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, November 1, 2021

On Museveni and his critics

What we always miss about the governance strategies employed by leaders of poor countries

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M Mwenda | Last Sunday, a high school alumni found me at a cafe in town and with a sardonic smile gave me an unwelcome compliment. “Andrew,” he said as he bit his lip, “you are a very clever man. You know how to use your vast knowledge and intelligence to defend the indefensible. I must give you credit because you do it well. The problem, however, is that you use your knowledge and intelligence in service of African dictators for money. And that is the problem of Africa. Its brightest do not think about the country but themselves; so, you are the typical dishonest African intellectual – making yourself rich at the expense of your country.”

Monday, October 25, 2021

What is Africa’s problem?

Revisiting Museveni’s ideas about Uganda and our wider continent after his 35 years (and counting) in power

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | And so it was that recently, while perusing my library, I decided to reread President Yoweri Museveni’s book, What is Africa’s Problem. It is a collection of his writings and speeches when he was still young and idealistic. Nearly 30 years since it was published, the book shows that Museveni’s opponents, like the president himself, suffer from a gross misdiagnosis of Africa’s developmental challenge. The overriding theme of the book is that the main cause of “failure” (whatever that means) in postcolonial Africa can be reduced to one word: leadership.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Inside Besigye’s pipedream

Why Besigye’s struggles are not about democratising Uganda but about making Besigye president

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Opposition leader and activist, Dr Kizza Besigye, has launched a new pressure group, the People’s Front for Transition (PFT). Besigye said the strategic objective of the pressure group is to remove President Yoweri Museveni from power. There is a fundamental problem with Besigye’s view of Uganda and explains his failure to lead his followers to any meaningful outcome. He has defined the problem of Uganda as Museveni, and the solution the removal of the president. Removing Museveni has thus ceased to be a means to an end and has become the end itself.

Monday, October 11, 2021

No one size fits all

How Dubai, a city state ruled by an absolute monarch, challenges Western notions of rationalism and individual autonomy

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I spent the whole of this week in Dubai, the second richest emirate of the United Arab Emirates. It is a city-state that both impresses and intrigues. It lacks all the elements of what we know to be “good governance.” Yet it has been extraordinarily successful in economic transformation and at political stability. This article is therefore a conversation with my friends in the Western intellectual tradition who believe that there is only one route to a good life – liberal democracy and its accompanying regime of rights, other elements of which I will elaborate later.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The triumph of security agencies

How NRM and the ministry of foreign affairs have surrendered their political and diplomatic functions to intelligence agencies

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Uganda government is at war on many fronts. It has locked horns with Western governments and their domestic institutional agents – Non-Government Organisations (NGOs) which they miscall “civil society”. In prosecution of this war, it has closed many of these NGOs, frozen their accounts and deported their staff.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Museveni’s Covid paranoia

Why Uganda and other African countries have consistently taken extreme and inappropriate Covid interventions

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, President Yoweri Museveni addressed the nation on Covid-19. With infection and death rates down, the President did little to open up the country. Most especially; he left schools closed and curfew of 7pm in force. Yet he opened churches and mosques, and markets have been open all this time.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Is Uganda’s economy failing?

Why Ugandan pundits are mistaken in their understanding of why some foreign firms have quit our market

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | A couple of multinational firms have pulled out of Uganda in the last one decade. Oil giant Shell sold itself to Vivo, Barclays Bank to Absa while Kenyan supermarket giants Uchumi and Namukatt went under. Recently, Africell followed by South African supermarket chains Game and Shoprite also decided to exit. Consequently, Ugandan pundits have been trying to explain this development.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Losing sight of grand strategy

How Kampala’s cold war with Kigali harms Uganda’s national interest and what can be done about it

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week, Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) arrested the Vice Chancellor of Victoria University, Lawrence Muganda, apparently on charges of espionage. Muganga is not the only person who has suffered such arrest. Many Ugandans of Kinyarwanda culture are routinely arrested and detained by CMI in illegal detention facilities, held for months and even years without trial, often without charges. Many are tortured. The accusation is that they are spies of Rwanda.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

To whom it may concern

A frank memo to those demanding that we purchase credibility at the price of mutilating of our beliefs

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | A section of the Ugandan talking heads have made a fetish of “credibility”, particularly the sort of “credibility” purchased by denouncing President Yoweri Museveni as a murderous tyrant who has destroyed Uganda. To preserve such “credibility”, opposition leaders like Dr. Kizza Besigye and now Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), take very extreme positions that make it difficult for them to grow their political appeal beyond a significant and loud but, numerically, a minority of opposition activists.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Lokech; the passing of a giant

The life and work of the former Deputy Inspector General of Police who made a lasting contribution to Uganda

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On the morning of Saturday August 21, I was driving to Fort Portal but got a puncture 20km before Mityana. While trying to fix my car by the roadside, a friend called me. Andrew, he said in a loud voice, our friend (Deputy Inspector General of Police, Paul) Lokech is dead.

Monday, August 23, 2021

The defeat of liberal imperialism

Why poorly armed Taliban triumphed over the US military after two decades of war

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The rapid collapse of the Afghanistan government before a rag tag army of (apparently) “poorly trained, poorly armed, poorly resourced and poorly commanded Taliban” (or so the lords of global wisdom judged), marks the defeat of one of the most disastrous experiments in international relations – liberal imperialism!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Obama’s `Promised Land’

How the former president’s memoirs show a good insight to US politics but provides prejudice on other nations

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I find former U.S. president, Barack Obama, intelligent, thoughtful, insightful, socially intelligent, calm and reasonable. But I also find him pompous, pretentious, opportunistic, arrogant and very inconsiderate. These diametrically opposed feelings come alive in his memoirs, `A promised Land’. It is the story of Obama’s rise to the presidency and his first term in office. A large part of it is therefore devoted to domestic politics in the USA. His observations on America’s racial divide, and the challenges this “oldest democracy” has encountered in trying to build racial equality are powerful.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Uganda’s self-destructive impulses

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Since the NRM government fully embraced neoliberal reforms in 1992, Uganda has witnessed the growth to dominance of multinational capital in our economy and with that the equal decline to near-insignificance of local/national/domestic/indigenous capital. But this has only been successful because the ideas we so easily embrace help undermine the development of local/national/domestic capital and facilitate its takeover by multinational capital. Many of the economic woes Uganda suffers spring from this disease.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Inside Uganda’s political delusions

How the hullabaloo and bruhaha over MPs allocating themselves Shs200bn for cars is much ado over nothing

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | It is July 2021 and as is custom, Uganda’s elites are going through a ritual they indulge every five years – complain about money allocated to Members of Parliament (MPs) to buy cars. Later this year (and again as happens with every new parliament) MPs will increase their salaries and thereby spark off yet another round of public condemnation and anger. This year particularly, our chattering classes on traditional and social media have an added justification for their fury – COVID restrictions.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Ethiopia’s failed reform

How Africa’s most successful economy has produced a political crisis that may tear it apart

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | It is eight months now since the armed conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), began. Initially, government troops, supported by Eritrean troops, seemed successful; capturing the Tigrayan capital of Makelle in late November. The government issued a statement declaring that what was remaining were mop-up operations. Four weeks ago, TPLF retook Makelle. Ethiopia may be settling into what may become an intractable civil war.

Monday, July 19, 2021

South Africa’s slippery slope

Why the arrest and detention of Jacob Zuma is dangerous for the unity and stability of the “rainbow nation”

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The arrest and detention of former South African president, Jacob Zuma, for contempt of court is a sad event. No wonder, many South Africans have taken to the streets in violent protests at it. It is very possible the arrest of Zuma can lead to the disintegration of the post-apartheid state in South Africa, at least as we currently know it. This is largely because post-independence African elites use theories drawn from textbooks, written at Harvard and Cambridge, Stanford and Oxford, explaining experiences of Europe and North America, as the solution to our problems.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Lessons from imperial hubris

How the US and her NATO allies lost trillions in a vain effort to turn Afghanistan into Denmark

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | After twenty years of occupation and trillions of dollars spent fighting the Taliban, the United States and her NATO allies are beating a hasty retreat from Afghanistan. As they withdraw, the Taliban are rolling across the country against little resistance from the Afghan national army. According to media reports, soldiers from the national army are abandoning their military posts without a fight. The situation in Afghanistan is the best evidence of the follies of foreign aid in all its forms – financial, technical, humanitarian, military, state-building, and democratisation.

Monday, July 5, 2021

Celebrating one’s misfortune

How public anger against Uganda government’s response to COVID is driven more by prejudice than facts

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last Saturday, I lost my auntie, Princess Damali Komukyeeya of Toro. I tweeted that although she had COVID, she was fairly fine Friday evening. She developed breathing difficulties on Saturday morning. When rushed to hospital, “there was no oxygen” but that was a poor framing imposed on me by Twitter’s limits on characters. She found all the beds at Mulago occupied, so there was no place for her to be put on oxygen. My tweet went viral; viewed by 540,000 people with 54,000 engagements.

Monday, June 28, 2021

The challenge of democratic politics

Who is a moral candidate for parliament: the candidate who promises electricity or one who distributes cash to voters?

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Someone sent a quote allegedly from a one “Prof.” PLO Lumumba to an internet chatgroup I belong to. Lumumba seems to have run for a parliamentary constituency in his native country of Kenya. He is alleged in the aforementioned quote to have complained that: “I held 250 town hall meetings. I articulated solutions to our problems in my constituency. My opponent did not campaign at all. He gathered money and showed up one day to elections. He distributed money. He won. Africans are not moved by ideas. Their stomach leads them.”

Monday, June 21, 2021

Inside the COVID resurgence

Why government needs to think differently about where it needs to invest in order to effectively contain the pandemic

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | COVID has returned with a vengeance and is now ravaging Uganda. In March and April, the virus seemed to disappear. Out of an average of about 2,000 people being tested daily, only 12 (0.7%) were positive. Today, out of 8,000 tests daily, an average of 1,500 (17%) are testing positive. Last year, Mulago Hospital had set aside 500 beds to handle COVID patients. At the height of the pandemic in late November and early December last year, Mulago ran out of COVID beds – it had 490 patients at any one time.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

On Museveni’s new cabinet

The president’s choice of ministers and what it tells us about the factors that shape the character of cabinet

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | President Yoweri Museveni’s recent cabinet has excited a lot of debate. Many pundits question its competence to manage the country and lead it to the proverbial middle income status. Yet I don’t think that is the main aim of cabinet. In a poor, backward almost fictional nation-state like Uganda, the main role of cabinet is nation building, not technical and economic management. Hence, the most critical issue is whether the cabinet represents the different social groups that make up the polity called Uganda. These social groups are ethnic, demographic, religious and increasingly gender.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Anatomy of policy disaster

How Uganda’s tax policy on real estate has destroyed the once thriving sector and stifled economic growth

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This week, the government will read the 2021/22 budget. Given the poor performance of the economy, government is proposing new taxes. For instance, it has proposed to increase rental income tax from 20% to 30%. Many have made fine arguments in opposition to this tax but I don’t think government will listen. Uganda’s tax policies towards real estate have been growing from bad to worse since 2012. This article seeks to explain this development.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Kadaga’s political suicide

How the former parliamentary speaker made a series of blunders that may sink her otherwise great political career

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Rebecca Kadaga is a lady of many parts. For twenty years, she held sway over Uganda’s parliament: first as deputy speaker (20001-2011), and then as speaker (2011-2021). To rise and stay at the pinnacle of power for this long is a statement of one’s political skill and judgment. Yet after twenty years, Kadaga made the biggest blunder that may signal the end of her long political career: she defied the man who controls all the political strings in our country, President Yoweri Museveni. What exactly happened?

Monday, May 24, 2021

A dangerous new world

How social media promotes radical extremism with a high potential to undermine democracy as we know it

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Democracy is in crisis. Globally. The risk is not the effort of tyrants. It is the naivety of liberals. For a century, two institutions underpinned democracy, political parties and the mass media. Political parties provided organization to aggregate and articulate interests. The mass media offered a platform through which interests could be publicly expressed. Both these institutions were centrally organized, with filters editing the tone of the interests that gained public expression. Their success lay in the ability to build a consensus by moving opinions towards the center. How?

Monday, May 17, 2021

Museveni’s hostility towards Umeme

How the president’s criticism of the electricity distributor is likely to undermine investor confidence in Uganda

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | President Yoweri Museveni recently repeated his claim that officials of the government of Uganda who negotiated the Umeme concession sold the country. It is a belief common among a large section of the Ugandan elite including many inside government. It is also a belief that is grossly mistaken.

Monday, May 10, 2021

The new religious crusade

How the Christian faith has influenced Western intrusions into other countries to promote democracy

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | I complained in this column last week about Western efforts to force their ideals, especially democracy, on other countries and societies without any consideration of time, context and circumstances. Many readers commenting on the column argued that the West does this largely because we depend on them for money to finance our public expenditures. According to the promoters of this view, if our leaders were not going to the West with a begging bowl, these lectures and threats would not exist. Others argued that the West carries this moral hubris because we are poor.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Paved with good intentions

How Western interventions in African affairs, even when well intentioned, produce bad results

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | On April 16 the U.S. government imposed travel restrictions on an unspecified number of unnamed Uganda government officials including members of their immediate families. The justification was their alleged role in handling of the riots that took place in the country in November last year and the conduct of elections all of which, the U.S. claims, undermine the democratic process and violate human rights. Of course it is within the sovereign right of the U.S. to deny anyone travel to their country. But the justification for this action and the intended purpose are both dubious.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Wrong’s Rwanda hatchet job part 3

Why she chose to base book on interviews with Kagame’s enemies but not give his side

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | The fundamental error of Michela Wrong’s book was to listen to one side in the Rwandan story. Consequently, she ended up sanctifying Patrick Karegyeya and other opposition individuals and groups and demonising President Paul Kagame and his government. For instance,

Monday, April 19, 2021

Michela Wrong’s Rwanda hatchet job part 2

She was taken for a ride by Karegyeya, Kayumba, Sendashonga’s wife and the entire group of anti-Kagame haters

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | This is a second installment of my three-part review of Michela Wrong’s book, `Do Not Disturb’, about the murder of Patrick Karegyeya. Many readers of Part One missed the core of my argument. I did not seek to argue that the government of Rwanda under the leadership of President Paul Kagame does not hunt to kill its enemies abroad. I only meant to illustrate that Wrong did not do basic investigative journalistic work of trying to look at different hypotheses and then showing why she believed the one she went with. The core of my argument was that if Kigali has assassinated anyone abroad, that is because of a rational foreign policy, not because of some violent psychopathy of Kagame as a person the way Wrong presented it.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Michela Wrong’s Rwanda hatchet job

How attempts to tarnish the name and record of Paul Kagame soils the reputation of a British journalist

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Finally, I have finished reading Michela Wrong’s 516 memoir of Patrick Karegyeya; a former Rwandan intelligence chief who was killed on or about New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day 2013/2014 in a hotel suite in Johannesburg, South Africa. Wrong is a compelling writer.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Museveni’s economic management

What IMF figures on GPD growth in the world tell us about Uganda’s economic performance over time

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Recently I wrote to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to find out how Uganda’s economy has been performing over the last five years compared to other nations of the world and particularly within Sub Sahara Africa. Over the last five calendar years (2016-2020) Uganda’s economy grew at an annual average rate of 4%. This makes it the 27th fastest growing economy in the world, 14th in SS Africa. For a country perceived to have once been one of the fastest growing economies in Africa and the world, these results were disappointing but also illuminating.

Monday, March 29, 2021

The paradox Magufuli presidency

How fallen Tanzanian president was lionised by African elites for doing exactly what they always protest against

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA |  Since his death, former Tanzanian President John Pombe Magufuli has been an object of much praise from many commentators, including a large number Tanzanians. While I admired his motivations and intentions, I never agreed with Magufuli’s approach to reform. I was repulsed by the personalised and arbitrary way in which he conducted public affairs.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Learning from the past

Lessons for NUP from the failure and disintegration of FDC

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | With former presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine opting out of court and going to the “court of public opinion” (i.e. street protest), the stage is now set for increasing repression. Every protest will be seen by the state as insurrection and therefore dealt with as treason. With security, not politics, running the show, the opposition will once again be vulnerable to infiltration and subterfuge. Under such circumstance, the opposition can only survive through ideological purity or the trust of identity.

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Besigyesisation of Bobi Wine

Why it is sad that Bobi Wine has moved to Besigye’s dangerous position of permanent protester

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Last week former presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, pulled out of the Supreme Court case in which he had alleged he was cheated in the January 14 presidential election.

Monday, March 1, 2021

The living history of Bob Kasango

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | On Saturday night, my best friend and brother, Robert Aldridge Kasango, died in Murchison Bay Hospital inside Luzira Prison. The cause of death was heart failure! He was only 46 years. Bob didn’t have to die at this early age and in the way he did – alone and lonely, away from the care of his family and friends or competent doctors, in a prison hospital not equipped to handle his condition.

Uganda’s COVID overreaction

How copying and pasting Western solutions to the pandemic was unrealistic for Uganda and Africa

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | When COVID-19 struck, the world held its breath. In early 2020, there were doomsday predictions that the pandemic would devastate Africa, given the continent’s poverty leading to poor healthcare services. Yet more than a year since the pandemic, Africa is the least affected continent. Ironically, the most affected country in Africa with 1.5 million infections is South Africa. It is also the most developed and industrialised economy on the continent.  Meanwhile the poorest countries of Africa such as Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Eritrea, Burundi, Liberia, Malawi, Niger, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone etc. have been least affected. Why?

Thursday, February 18, 2021

I am shocked Ugandan journalists are angry

Museveni’s violence and what it should teach us

THE LAST WORD | Andrew M. Mwenda | Yesterday the NRM government, in characteristic style, used military police to unleash violence against a group of activists escorting Bobi Wine to the UN Human Rights office to deliver a petition. It was the same old style with an added level of brutality this time mercilessly employed against journalists. The evening news and some comments from some of our “development partners” made the beating of journalists a big deal.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Uganda’s change dilemma

How our country is caught between Museveni’s frying pan and the opposition’s fire

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | Ugandan activists, intellectuals and “intellectuals” hostile to President Yoweri Museveni get scared when one presents evidence that change can produce undedsirable outcomes. And so it was that on Thursday February 11, I tweeted an article in the Financial Times. It argued that a decade since a popular uprising toppled long-ruling Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the country has not improved in anything but retrogressed in everything. This let lose the gods of intellectual, but mostly emotional, war.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Africa’s democratic dilemma

How the Western world has decided our future for us and it seeks to impose it on us

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | President Yoweri Museveni’s suspension of the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) has caused uproar. This has been a big programme by Uganda’s “development partners” aimed at “providing harmonised, coherent and well-coordinated support to state and non-state entities to strengthen democratisation, protect human rights, improve access to justice and enhance accountability in Uganda.”

Monday, February 1, 2021

The myth of Museveni’s rigging

Here is why if there was pre-ticking of ballots, it had little influence on the final results

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M. MWENDA | There is a myth in Uganda’s opposition that President Yoweri Museveni steals their votes. Opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye has been the principle promoter of this myth, claiming that he won all the electoral contests against Museveni in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016. This has stifled the opposition in Uganda, locking them in victimhood where they indulge in self-pity and refuse to recognise their own internal weaknesses and design a strategy to overcome them.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The price of shortsightedness

How Bobi Wine is turning his moment of triumph into a missed opportunity for strategic leadership

THE LAST WORD |  Andrew M. Mwenda | Bobi Wine is without any doubt a great guy. His greatness does not lie in his thinking but in his character. And that could be the problem. A little over three years ago, he was largely known as a weed-smoking Rastafarian who sings good music often with strong political undertones. Then by one stroke of political intuition, he transformed himself into a major national political figure and international star, totally eclipsing Dr. Kizza Besigye, the principled, courageous but belligerent leader of Uganda’s opposition. He then took on the indefatigable President Yoweri Museveni by the horns for the presidency and gave him a real run for his money.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Bobi Wine’s dangerous duplicity

What the evacuation of his family from Uganda before elections reveals about Uganda’s musician turned politician Kyagulanyi

THE LAST WORD | ANDREW M MWENDA | In 2018, I appeared on Frontline program of NBS television with Bobi Wine. In the heat of the debate he said that if there were chaos in Uganda, I would be the first person to board a plane and run to exile. He said for him he has nowhere to go because his only home is Uganda. Right? This week Bobi Wine evacuated his entire family to the safety of America. Please note that he did not send them to Kenya or Rwanda or Tanzania, who are our immediate neighbours. He sent them to far away America. Why?