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, August 31, 2020

Behind the coup in Mali

The things that democracy (and pseudo democracy) evangelists need to know about freedom and liberty

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | So another military coup has taken place in Mali removing an unpopular yet democratically elected government of President Ibrahim Keita. Keita came to power as an opposition firebrand in 2013, after a military coup had overthrown President Amadou Toure. His promises turned out to be pipedreams. The people, tired of corruption and incompetence, have been demonstrating for months, leading to an army mutiny and coup. The Mali coup is popular with “the people” (meaning those angry urban youths and intellectuals we see screaming on the streets). However, the UN, AU and ECOWAS have rejected it and have imposed sanctions on the country.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Lessons from youth elections

 Why the opposition in Uganda needs to take organisation and unity seriously if they are to have a chance

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The nationwide youths elections this week should give the opposition in Uganda, especially the National Unity Platform (NUP), time to pose and reflect. Just as polling commenced, Timothy Kalyegira, a senior journalist in Uganda, tweeted saying NUP, less than two months old, were running “neck to neck” with the ruling NRM. Kalyegira, like many other elite Ugandans, has a habit of relying on his hopes to drive his analysis. And this is the fatal error that has stifled the growth of the opposition.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Election rigging and Besigye’s choice

How legitimate claims of electoral malpractice have blinded the opposition to its strategic weaknesses

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda  | Leading opposition figure, Dr. Kizza Besigye, has said he will not participate in the coming presidential elections because it will not be free and fair. According to Besigye, he has won all the last four presidential elections he has contested against President Yoweri Museveni. He claims the official results that are always announced by the Electoral Commission are false. Indeed, on two occasions (2001 and 2006) the Supreme Court of Uganda has said there were significant irregularities in the electoral process. On both occasions and with a majority of one vote it has refused to annul the election on the grounds that these irregularities were not sufficient to alter the final outcome of the election.

Monday, August 10, 2020

NUP’s biggest dilemma

Why Bobi Wine’s new party will find it even more difficult to defeat Museveni in 2021 compared to FDC in 2006

| THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, the National Unity Platform of Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine launched itself with two defections of NRM MPs and two other independent legislators. It was presented as a big event. Yet for all the hype, and compared to the birth of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in 2005, NUP seems to me to be a stillbirth. The MPs from NRM are nonentities whose names no one I have met can remember. Only Latif Sebagala from DP has some gravitas. In 2005 FDC was formed with many MPs, elected local government leaders and other leading figures on Uganda’s political scene from across the entire country.

Monday, August 3, 2020

Uganda’s politics of self-destruction

Why Uganda’s opposition is going to hand Museveni an easy victory next year.

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | As we approach the 2021 general elections, it is apparent that the opposition, as expected, has handed an easy victory to President Yoweri Museveni and his party, the NRM. Yet after the election the same opposition politicians will fret and cry that the election has been rigged. It is even more interesting because the opposition claim to be fighting a dictatorship. I wonder then why they expect such a government to create a level playing field in the elections.

Monday, July 27, 2020

When enemies feed each other

Why Uganda’s pro-democracy activists get it wrong when they support radical extremist cults as alternatives to Museveni

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | In their misguided (even though, perhaps, well-intentioned) war against President Yoweri Museveni, many pro-democracy (but mostly pseudo-democracy) “activists” bring three fundamentally erroneous assumptions. First, that Museveni’s government has mismanaged Uganda by relying on brute force and corruption to rule and is thus unsustainable. Second, that there actually exists in Uganda’s opposition a democratic alternative to Museveni. Third, that any change from Museveni is good and will, therefore, bring better government.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Impunity and corruption at Bank of Uganda

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Last week, Bank of Uganda (BOU) issued a press statement in which it promised to appeal a ruling by the Court of Appeal in a case against businessman Sudhir Ruparelia over Crane Bank. Yet the statement did not deal with the reason why the court rejected all the grounds of appeal by BOU. Instead, BOU sought to win public support, and perhaps even morally bribe Supreme Court judges, on fictitious claims that somehow Sudhir stole money from Crane Bank. Yet this is not a matter that was before the court.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Elections in the age of COVID

How a scientific election opens opportunities for the opposition in Uganda to perform better

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | There is a popular Chinese saying that a wise person looks for an opportunity in every problem while a stupid looks for a problem in every opportunity. This saying has been ringing in my head since government suggested that they will hold scientific elections i.e. all campaigning will be done electronically without mass rallies. Since then, opposition politicians and their cheerleaders on social and in traditional media have been biting their fingers complaining that this is yet another way in which President Yoweri Museveni’s government is trying to rig them out of the election.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Inside Uganda’s election budget

Why opportunities that theoretically exist to cut wasteful public spending are politically impossible

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This year, Uganda has been hit by three major disasters: a locust invasion, floods and COVID-19; a combination of which will shrink economic growth. COVID-19 has been the most economically devastating and will halve GDP growth and revenue collections. Yet the government of Uganda is entering an election season where public spending has powerful implications on voter behavior. Government has decided to bury its head in the sand by making unrealistic revenue projections.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Uganda’s misguided COVID response

Why the utopian dream of a COVID-free Uganda may have become a springboard for private profiteering

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On June 24 morning I walked into Kikuubo, the epicenter of Uganda’s trade, in Kampala city. I found tens of thousands of people congested on the streets selling merchandise. While Kikuubo is always crowded, this time it was overcrowded; with the street teaming with chaos of traders selling from the street and from their cars, plus hawkers and vendors.

Monday, June 22, 2020

One year later

Reflections on the passage of an icon who did so much to shape who I am today

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | It is exactly one year this week since our mother, Mrs Constance Kabakali Muhangazima, left us! While we were happy that she had retired from this world to join the one she worked so hard for, and while we are now even joyful that she is in the company of her best friend Jesus Christ in eternal happiness, her departure nonetheless left a huge hole in our lives. We miss her kindness, generosity and unconditional love.

Monday, June 15, 2020

The trouble with URA

Why Museveni’s focus on corruption as the biggest problem of tax administration misses the big picture

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | During his national address after the reading of the 2020/21 Budget, President Yoweri Museveni decried the low ratio of tax to GDP in Uganda, which stands at 14.3%. Since 1997, this ratio has stagnated only growing from 11% in 23 years. Museveni then said that this is largely because of corruption at the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), which, he said, he has now addressed through the changes in the leadership he has forced onto that organisation.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Mr President, open boda bodas NOW

Why we need to examine the contribution of boda bodas to public safety and livelihoods in this COVID fight

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, in his regular COVID19 briefings, President Yoweri Museveni claimed boda bodas are not an effective means of public transport! Who decides whether a particular mode of transport is effective: the president, a committee of experts or commuters i.e. the market? Ugandan commuters (the market) have consistently voted with their wallets for boda bodas as the most convenient and effective means of public transport!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Free COVID facemasks? Give me a break

How democratic politics has placed Uganda on a perilous road of an irresponsible and lazy citizenry

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | A dangerous, pervasive and malignant sense of entitlement has grown, spread and consolidated in Uganda. Many Ugandans believe they are entitled to various welfare benefits from the state in complete disregard to the resources available. Yet, at the same time, they have no corresponding sense of responsibility, for instance to pay taxes regularly and adequately to fund these welfare expectations. To make matters worse, our democratic process actively promotes this dysfunctional mentality. Elected politicians from President Yoweri Museveni downwards promise a nanny state in a country with hardly the requisite resources to pay for it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

COVID’s nail in the EAC

How the East African Community may not survive the current pandemic and why this may be a good thing

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The coronavirus disease has exposed the deep holes in the dream and delusions of the East African Community (EAC). It has not caused them. The gapping holes between the aspirations of the EAC’s key advocates on the one hand, and the reality of our economies and their politics on the other were already visible to those who cared to look. Most fans of regional integration schemes ignore the vital role of enlightened self-interest in the success of public policy.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Museveni’s bad oil policy

The President has revealed three things about Uganda’s oil sector that are depressing and illuminating

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | In his interview with NBS television aired on May 11, President Yoweri Museveni revealed three things about Uganda’s oil sector that were depressing and illuminating. First he said the reason Uganda has not moved fast towards production is because international oil companies (IOCs) want to “cheat” the country as they have done in many other African countries. So Uganda has had to be extremely careful not to fall in the same trap.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

In defense of Shs 10 billion for MPs

Why Kadaga is right and Museveni is wrong about the role of MPs in the Coronavirus fight

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Uganda’s elites are very angry that their legislators allocated themselves Shs10 billion to aid the fight against the coronavirus. Many see the act as a form of corruption, arguing that the MPs are taking this money for themselves. President Yoweri Museveni, in characteristic opportunistic style, has joined Uganda’s chattering elites in condemning parliament, and so have the courts of law. In the ensuing cacophony of shrill alarms reason has been thrown to the wind. One has to be dangerously ignorant, or a fool or a demagogue to condemn MPs for what they did.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Phil Manzi, a lesson in greatness

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Last night, Sunday 19th of April 2020, I lost a young friend, Phil Manzi, to lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes! He was only 19! Why does death suddenly rob the world of such a young soul whose future was ahead of him!?

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fighting the corona virus

What we should know about our public medical facilities and their professionals as we face a pandemic

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M Mwenda | The corona virus is finally with us. For a large and loud section of Ugandan elites, our country should have the facilities like Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and High Dependency Units (HDUs), Organ Transplant Units (OTU) in numbers and standards we find in German, France and Italy. The gulf between these expectations and the financial, institutional and human-capital capacity of our poor nations is something that never ceases to amaze me.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Besigye as Museveni’s ally

How Uganda’s opposition leader helps the incumbent keep winning elections

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Opposition leader and activist, Dr. Kizza Besigye, has been consistent in denouncing the electoral process in Uganda as a sham. In a recent interview with Daily Monitor, he said: “[Lt] Gen [Henry] Tumukunde knows that in Uganda, the election cannot cause change and bring about the announcement of a different person as president. If he wants to join the struggle for change, he should know that it will take more than canvassing for votes.”

Monday, March 9, 2020

Inside the American election

Why populists like Bernie Sanders fool themselves when they promise to change the way America works

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | As the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries in the USA gather momentum, candidates have made healthcare a central issue in their elect-ability. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have made it their swansong.

Monday, March 2, 2020

The paradox of Uganda’s oil curse

How our government built and has now almost destroyed the country’s oil industry

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Uganda’s upstream oil industry is dead. Ok, let me admit this is a bit of an exaggeration. It is more appropriate to say it is in a coma and will be very difficult to resuscitate. This conclusion is paradoxical because Uganda has spent years painstakingly building the best and most patriotic institutional and oil policy infrastructure in Africa – and one that meets best international practice. How can an ‘A’ student in institutional and policy design turn into an ‘F’ student in turning such advantage into a viable business?

Monday, February 24, 2020

The passing of a legend

How the death of Peter Otai and the response of government of Uganda reflect our political maturity

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On January 1st this year Peter Otai, the former minister of state for defense in the second Milton Obote government, died in London. On January 25th, a memory service in his honor was held in London. Then his body was flown to Uganda for burial in his ancestral home in Soroti on Febuary 1st. His family had initially refused to bring it to Uganda. I am reliably informed they yielded to his wish to be buried next to his mother. His life, death and burial tell a powerful story about the political development of Uganda, the personality of President Yoweri Museveni and especially the intricate connections of its political leaders.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Uganda’s politics of fiction

How political competition in our country is conducted on wild promises based on imaginary state capabilities

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | We are entering an election season and many things are going to go wrong in this country. President Yoweri Museveni will not initiate anything serious fearing its implications on voters. But he will enter a spending binge where loads of cash will be given to individuals and groups that he knows represent particular voter segments. So the State House budget is going to be huge next financial year. Then we are going to hear a lot of rhetoric from opposition politicians promising to build bridges where no rivers exist. To counter them Museveni too will make many wild promises.

Monday, February 10, 2020

GDP and improved health

How sustained economic growth influences health through nutrition and better living conditions

 THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | In this column last week I argued that economic growth, in spite of its many limitations, remains the most important driver of improved wellbeing. A key measure of wellbeing is increased life expectancy at birth. People who feed poorly and live in horrible conditions are prone to diseases and would, therefore, die young. Infant/child mortality has the biggest impact on life expectancy. For instance, life expectancy at birth in Uganda is about 65 years, compared to Japan at 84.5 years. But life expectancy at 15 years in Uganda could be nearer that of Japan. This shows that after overcoming the health challenges of early childhood, most people live longer.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Why economic growth matters

Evidence of how GDP growth has led to improved wellbeing of the majority of Ugandans

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Critics have been accusing me of being simplistic by focusing on economic growth as a major success of President Yoweri Museveni’s administration. Uganda has sustained an average annual rate of growth of nearly 7% over the last 34 years. Some argue that the country could have done better by comparing us to China, which had a growth marathon of over 10% per year between 1978 and 2008. Yet China is different from Uganda; especially when we look at factors that drive rapid growth such as a shared national consciousness (leading to high levels of trust), the existence of a strong state, high levels of human capital, diffusion of technology, and access to the sea and proximity to large markets.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Inside Museveni’s 34 years

The pros and cons of the President’s long rule and what they portend for the country he has rebuilt

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, President Yoweri Museveni and his NRM celebrate 34 years in power. Museveni inherited a country whose state had disintegrated and economy collapsed. The country had been plagued by political instability manifest in military coups and civil wars. In the seven years between the overthrow of Idi Amin in April 1979 and Museveni’s take over in January 1986, Uganda had seven presidents, an average of one president per year. Uganda was so ungovernable the legendary Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore once said it could not recover even in 100 years.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Museveni opens a Pandora’s box

How the president’s intervention to halt the procurement of Kampala-Jinja expressway is a disaster

THE LAST WORD |  Andrew M. Mwenda |  Last week, I had a meeting in Mukono, a town only 20km east of Kampala. The meeting was scheduled for 2pm. Knowing the heavy traffic on Jinja Road, where Mukono is located, I left Kampala City Center at 1pm. This gave me one hour to navigate the traffic jam. Jinja Road is a major artery connecting our landlocked country to the sea. It is congested with long queues of trailers that make traffic jams on that road a nightmare. But Wednesday last week was record breaking. I got to Mukono at 4pm.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Kampala grinding to a halt

How NRM politics have made Kampala a dysfunctional city and what cannot be done about it

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | As we enter 2020, Kampala has become a dysfunctional city. The heavy rains of 2019 have left most of the roads in a horrible state of disrepair. Most streets are filled with potholes, some even with craters. Motorists have to drive at the slowest speed. This makes cars pile behind each other leading to chronic traffic jams that have made movement around the city a nightmare. The only roads that have not been destroyed by the rains are those built under the leadership of Jennifer Musisi. This is not to blame the old Kampala City Council (KCC), which was led and dominated by the opposition Democratic Party (DP). True it was filled with gross corrupt and incompetent. But equally, it was grossly underfunded.