Africabeat template: Africabeat: Liberia and Uganda's fragile democracies

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Liberia and Uganda's fragile democracies

The economist v. the footballer

When won Liberia's first post-conflict presidential election I had two reactions: One, hooray for an African nation for choosing capability over celebrity, a World Bank Economist over a footballer, a woman over a man. Two, how many European countries and countries where women enjoy a lower social status than we apparently enjoy in the U.S. have to elect women as heads of state before we can elect a non-Christian, let alone a woman, to the Presidency?

Her opponent, , continues to protest the election results (59% to 41% in favor of Ms. Johnson Sirleaf - a 130,000 vote margin), even though many prominent African heads of state and the international community at large has supported the election outcomes as free and fair. Weah's supporters refuse to be deterred and have continued to protest in the streets of Monrovia as an election fraud inquiry begins. So far Weah's supporters have not been able to provide evidence of fraud that could come anywhere near narrowing the considerable gap in votes.

In well-institutionalized democracies, such a broad mandate would likely silence any opposition over elections procedure. Even when the vote is much closer (such as it was in the United States in 2000 and in 2004), there is a sense that if a loser contests the results, he is crying over spilt milk. Losing parties quickly regroup so as to maximize their influence as an opposition party and attempt to gain ground in the next election.

But in places like Liberia, many are likely to think, "what next election?" Elections in Africa have a tendency to create lifelong rulers, dynasties, or de facto one party states; Many Presidents stay in office as long as dictators or, if they are term-limited, hand-pick their successors. For the losing party, there may not be a second chance.

President for life? - Uganda's 'philosopher-king'

, President of Uganda, has undoubtedly been good for his country. Under his watch, Uganda (with the glaring exception of the Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) 10+ year rampage in the Northern provinces bordering Sudan) has been stable. His government has aggressively tackled HIV/AIDS, created an attractive environment for foreign investment, and implemented the most extensive decentralization of powers to local governments on the continent. No wonder that Museveni has been considered something of a golden-child in the international community. My African political economy professor in college had even taken to calling him a 'philosopher king'.

Of course as with all kings, or politicians for that matter, power corrupts, and there are disturbing signs that Uganda is not really a democracy - a fact the international community, in light of the country's overall performance, has chosen to ignore. Museveni has been in power for nearly twenty years. In August of this year, he amended the constitution so as to abolish term limits and enable him to run for office in the next election. When opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, who took nearly 30% of the vote in the last presidential election, returned to Uganda after fleeing in 2001 for what he claimed was a fear for his life, Museveni promptly had him arrested on charges of treason and rape. Museveni has claimed Dr. Besigye is connected to the LRA.

All of this does not bode well for Uganda. One man in the same office for an entire generation is hardly the recipe for a healthy and strong state. No matter how good a leader Museveni is, he does the country - and his legacy - a great disservice. Good governance in Uganda has become a quality of a single man, not of a state.

What hope?

Well, I think there is reason for hope any time a country elects their leaders peacefully. I think there is hope when women are elected or appointed to high office even when gender equality continues to be a serious problem in society. And I think there is also hope where the opposition protests with banners, words, and ballots, rather than machetes. But if recent events in Liberia and Uganda are an indication of anything it is this: elections are only the first step. Building a democratic state will require a willingness to win some lose some and a whole lot of time. In societies whose recent histories have been fraught with violent conflict, both are in short supply.

Related news articles:

"Confused Start to Liberian vote-fraud hearings" Mail & Guardian Online
Inquiry into Liberia poll results" BBC News

"US wants fast Uganda Critic Trial" BBC News
"Museveni's longevity takes its toll" BBC News

Related blog entries:

"Liberia's future" Captain Marlow


Liberia, , , , , , , ,

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Blogger museveniOUTcampaign said...

Uganda cannot afford the rise of yet another despot! The recent and still ongoing arbitrary process in the country is the clearest indication of why Museveni and his administration should not be allowed to overextend their stay in power. The 2006 multi-party presidential election in Uganda, is going to be a watershed moment for the country's political process.
Ugandans will for the first time have to decide whether to keep the status quo of one man rule in Uganda or vote for the long overdue change in leadership for the first time in twenty years since Museveni came to power!
There is only two ways Museveni can win: one is if the majority of Ugandans who know better acquiesce and remain subservient to his erratic and autocratic rule; the other is by bribing and cajoling gullible voters!
Museveni's shameless decision to run again in 2006 has more to do with his personal quest for power and control rather than a sincere desire to establish a peaceful transfer of power in Uganda.
If Museveni had Uganda's interest at heart he would have lived up to his manifesto promise not to run for office at the end of his current term!
If Museveni had the country's interest at heart, he would not have bribed members of parliament (with tax payer money!) to amend the constitutional two term limit rule for president.
If Museveni had Uganda's interest at heart, he would have magnanimously stepped down after twenty years in office and oversaw the foundation for a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our country's history.
Wherever you have leaders that stay too long in power, abuse of power is more likely than not! Arbitrary rule and corruption is more likely than not!

The best campaign strategy for defeating Museveni at the polls is to present consistent and straightforward reasons why he should not be reelected president.
The most obvious and recent reason for defeating Museveni is clearly the governments heavy handed and arbitrary detention of an opposition leader that had voluntarily returned to challenge the president at the polls.
Where is the reconciliation spirit he expressed at Dr. Obote's funeral?
This was an ironic and desperate act of oppression by a government that is clearly afraid of loosing power to a popular opposition leader.
Even if Dr. Besigye is kept behind bars through the elections, his supporters can still cast a clear and overwhelming protest vote in favor of a change in leadership for our country!
Voters should be reminded that Museveni came to power by overturning a legally established government by use of force of arms.
Should the country now also look into charging Museveni and his conspirators with treason?
Museveni is also a leader that came to power fiercely critical of African leaders that stayed too long in power. Museveni is now among Africa's longest serving leaders!
The longer Museveni is allowed to stay in power the more autocratic and arbitrary his rule is going to be.
Its, therefore, absolutely necessary that the people of Uganda including members of his movement, gather the courage to vote for a new leader for our country.
Let Uganda have a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in our history!
" The leadership of any nation cannot be the work of one man or one party. It must be the effort of all capable citizens getting an equal and fair chance at leadership, through a transparent democratic process."

6:52 PM  

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