Is There Any Cost to Museveni for Refusing to Reconstitute the Electoral Commission?

Certainly the United States, as a major donor, and others, seem to have tried hard to persuade Ugandan President Museveni to relinquish his unilaterally appointed electoral commission.  An independent electoral commission is to me clearly a necessary pre-condition for a fair electoral process–and we know now that allowing the incumbent president running for re-election to control the electoral commission was the fundamental thing that went wrong in Kenya’s election in late 2007.

Today’s Daily Monitor reports on the latest dust up about the suspect voter registration rolls:

A fresh disagreement is creeping between the Electoral Commission and the civil society after the latter said there could be about half a million or more duplicated voters particulars in the national register to be used on Friday. EC officials reportedly first unearthed the ‘ghost’ voters and the Democracy Monitoring Group (Dem-Group) yesterday said the official figure of 13.9 million registered voters is exaggerated.  Dem-Group officials, presenting to the EC team their findings following analysis of the national voter’s register, reported wide disparity between the official voter figures and probable adult population based on the 2002 population census.

Nonetheless, the EU, Commonwealth and COMESA observers are proceeding to observe the final stages leading to voting on Friday.  If Museveni wins without major violence, then it would seem that he will have successfully bested the “international community” which has made possible much of what he gets credit for in his tenure as president through assistance to his government.  One more bad example unless the donors find a will and a way to exact some cost.

See “Uganda goes to the polls in 5 days” at Chris Blattman’s blog, along with “The Africanist” for perspectives on the campaign itself.

Obama and “the ideals that still light the world” and that “we will not give up for expedience’s sake”

In writing here about the situation in Eygpt and U.S. support for democracy, I referred to remembering what the President had said about his priorities as our leader and holding him accountable to that.  To that end I am quoting here the Inauguration Day post from two years ago that was part of wrapping up a personal web “travel log” that my wife and I did to keep in touch with friends and family while we were in Nairobi:

January 20, 2009

Happy Inauguration Day from Mississippi!

Beautiful cool, clear winter day here. Big moment for Kenyans. The news from Kenya is especially troubling right now (but do not hesitate to travel there if you are able–I certainly want to get back for a visit at the first available opportunity).

The magnitude of the food crisis has reached the point that the Gov’t (even) has declared a “national emergency” reflecting perhaps 10M people short of food. Several big corruption situations involving maize, petrol and other vital needs have just now come to light, while a newspaper reports that witnesses who provided confidential evidence to a committee appointed to investigate the post-election violence have been identifiable through the reports produced, are now under death threat and in many cases in hiding, having been provided no protection by the government. Thus, they are unlikely to be available to testify in the event that the prosecution tribunal to be established actually comes to fruition. SO, not much new–just a lot MORE of the same type of news.

At the same time, these things are not inevitable and can be changed to some substantial degree.

For those of you who have contributed to help with the Upako Centre or other worthy projects in Kenya, this would be a great time to keep them in your prayers and offer any additional financial support you are able. Things have turned dramatically for most of us financially since the time we went to Kenya in the spring of 2007, but most of us still have much to be grateful for and lots more than what we really need when it comes down to it.
____________________________
From the President’s Inaugural Address this morning:

. . . .

Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.
Those ideals still light the world and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.
So to all peoples and governments watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: Know that America is a friend of all nations and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
. . . .

To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect. The world has changed, and we must change with it.

Timing is Everything: Are We Too Late in Promoting Democracy in Egypt? [Updated and Expanded]

We shall see.  I hope not, for the sake of Egyptians and for my country as well.

I know that some of my friends will say that “Bush was right” to emphasize democracy in the Middle East in his second inaugural address and otherwise.  I agree that much of what President Bush said was right.  Unfortunately he forfeited his credibility, and that of the United States to some substantial extent, by what he did.  He made the decision, at least in the some final sense, to invade Iraq, instead.   I do not doubt that many of the people involved in this subjectively wished for the best for democracy in Iraq, it’s just that they were way over their heads in terms of even understanding the implications of what they were doing, much less controlling them–both for the United States and for Iraq.

Seeing what has happened in Tunisia and what may be happening now in Egypt should remind us of what can happen to change regimes and systems of government without war.  Just as in Eastern Europe, South Africa and many other places.   Likewise, Bush turned his back on traditional American values by associating American exceptionalism with a purported privilege to get involved in torture if it seemed important enough to the United States  in the short run.

I firmly believe that the invasion of Iraq and “the torture problem” are both aberrational behavior for the United States and I am optimistic that we are in the process of recovering our standing in the world and our voice.  Barak Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize for being an American President who simply was not Bush.

Just like Bush, Obama has come into office with essentially no foreign affairs experience, although he is obviously a more worldly person in certain ways, at least in the sense of having spent some time living overseas as a child and having a “multicultural” background.  Has Obama been too reticent in speaking about democracy in his first two years?  I don’t know–everyone is entitled to an opinion about this, but there is no clear answer.  I will say that it is both entirely fair, and vitally important that he be judged as a leader  by what he has in fact said.  I voted for George Bush in 2000, even though like everyone else I knew deep down that he was not really qualified to be President, because I liked a lot of what he said, “compassionate conservatism” and all, that he either did not mean or changed his mind about.

I remember what Obama said in his inaugural address about democracy and our relations with the rest of the world.  I liked it and was inspired by it.  I certainly hope he meant it and will live up to it.

Update: The purpose of this is not to engage in gratuitous “Bush bashing”, but rather to speak against revisionism that makes Bush into something he wasn’t and fails to take into account the fact that Obama took the helm of a country that was weaker and less influential, and more uncertain of its future, because of the substantive mistakes of his predecessor.  It is not just the invasion of Iraq itself, it was the aggressive dismissal of the opinions of those who knew better; the failures represented by Abu Ghraib and the weak response and failure to take responsibility in its aftermath; the mistrust and fear generated by rendition and associated failures to live up to our human rights and rule of law standards–all weakened our standing and influence.  Relatedly, the choice to initiate and run up large deficits made the U.S. more vulnerable as the finance sector bubble led to a near-catastrophic crash.

It seems to me that the greatest state exponents of repression and Islamist extremism across the greater Middle East region have been Iran and Saudi Arabia.  Bush unwittingly, presumably, facilitated Iranian influence regionally, and if anything seemed to draw closer than ever to the Saudis even in the wake of 9-11, including through his energy policies.  While the secret arms-for-hostage deals in the “Iran-Contra” fiasco were the conspicuous low point vis-a-vis Iran, no American president seems to have found his footing on dealing with that regime.

I think Obama and his administration should speak with greater moral clarity on democracy in the Middle East, because it is the right thing to do and because the rhetoric of American Presidents can matter more than we often appreciate.  But in fairness, it should be recognized that he almost had to try to recalibrate our tone and go for a fresh start because what we had been doing in sum was not working.

This is how Michael Hirsh has put it in the National Journal:

The irony for U.S. officials is that while President Bush devoted vast amounts of the country’s blood and treasure to establishing democracy in the Arab world — and devoted many speeches to it, including his second inaugural address — he achieved very little progress toward that goal during his eight years in office. Indeed, the places where Bush openly supported democracy, such as Iraq, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories, have grown only more troubled, their politics ever more intractable.

By contrast, President Obama has seemed to play down democratic themes in the Middle East, openly supporting the Arab autocrats and waxing lukewarm at best in supporting democracy in those countries and in Iran. Yet the Arab and Iranian democracy movements have taken off on his watch.

The developments of the past few weeks have thus done much to resurrect questions about the so-called neoconservative program. In the lead-in to the Iraq war, many critics questioned whether democracy could really be imposed by force or even outside pressure, or whether instead it had to flow organically from the people in order to stick.

Perhaps we will soon find out.

The train builds speed–more warning signs for the Uganda election and the choices ahead

News on the Uganda campaign from Reuters this morning:

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, seeking a fourth term in office, will arrest his main opponent Kizza Besigye if he carries out his own vote count and announces the results, the presidency said on Wednesday.
Besigye said in October his party planned to hold a parallel count of the presidential election expected on February 18, to put pressure on the government and the president to speed up electoral reforms.

Besigye, leading an opposition coalition called Inter-Party Cooperation (IPC), plans to have agents at every polling station who will send results to a tallying centre.

He reiterated on December 6 while campaigning in eastern Uganda that he would announce his own results shortly after the polls close, local media reported.

The presidency said in a statement that Museveni, speaking to media on Tuesday in Jinja, eastern Uganda, had warned Besigye not to declare his own election results.

"The president said Besigye should not think this is Ivory Coast or Kenya. He warned that Besigye will be taking a short-cut to Luzira (maximum security prison). Museveni said even he himself cannot declare his own election results."

Museveni has said the electoral commission is the only institution authorised to declare presidential election results.

Museveni, in power since 1986, is facing a fierce challenge from Besigye, who has made deep inroads in the rural areas that are the president’s traditional support base.

Besigye says he was cheated of victory in the last two elections, in 2001 and 2006, citing rulings by the supreme court that both polls had been marred by massive rigging and intimidation of voters by the army.
. . . .

This presents a very challenging environment for everyone involved in the election. Museveni has "toughed out" calls from the United States (through the State Department) and others to open the Electoral Commission which he unilaterally appointed–and which has been deficient in the past as noted. Now he is threatening the election day operation of the largest grouping of opposition parties.

With the passage of time Museveni seems almost to court more controversy both domestically and internationally. Yet many knowledgeable observers see an opposition that is divided among so many candidates as not to have a real chance to defeat him at the polls this time even as his popularity seems to diminish. It would seem that Raila Odinga’s trip to campaign with Museveni on December 15 when the "Ocampo six" were named may reflect a desire on the part of both these politicians to show to the outside world that they can accept each other and do business on the basis of "realism" in spite of the past.

From the U.S. viewpoint, Museveni continues to receive military and security training and support associated with the AMISOM mission in Somalia, the regional role of Uganda and its military otherwise, and now perhaps in the context of renewed focus on addressing the LRA. Likewise, it is now clear that the Abeyei situation will remain outside the January referendum in Sudan, no matter how well that process may go. The situation in the DRC seems to deteriorate. So in totality what is the policy of the United States, the UK and EU toward the February election?

Are diplomats going to be willing to call the conduct of Uganda’s election as they see it? And if so, publicly or only privately? What about people providing technical assistance? What about the observation missions–diplomacy or assistance? In light of the new QDDR is it the policy of the U.S. administration that it is all diplomacy anyway? See also, “Democracy and Competing Objectives: ‘We need you to back us up.'”

Re-evaluating the comparative development experience in Tanzania and Kenya?

 

Awaiting final election results with some concern about transparency, but Tanzania seems to have avoided any major strife over the situation. Why? One interesting blog post by Jimmy Kainja says that “Tanzania Thrives on Julius Nyerere’s Legacy” at AfricaOnTheBlog: (H/T to Dibussi Tande in Pambazuka News):

Indeed. Nyerere’s emphasis on national building over personal interests, “UJAMAA”, which can loosely be translated as familyhood (Swahili speakers may translate this better) – one person for another. This formed what has come to be know as African Socialism; an ideology that has never been popular with most westerners, whose idealism and economic model(s) Nyerere objected. Consequently, Nyerere is mostly portrayed in negative terms: a socialist dictator. His association with communist China only cemented his reputation as “anti British” and “anti European.”

As explained here, Nyerere took strong international stands on African economic and political independence. In particular, he supported freedom struggles in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola and Mozambique. He dared to speak against the CIA-backed corrupt dictator, Mobutu Seseko and sought a better a administration in Mobutu’s Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Nyerere also picked fights with IMF as they sought to impose free market economic policies on Tanzania.

These were “crimes” Nyerere committed. He stood up for his country and his African folk. Interestingly, Tanzania faired far much better, politically, socially, and economically, under Nyerere than his critics would have the world believe. According to Raya Dunayevskaya (1973)

“…Tanzania achieved the highest literacy rate in Africa (83%) and also experienced major advances in health care. The single party system Nyerere founded under the Tanzania African National Union (TANU) was hardly undemocratic, since open debate and competitive candidacies were permitted. Nor did Tanzania experience the pervasive corruption of so many post-independence African states.”

They say “bad news is good news.” This rings true on how African affairs are covered in the western mainstream media. This cliche may well explain lack of coverage for Tanzania elections. The elections are devoid of tribalism and ethnic tensions, which would qualify it as “newsworthy”. Given that tribalism has been a constant feature in the region’s (east African) elections, Kenya and Rwanda, in particular, the lack of ethnic tensions in Tanzania is an interesting development – a development that would interest not only media organisations but historians and social scientists alike. Therefore this is a genuine story, a newsworthy material. Kudos to the BBC for their attempted coverage.

The real problem with this story is that it is difficult for much of the international community to highlight these ethnic tension-free elections without giving credit to Julius Nyerere. Meanwhile, Nyerere remains dear to the hearts of many Tanzanians; whether one likes it or not, Tanzania today thrives on Nyerere’s legacy.

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War Tanzania is a favored African country in American diplomatic and aid officialdom. President Bush visited Tanzania during the Kenyan post-election crisis and it is a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact country. Relatively few Americans now would have much notion or recollection of the ideological issues among Nyerere, Kenyatta and the United States. The Soviet Union is no more and while there are signs of potential future competition and tension between the U.S. and China in Africa, this takes place in a context of overall U.S. policy which has been a consistent pattern over more than thirty years of cooperating in and facilitating the rise of China as a major power, while still under strict Communist Party rule without any significant opening toward democracy. While there has been a massive recalibration of the Chinese economic system, it is far from a “free market”. So in many respects we have moved on and we are obviously ideologically ambidextrous. On the other hand, there are American politicians who care very much about ideology in specific foreign countries in pretty much the same way that we did during the Cold War.

If there are lessons to be learned by reconsidering some things that “turned out” better in the long run in Tanzania than in Kenya maybe we can take a fresh look now that we are freed from the obligations of facing off against the Soviets?

*So why does the Veterinary Department of the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development have a golf club in the first place?

*“African aid fears amid cheerful tears” Comments from various observers in South Africa on the possible impact of the U.S. midterm elections on U.S. aid budget for Africa. (H/T Africa Center for Strategic Studies).

 

Tanzania Update

Reuters: “Tension mounts in Tanzania over delayed vote”:

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) – Tanzanian police used teargas to disperse opposition supporters in the commercial capital on Monday as tension rose due to delays in releasing the results of Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The protesters in Dar es Salaam were angry at the outcome of a council election run alongside Sunday’s national votes that are expected to give President Jakaya Kikwete another five years at the helm of east Africa’s second largest economy.

While opinion polls show his lead narrowed as his main opponent Willibrod Slaa of the Chadema party campaigned hard on an anti-corruption platform, analysts predict Kikwete’s pledge to keep fighting poverty should hand him a final term.

Members of the opposition said the delays were in areas where their candidates were likely to win parliamentary seats.

“The situation is tense … I have received reports that police have used teargas in Mwanza, Arusha and Dar es Salaam. People are restless because they want the results to be made public,” said Mwesiga Baregu, Chadema campaign manager.

“The situation is bad. We have reached a point where we might see bloodshed, just like what happened in Kenya when the election results were delayed.”

Violence erupted after Kenya’s 2007 election following delays in releasing results and accusations that the incumbent Mwai Kibkai had stolen the vote.

BURNING TYRES

Police said they used water cannon and teargas to disperse the crowds outside a polling station in Dar es Salaam.

“Riot police were called in after crowds burnt tyres on the road and damaged at least one vehicle at Tandika area in Dar es Salaam,” Temeke Regional Police Commander David Miseme told reporters on Monday.

“At least 15 people were arrested. No injuries have been reported so far.”

Tanzania’s electoral authorities said they would issue more results on Tuesday after a handful were released giving Kikwete an early lead.

International observers said the poll was well-organised and well-conducted on the whole, but the East African Community’s election observer mission to Tanzania said it too was concerned by the delays in releasing of the poll results.

“It is very slow compared to other East African countries. It is taking too long, we don’t know the reasons,” Abdul Karim Harelimana, head of the EAC election observer mission to Tanzania told Reuters in Dar es Salaam.

Kikwete led with 66.94 percent of the vote while Slaa garnered 17.36 percent in 10 of the 239 constituencies where results have been released.

The results covered constituencies with a combined total of less than 60,000 votes among 19.6 million registered voters.

Uganda, Iran and the Security-Democracy Trade Space?

Secretary of State Clinton noted this week to the African Chiefs of Mission the Africa Bureau’s efforts on wrangling votes for Iran sanctions:

The bureau was enormously helpful in rounding up votes for the sanctions resolution on Iran – Gabon, Nigeria, Uganda, thank you, because it wasn’t easy. I think I talked to President Museveni three times and Johnnie visited him several times. But – end result was we got strong African support for the international sanctions regime. We are building, and in some – many cases, rebuilding collaboration not only along bilateral lines, but multilateral alliances, most especially in our collaboration and engagement with the African Union, because it’s very important that we do more to build up the African Union and other regional entities like the East African Community, which has a real potential for being an engine of economic prosperity. [emphasis added]

Secretary Clinton’s Remarks at African Chiefs of Mission Conference

Tensions continue building over Uganda’s February 2011 elections–see yesterday’s news about opposition plans for a parallel electronic vote count and the Ugandan government’s strident reaction.

Carl LeVan has an excellent discussion of "Democratization and Securitization in Uganda" that I would highly recommend.

The ruling NRM has cleverly adopted the Global War on Terrorism as a political resource. Even before the terrorist bombing in the capital in July 2010, the government began closing political space in the name of national security while it successfully obtained aid commitments from the United States to fight counter-insurgency wars, one of which is against the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the north.

. . . .

Looking beyond the Pentagon, Washington is clearly aware of Uganda’s governance drift. For example the US announced that will not renew 10 million dollars committed through Millennium Challenge Corporation to help Uganda move from “threshold” status to a full compact (ie, an agreement) for aid. USAID’s plans call for strengthening democratic institutions, enhancing political competition, and improving parliamentary capacity for oversight through partnerships with civil society. Unfortunately USAID faces an uphill battle, with no increases in the lines funding for either for civil society programs or for its good governance in Uganda, and cuts are planned for programs relating to “political competition and consensus building.” Even aid to fight transnational crime is slated for cuts.

In addition to all the regional security issues involving Somalia, Sudan, Congo and the Lord’s Resistance Army, the Iran sanctions issue adds another interesting twist. I noted back in May that Assistant Secretary Carson and AFRICOM Commander General Ward were seeking Museveni’s support on Iran sanctions during a visit to Kampala, as well as pushing for Museveni to relinquish unilateral control of the Electoral Commission. The U.S. succeeded in persuading Uganda to support sanctions, but did not secure action on the Electoral Commission. Both worthy goals, but is there a trade off?

It is also interesting to note a report that Uganda has now been working with Iran to create a joint bank as a mechanism to allow Uganda to obtain access to $46M in pledged Iranian credits that have impeded by the sanctions:

[A] memo prepared by the ministry for Parliament’s public accounts committee, in response to an audit query, said that sanctions had complicated the money transfer. "The ministry has followed up the implementation of this line of credit. However, it has faced challenges, especially following the imposition of sanctions on Iran," said the memo.

"In a bid to overcome the difficulty in transferring funds to and from Iran because of sanctions and to promote investment and trade, the two countries agreed on the establishment of a bank as a joint venture as the best way forward," it said.

Daily Nation reports that USAID Inspector General has found that US funding did go specifically to encourage “Yes” vote on referendum

Wednesday, the inspector general said the funds were channelled through USaid to eight organisations either based in Washington, Rome or Nairobi which in turn contracted 86 local groups involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign led by President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Responding to questions sent by the Nation, the USaid inspector general said: “We did find evidence that USaid specifically spent taxpayer funds to encourage a ‘Yes’ vote.”

The inspector general said Sh1.1 billion ($12.6 million) of the total amount was used to finance activities directly related to the referendum.

“USaid found no evidence that any of this money was spent specifically to lobby for or against abortion,” an agency official said in response to a list of questions.

The USaid’s review did not take a position on whether that law was violated. “We consider this to be an unresolved legal issue this office lacks the authority to decide,” it said.

Mr Smith dismissed the findings and said he has asked the Governmental Accountability Office, a watchdog agency, to investigate afresh.

The full Saturday Nation lead story on the Inspector General’s findings is here.

Burundi: “Back to Square One” politically after ten years of power sharing? [Update 9-14]

From a new story on IRIN today assessing the state of democracy in the "other" partner in the East African Community:

“We convened on a political system liable to take into account both the political and ethnic dimensions of Burundi’s problem,” recalled Jean-Baptiste Manwangari, one of the Tutsi negotiators who worked on the pact. “It was a democratic system functioning much on the basis of a consensus and dialogue instead of a system of majority [rule], which for Burundi was likely to bring forth dictatorship.”

Now, according to one civil servant, Burundi has “gone back to square one… a [new] political accord needs to be negotiated to bring the opposition back on board.”

The pre-Arusha winner-takes-all style of politics is dangerous because it “creates a kind of survival strategy for the losers”, explained Pacifique Nininahazwe, head of the Forum pour le Renforcement de la Societé Civile, a coalition of civil society organizations outlawed in 2009.

“If the ruling party behaves in the same way as other victorious parties did in the past, the losers will adopt the same survival mechanisms,” he added.

One-party warning

The more than two-thirds parliamentary majority won by the CNDD-FDD “will transform the state from a multiparty system to essentially one-party dominance”, Henri Boschoff and Ralph Ellermann warned in a paper for the Pretoria-based Institute of Security Studies – Elections without competition and no peace without participation: where might it go from here.

“Ultimately [this] could have a highly detrimental effect on peace and democracy in Burundi,” they wrote, arguing that “the reluctance of Nkurunziza and the CNDD-FDD to govern the country in the spirit of its power-sharing constitution … drove the political climate towards a hostile environment where trust between the parties and in the constitution dissolved.

“Burundi is at risk of civil disobedience… The worst-case scenario would be a rebellion [against] state institutions caused by opposition parties,” the paper warned.

Update: See at the Africa Works blog “A Great African Journalist Sheds Tears for Burundi”.