and tortured him found him in his hotel room, more than an hour after the incident.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Uganda’s incompetence paradox part 2

How Uganda performs well in spite of corruption and incompetence and what it teaches us

In 2013 I wrote an article with exactly this headline, the reason this is named “Part 2”. It was about how the state in Uganda exhibits gross corruption and incompetence and yet in many aspects the country performs well. What explains this? I want to suggest that the state in Uganda has been successful in large part because it divested itself of the responsibility to do many things leaving individuals in our society the freedom to pursue their talents in the market.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Africa over the last 30 years

Why the claim that our continent’s problems are caused by “poor governance” is a lot of baloney
I have just re-read the 1989 report of the World Bank titled “Sub Saharan Africa: From Crisis to Sustainable Development.” It is a rich document in terms of the data it gives about Sub Saharan Africa (hereinafter called Africa). It is also in this report that the World Bank introduced (for the first time) the argument that one of the powerful causes of Africa’s poor economic performance was “governance.” The report itself did use the expression “good governance”. That was in the Foreword by the World Bank president.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Our nation’s next disaster

How the re-launch of Uganda Airlines is most likely going to bring our country to tears – unless

The decision by Uganda government to re-establish a state-run airline is a strategic mistake. In the early 1990s Uganda took a strategic decision to get government out of business. It disbanded state monopolies, privatized state run enterprises, liquidated others (like Uganda Airlines) and largely restricted itself to the role of overseer/regulator of private enterprise. This move was backed by a reorientation of the ideology of state bureaucrats, especially in the economic agencies, towards free market economics.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Our biggest political question

Why NRM won local council elections amidst the `hated’ tax on mobile money and social media

  Last week, Uganda held elections for local councils. The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) of President Yoweri Museveni fielded a candidate in almost every contested position. I obtained provisional results from the Electoral Commission. They cover 53,340 out of 60,797 contested positions (i.e. 88%) in 122 districts. NRM won 69%, independents (most of them allied to NRM) 22% and the combined opposition a miserable 9%.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The poverty of Ugandan elites

Bursting the bubble of our `intellectuals’ by exposing their most cherished ideals as a bunch of delusions 

Many Ugandan elites have been shouting themselves hoarse denouncing the tax on social media. They also claim they are already burdened paying “too many taxes”. With a tax to GDP ratio of 14%, Ugandans are among the least taxed people on this planet. And after the abolition of Graduated Tax (or tax per head), only 621,366 people are registered to pay the direct personal income tax, Pay As You Earn, in an adult population of close to 18 million people.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

In defence of social media tax

Why taxing mobile money and social media is a politically revolutionary act that may help improve our democracy
 Since government introduced a tax on mobile money and social media, there has been deafening opposition to it from every quarter of Ugandan public opinion. Yet for economic and political reasons this is the most revolutionary tax decision this government has ever made. What is even more intriguing is that those making the loudest noise against it are equally that section of our society which actually pays the least taxes.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Museveni leadership of economy

How the president’s successful economic stewardship is now in the past with little direction on the future 

President Yoweri Museveni has been named 12th among 24 leaders globally whose individual contribution has had a significant positive impact on their countries’ economic growth. This was in a study by Professor William Easterly of New York University and Steven Pennings, a researcher at the World Bank. The rankings placed Museveni above Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore and Park Chung Hee of South Korea, the most successful leaders to preside over the economic transformation of their nations from poverty to riches within a generation.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Kayihura’s road to jail

How the former IGP became a victim of his own success, internal power struggles and changing geopolitics

 Former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kale Kayihura, was the longest servicing officer in a top and sensitive security position under President Yoweri Museveni. He must have done a great job. Why then has he fallen out of favour so ignominiously and ended in jail being accused of murder?
Museveni has lasted in power for 32 years by strategy not luck. He always selects the “right people” for sensitive security positions and puts in place the right monitoring measures to ensure first, they hold his enemies/opponents at bay and second, that they themselves cannot overthrow him.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Uganda’s crime outrage

How to renew our nation’s security architecture to cope with the new challenges of murder and kidnapping 

The cold bloodied murder of Arua Municipality Member of Parliament, Ibrahim Abiriga, has reignited the debate on security in Uganda. Throughout last year, it was alleged that the security situation in the country had deteriorated because then Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura, had privileged clamping down on opposition activism over criminal policing. He was also accused of working with criminals. His removal, it was argued and later celebrated, would end kidnappings and murders.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

In defence of land grabbing

Why the greedy Ugandans we love to hate could be the key to our future prosperity

Our country has a new villain: the land grabber! In the popular imagination, this is a rich and powerful individual grabbing land from poor helpless victims. There are strong incentives for journalists, academics, politicians, activists, pundits, etc. to position themselves as champions of the poor masses against the rich and powerful. Their views are cheered by the hordes, making them feel that somehow they are the moral conscience of our society.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Inside NRM’s Rukungiri debacle

How the bye-election shows us that Besigye is the best ally in Museveni’s pursuit of power 

 Last week, NRM lost a bye-election in Rukungiri in spite of (and I think also because of) deploying all its resources in the area. The army and police made a strong presence. Many NRM’s big guns from the district and the secretariat camped in Rukungiri.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Inside the Rwanda-Arsenal deal

How ignorance and stupidity combined to make the UK press hostile to a highly profitable sponsorship 

Last week Rwanda and Arsenal, an English Premier League football club, signed a $40m sponsorship deal for three years. According to the deal, a “Visit Rwanda” logo will be emblazoned on the left sleeve of all first team, Under-23 and Arsenal Women’s shirts beginning with the new season this summer. Many people were impressed because the country is selling itself as product and branding itself like a private enterprise.

Monday, May 28, 2018

In defence of land grabbing

Why the greedy Ugandans we love to hate could be the key to our future prosperity 

Our country has a new villain: the land grabber! In the popular imagination, this is a rich and powerful individual grabbing land from poor helpless victims. There are strong incentives for journalists, academics, politicians, activists, pundits, etc. to position themselves as champions of the poor masses against the rich and powerful. Their views are cheered by the hordes, making them feel that somehow they are the moral conscience of our society.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Inside Africa’s real tragedy

How the ideology of a welfare state has destroyed our continent and impoverished its people
Everywhere I turn these days, Ugandans (and Africans generally) are complaining about the sorry state of our education and healthcare systems. There is a widespread belief across development literature that state (or public) investment in health and education is a panacea to the problems of development.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Africa’s need for messiahs

Inside our belief that the salvation of our nations will come from the actions of one great man

If you follow discussions on politics in Uganda, or Africa generally, one factor is given as the cause of the slow rate of development – poor leadership. I used to hold this view but outgrew it in large part because I recognised that African leaders are propelled to power by the social dynamics of our societies. It follows that what they do with power reflects more on who we are as a people than who they are as individuals.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Understanding why nations fail

How a book celebrated by the world’s leading economists is actually an intellectual absurdity 

Last Saturday, my intellectual friends and I held a thrilling debate on a book by James Robinson and Daron Acemoglu titled `Why Nations Fail’. The book became an instant bestseller when it was published. Five Nobel laureates in economics endorsed it. Four other economists I hold in high esteem did that same. Jarred Diamond, whose work on the role of geography in the economic prosperity got me thinking in 1998, said good things about it.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Inside Uganda’s healthcare tears

Why trying to do everything for everyone, everywhere has ended up doing little for anyone, anywhere

The debate on health policy in Uganda is frustrating. Our health services are characterized by corruption, absenteeism, incompetence and apathy. Everyone is angry and frustrated including President Yoweri Museveni. This misery is self-inflicted because we refuse to acknowledge the limits on the state’s ability to do everything for everyone everywhere.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thinking succession in Uganda

Why the failure of a third force has locked us in a choice between Museveni and Besigye

In debating whether President Yoweri Museveni should go or stay we are not indulging in an abstract theoretical exercise but a challenge of practical politics. We can say Museveni’s government is performing badly, we need to improve it from within; or that it is dysfunctional, we need to change it from without.

Monday, April 16, 2018

On Africa’s big dreams

Why our continent needs to rethink her overenthusiastic attitude towards foreign direct investment

Last month, Rwanda hosted the African Union’s summit on the Continent Free Trade Area (CFTA). The discussions were as inspiring as they were frustrating. Leaders from government and the private sector talked big about the benefits of integration. Some even suggested an African crypto-currency. There is a mistaken belief that the existence of a common interest is sufficient to promote a collective effort to achieve it. This is rarely true.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Uganda’s new villain

Why the country and its president are fighting the wrong enemy on electricity tariffs

A large cross section of Ugandan elites is angry, very angry. It thinks the price (tariff) it buys electricity at is too high. So it has been looking for a villain to blame and has identified Umeme, the private utility licensed to distribute electricity. President Yoweri Museveni, who many Ugandans accuse of owning the company, has also joined the anti-Umeme coalition. Last year his villain was Bujagali Electricity Limited (BEL), the largest hydro electricity generator in Jinja. So the villain is a moving target and this explains why the debate on causes of high electricity tariffs is a toxic combination of high emotion and little knowledge.

Monday, April 2, 2018

On Museveni’s Umeme missive

UMEME: Why the president is misinformed about electricity distribution market and tariffs

President Yoweri Museveni’s letter to the minister of Energy has provided considerable grist to the anti-Umeme mill. There is no company providing a public service in Uganda that has been as successful in business and as equally hated by many as Umeme. This is because Umeme made a fundamental error: it invested in business success but ignored both customer relations and stakeholder engagement.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Lesson from Jinja East by-election

Why Uganda’s opposition should take voter turnout seriously if they ever want to win elections

On March 15th, the Electoral Commission declared opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate, Paul Mwiru, elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for Jinja East constituency in a by-election. Since then, opposition leaders have been congratulating themselves on this “big win.”  Yet the results, when properly analysed, should cause the opposition in Uganda to pause and reflect.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Uganda’s myths and realities

Why Besigye can only govern using Museveni’s politics of corruption and patronage 

 The discussion of a post President YoweriMuseveni Uganda tends to be programmatic rather than analytical. It is built on false hopes based on textbook theories rather than the actual social dynamics of Uganda. This problem is perverse in nearly all Africa. It explains why our continent has seen many changes of government without much qualitative change in governance. Museveni governs in a particular way more out of the dynamics of power and politics in a poor multi ethnic country than out of his personality.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The fall of Kayihura

Why the firing of the IGP has more to do with Kampala-Kigali relations than crime in Uganda 

Finally President Yoweri Museveni has fired the Inspector General of Police, Kale Kayihura. It was a sad ending for a man who more than anyone else has fought the hardest to defend Museveni’s job.
It must be painful for Kayihura because he was not even given an alternative appointment as minister or ambassador or even the token one of “senior presidential advisor” that the president gives to many people he fires. In leaving him jobless, Museveni has not disguised his extreme displeasure with Kayihura.

Monday, March 5, 2018

The poverty paradox

UGANDA: Why economic development tends to increase social insecurity leading to anger

  A couple of months ago, the Uganda Bureau of Statistics produced its survey showing that between 2012 and 2017, the number of people living in poverty increased from 19 to 27%. This provided considerable grist to the anti President Yoweri Museveni mill. It confirmed the accusations of his critics that the president has been mismanaging the economy.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The problem with Africa

The problem with Africa: If our countries remain poor, it’s because its leaders and elites are too kind to their people to force transformation

Last week, President Yoweri Museveni tweeted a picture of himself pushing a bicycle in some village “promoting” an irrigation scheme. It was a masterstroke in the politics of dealing with peasants whose support he desires. The problem was the medium of broadcasting his initiative – Twitter.
The Uganda social media crowd dislike Museveni. Being educated and urban, they see agriculture as a reflection of backwardness. I agree. No country where most people depend on agriculture for a livelihood is rich. Trying to help peasants become better at what they do may be good politics and even improve their lot but it cannot transform them. The future prosperity of Africa will depend on ending the peasantry.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The challenge of state legitimacy

Government can only govern if people comply with its demands, but why do people comply?

The German sociologist, Max Weber, argued that if the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. Then he posed an important question: when and why do men obey? He identified three main types of legitimate authority: the first that is derived from the personal charisma of a ruler, the second derived from tradition, and the third derived from a set of widely accepted laws and rules that determine who should govern and how.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fashionable nonsense

How the debate on governance in Africa is a toxic combination of high emotion and little knowledge

 It is fashionable across our continent to condemn governments for poor delivery of public goods and services. This, it is argued, is caused by corruption, incompetence, and greed by our leaders. This is captured in the modern lexicon as “bad governance”. Yet in spite of many changes of government, and with the exception of post genocide Rwanda, no poor country can avoid this accusation.
I argued in this column last week that what we call “bad governance” is not only the most cost effective and cost efficient way of managing power relations in the context of poverty, it is actually the only affordable way of doing so. But first let me make a caveat.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Losing my innocence

How my hubris to become president of Uganda pulled me from the trees of utopia to the hard rock of reality
 I want to continue with a line of thought from this column last week i.e. that African countries cannot be governed using strategies Western governments employ to govern their societies.
Government legitimacy in the West is based on many things. But one critical source of legitimacy is the ability of the state to provide all its citizens with a large basket of public goods and services. Sadly, African nations do not have the money to govern that way.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Reconsidering governance in Africa

Reconsidering governance in Africa: Why our obsession with copying and pasting western institutions causes more harm than good

 If you follow debate on Africa anywhere in the world, everyone will tell you that the main problem with our countries is governance. Yet this claim is new, picked from the World Bank’s World Development Report of 1989. Now it has entered the lexicon of politics as a religion; the very reason we need to focus on it. In the 1960s and 70s, the main issue was that African countries are poor because of their integration into the world economy as producers of unprocessed raw materials.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Is America a shithole country?

How Trump and his African admirers judge the quality of something based entirely on money
Just before the outbreak of the Nama-Herero rebellion in modern day Namibia in April 1904, Chief Hendrick Witboi of the Nama tribe penned a letter to the then German military governor of that colony. “He (the colonialist)… introduces laws which are entirely impossible, untenable, unbelievable, unbearable, unmerciful and unfeeling,” he wrote, “He punishes our people… and he has already beaten people to death for debt. He thinks we are stupid and unintelligent people but we have never punished people in the cruel and improper way he does.”

Monday, January 15, 2018

The poverty of Africa’s elites

Why the tendency of African intellectuals to blame leaders for the failures of our nations is escapism 
I recently had a Twitter debate with Prof. George Ayittey; the Ghanaian author of `Africa Unchained: the blueprint for development’ (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2004) and scholar at the American University in Washington DC.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Uganda’s (Africa’s) paradox

Uganda’s (Africa’s) paradox: Why youth unemployment and urban poverty is a sign of progress 
Uganda, like all African countries, has a big problem of youth unemployment. Some figures put it at 83%. Unemployed and underemployed youths are relegated to slums in towns where they live a life of poverty, misery, and marginalisation. This assessment makes a lot of moral sense and emotional appeal. It is also politically attractive. But it is actually filled with a lot of nonsense.