The last part of the article “Eyes on the International Community concerning elections in Africa” about Uganda and the African-EU summit.
The Ugandan general election of 2006 took place on February 23, 2006. This was the first multi-party election since Yoweri Museveni took over power in 1986. Disputes started when Museveni changed the constitution in order to run for another term. His main opponent, the leader of the opposition party Forum for Democratic Change Kizza Besigye, was arrested on November 14, 2005 on allegations of treason and rape. The treason case included his alleged links to the rebel group People’s Redemption Army, whose existence is questionable and the rape charge referred to an incident in November 1997 allegedly involving the daughter of a friend. With only 3 months left before the election, most people believed in a tactical move to dispose a political rival. People protested the arrest, riots broke out and at least one Person was killed by the police (BBC).
Museveni during the election campaign (c) BBC
Nevertheless Kizza Besigye managed to get 37% of the votes, with Museveni winning the election despite getting about 10% less than in the last election. Human Rights Watch said that there were reports of ballot stuffing, multiple voting, and potentially hundreds of thousands of people denied the right to vote in the Ugandan elections require urgent investigation.
The FDC cited several irregularities in the conduct of the polls, including the deployment of soldiers near voting booths, allegedly to intimidate its supporters. The party also alleged that many FDC supporters had been unable to vote because their names were not included on electoral rolls. EU observers noted problems with the campaign despite improvements in general. In their preliminary report, the observers said there was no “level playing field”, pointing to Dr Besigye’s arrest on charges of treason and rape last year. They also said state-media was biased towards Mr Museveni and his National Resistance Movement. The FDC did not acknowledge the result. Dr. Besigye tried to challenge the results in court but the Uganda’s supreme court rejected it saying there was no evidence that the results had been substantially affected by irregularities. The judges acknowledged that there had been problems but not enough to challenge President Yoweri Museveni’s victory (BBC)
Besigye supporters protest (c) BBC
Despite the criticism on the way Museveni was elected and the manipulation of the constitution to allow him an extra term, no major changes have taken place in the donor’s role and relationship with Uganda. According to a BBC article titled “Museveni: Uganda’s fallen angel“, a Ugandan political commentator Andrew Mwenda had this to say about Dr. Besigye “Besigye’s greatest contribution to this country has been to unmask Museveni and expose his true colours as a militarist who disregards the rule of law and shuns due process.”
It was thus no surprise that Museveni was the first President to acknowledge Kibaki as the President of Kenya. The Ugandan government has offered military help to secure Oil transportation through Kenya and there are never ending rumours that Ugandan soldiers are operating in Kenyan territory.
How should the international Community deal with questionable elections in Africa?
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party, said Western powers were themselves to blame for imposing colonial rule and then Western-style electoral democracy on Africa. “The Western ‘democracy’ transplanted to Africa is unsuited to local conditions and has sowed the seeds of disaster,” said a commentary in the paper. “The election crisis in Kenya is just one typical example. In fact, many African countries’ elections have sparked political turmoil.” (Reuters) China’s position is clear: Do not get involved in/ with some other nation’s policies as long as it is a reliable economic partner (in the Kenyan government’s case, one that gives away national resources without any direct benefits to the Kenyan people). From someone holding up values like human rights or democracy this is totally unacceptable, but at least the Chinese government is honest about it.
Mugabe at the EU summit 2007
How about policies of the Western countries? Since we discussed the US policies in a previous article, let us take a closer look at the éclat at the EU-African summit in Portugal last December. In her key note speech on human rights, German chancellor attacked the Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe. With Mugabe listening, Merkel said the world could not stand by while human rights were “trampled underfoot”. “The situation of Zimbabwe is damaging the image of the new Africa.” Two months prior to this, Merkel had welcomed the Dalai Lama into the chancellor’s residency, causing a major upset with her social democratic coalition partner. This is because the Chinese government cancelled talks about improving of trade between Germany and China from the Agenda.
In this case she proved that she puts human rights issues above economic interests, and one can presume that this applied as well in her critique of Mugabe. Her critique provoked some strong reactions, mainly by the Senegales Persident Abdoulaye Wade, by South African President who stated she was “badly informed”. “Who could say”, he asked, “that rights were abused there more than elsewhere in Africa?”.
It would be to easy to dismiss such a reaction as a simple anti-colonial reflex. After all, the European-African summit was mainly about a highly criticized trade agreement which was strongly opposed by some African nations. In this context the Human rights issue can be misunderstood as just another argument to force a Trade Agreement on Africa.
To prevent such a view, the European Union has developed a straight and honest position in contradiction to China’s: That Human Rights weigh more than economic interests. Such a position is not worth the paper it is written on if it does not apply for all nations equally, no matter how economically powerful they are or what natural resources they may have. Let’s not forget that actions speak much louder than words. How much is Angela Merkel’s speech on Human Rights violations in Zimbabwe worth, when on day after the summit French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi finalized business deals worth several billion Euros, selling weapons, planes and a nuclear power plant to Libya, paying ransom for a Palestine medic and some Bulgarian nurses who had been tortured and despite having knowledge of their innocence sentenced to death by the Libyan state?
One small hand shake for two guys, one moving moment for a nation.
It was a big gesture, but by now nothing more is achieved. Raila Odinga has ruled out taking a new post of prime minister in President Kibaki’s Government. Odinga said the only three acceptable options would be Kibaki’s resignation, a vote re-run, or power-sharing leading to constitutional reform then a new election. The ODM leader said he was offended by Kibaki’s comments afterwards that he was Kenya’s “duly-elected” president. “Those remarks were unfortunate, calling himself duly-elected and sworn-in president. That is the bone of contention. We want negotiations with integrity,” he said. (Nation)
Every step towards peace is a right step, but the question is not Kibaki or Odinga or Kibaki and Odinga. The question is whether they agree on a constituion reform to limit the missuse of power.
Not even willing to share their umbrellas: Museveni and Gaddafi
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and his Libya counterpart Muammar Gaddafi have proposed that President Kibaki and ODM leader Raila Odinga should share power. Two experts of power sharing have spoken: Gaddafi is in his 39th year of non-power sharing, while Museveni only achieved 21 years. Both are known for their love for democratic elections. Opposition politicians from Lybia are sharing their place on the Amnesty International report, while Uganda’s oppostion leader Dr Besigye shares the court bench for treason (more on this in the last Part of our article Eyes on the International Community concerning elections in Africa)
Violence in Nakuru
The killing continues and spread towards Nakuru, where houses have been torched. Kenya Army soldiers have been called out to beef up security in Nakuru town after rival militia blocked key roads and destroyed property in fresh escalation of violence.
Screaming and wailing rent the air at Kisima and Kaptembwa Estates in the western part of Nakuru Town all night on Thursday as armed gangs torched houses.
Kenneth Marende, social injustice and a fair salary
R. from the African woman blog quoted freshly elected parliamentary speaker Kenneth Marende, decried the income inequality that saw one man taking home a paltry 5000 Ksh every month (71.5 US dollars), while another took home 1,000,000 Ksh (over 14,000 US dollars) saying this inequality must be corrected if stability is to be achieved. In the same interview just a little later he defended the exorbitant pay that our legislators receive, a minimum of 800,000 Ksh (approximately 11,500 US dollars) on the basis that the house was constituted of a good number of professionals who earned hefty salaries in their previous jobs and that their hefty salaries freed them to concentrate on house business.
We just published our second last part of the article Eyes on the International Community concerning elections in Africa, about Congo. The last part about Uganda will be posted soon.
The United States interest in Kenya is vital. Viewed up to now as the most stable East African Country, and having „trouble“ neighbouring countries like Sudan and Somalia, good relations are crucial. Like the the United Kingdom, the US has bilateral Agreements with Kenya and also Military Bases within the country.
It is no surprise that the Bush Administration favoured Kibaki. While Kibaki is considered conservative, Odinga seems to be almost a socialist from the US point of view. A closer look at Odinga’s agenda shows that he has little interest in interfering with the free market. But words like “more social justice” are enough to ring alarm bells in Washington.
The State Department’s early Congratulation to Kibaki’s victory and the almost humiliating withdrawal of the statement and denial of having said that seemed at the first like a big misunderstanding. But that is hard to believe: The United States sent their own election observers and were therefore informed at an early stage about the irregularities of the election. The German Prof. Rolf Hofmeier, Director of the Institut für Afrika-Kunde, interprets the withdrawal as an acknowledgement of the mistakes made in Ethiopia in 2005. After the US accepted the obversely unfree, unfair and undemocratic election, riots broke out all over the country, leading to many deaths, the arrest of journalists and government critics.
The US’ stakes in East Africa are high. If the situation is not solved soon, the people’s demand for free and fair election could spread to the neighbouring countries and lead to a sudden lost of influence. Ethiopia’s President Woldegiorgis, who is fighting “the war on terror” in Somalia, as well as, Uganda’s President Museveni, a member of the “coalition of the willing”, are not eager to introduce models democratic models of power sharing in their countries. How quick the Kenyan conflict can spread can be seen in the
reports of military intervention of Ugandan militia forces in Kenyan Nyanza Region. It should be in the interest of the United States not to hold on to Kibaki, before they lose their influence in the whole region.