As Ugandan businesses suffer, Kampala leadership opts for further anarchy!
By Moses Kamya Ssentamu
Writing this week about the loss of the popular Villa Park to the ongoing construction of Kampala’s first flyover road project, Federation of Uganda Football Associations President Moses Magogo quoted former Uganda Cranes coach Milutin Sredojević “Micho” about Ugandans.
In Micho’s view, Ugandans are famed for finding fault, making excuses for failure while claiming all the credit for success.
“It is not part of us as Ugandans to stand up and take fault and be sorry, and neither is it in our DNA to stand in front of those we consider mighty and point out their fault. Many a person just keeps quiet for fear of the ire of the popular wrong. Many praise things they know are wrong for their instant benefit or for popularity,” Magogo wrote.
Those observations aptly apply to our dictator of 33 years who finds himself in a tight spot after committing to an understanding he cannot deliver on. To much fanfare in the Ugandan press, Museveni and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame on August 21 signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the normalization of relations between the two countries.
Signed in the Angolan capital Luanda and witnessed by the Presidents of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo – Brazzaville and Angola the host, the MoU was more of a roadmap that set the terms for détente’. Its contents were what lawyers would describe as conditions precedent.
But this is not how President Museveni and his press presented it to the world.
Two days before the Luanda meeting, the state paper New Vision categorically reported that the two presidents were to sign a peace deal in Angola. Even though the MoU was clear that there were implied conditions to be fulfilled before affairs can return to normal.
Reporting on the event, The Daily Monitor led with the headline that “Rwanda was going to open its border with Uganda.” Never mind that Rwanda’s borders, according to communications from the southern neighbors, have never been closed – though Kigali, according to media reports from there had issued a strong travel advisory against outward movement of Rwandan citizens to Uganda.
Despite clarifications – read by all of us in Kampala on Twitter by Rwanda’s junior minister on EAC Affairs Olivier Nduhungirehe – that Kigali expected Uganda to show goodwill by first of all releasing hundreds of Rwandans said to be in illegal detention in its jails, the Ugandan press picked a misleading narrative. This was that “Rwanda was refusing to reopen the border to normal traffic.”
To add to the confusion, just a day after the Luanda MoU, Uganda’s telecom regulator ordered the blocking of several Rwandan online news outlets.
While the Kampala media reporting may appear random and the work of an incompetent media corps, it points to the crisis of credibility. President Museveni has a history of signing accords that he had no intention of honoring and it is probable that in Luanda he signed onto the MoU with the same mindset.
But under growing pressure from his people he had to show that he was doing something to resolve the crisis. Traders in the border areas were suffering too much after all! Manufacturers from Kampala, and businesses in Kikuubo were feeling the pinch, severely.
During his “wealth creation” tours of western Uganda last month, President Museveni found a population that was more interested in resolving the crisis with Rwanda than listening to empty rhetoric of wealth creation. Border-side residents who depended on an open border for connections to the market and a plethora of social services – lodges, restaurants, service stations and others – are closing down at an alarming rate.
This is being felt all the way from Kisoro, Kabale, Lyantonde, and beyond. Tourism, which relied on Rwanda for 30 percent of arrivals, is hurting. Just as are manufacturers that were reaping an estimated more than US$ 150 million in export revenues to Rwanda.
Unable to extricate himself after raising the hopes of his people about the prospects of repairing his government’s broken relationship with Rwanda, President Museveni has found himself in a position where for once it is hard to blame anyone else for the lack of positive movement.
Analysts say it speaks more to the Ugandan ruler’s character as an incorrigible anarchist that his solution was to create a new crisis – hence the order to block access to Rwandan news even before the ink on the Memorandum of Understanding was dry!
Ugandans not surprisingly are once again frustrated, bitter and angry and aching for someone to deliver them from this madness that their leader is fully responsible for.