The merciless soul of African politics

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.
Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.
Image: REUTERS

After following the Uganda elections with keen interest and hope, I was met with this paralysing headline: “Yoweri Kaguta Museveni wins a sixth term.”

Instantly my mood changed to deep despair.

I wondered what on the mother Africa is happening. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

As a young African, I have been here a few times before, but every time it happens it cuts new wounds.

I have been cheated. I have been robbed. I have been denied. I know disappointment. I have felt the sting of African politics and suffered its unbearable consequences.

I know its unkindness and its insincerity. I have been exposed to its merciless soul.

The Uganda elections need no analysis to see how appalling and abandoned the state of democracy is in Africa.

The runup to the election was dominated by scenes beyond the Hollywood craft.

They included intimidation of opponents by the incumbent using the state apparatus, inconsistent and selective application of the law, coldblooded killing of members of the opposition at the pleasure of the incumbent, spontaneous arrests of opposition members and the impunity of the incumbent’s associates.

In the Uganda election there was one firm and resolute young man at the centre of it: Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, better known as Bobi Wine.

He is loved by his people, adored by his generation and privileged to be the hope of a nation destroyed by years of plunder and stifled by impotent policies.

The vibrant young man has caused unprecedented paranoia to the  power-mongering dictator who has governed Uganda as his estate for 34 years.

On the day of the election, a panic-stricken Museveni sent armed forces to Wine’s house and confined him to house arrest.

This is a serious abuse of a person’s right to freedom of movement, a clear trespass into private property.

His crime: contesting a dictator.

As the election count continued Wine was excommunicated from his team and the rest of the world.

By this time his team was made up of replacement after replacement since Museveni kept jailing them on trumped-up charges.

The day before the election, a sickening video of Wine’s wife being dragged half-naked by armed state security agents had circulated on the internet.

A blatant act of violence against women.

The extent to which Museveni is prepared to go to remain in power is scary.

African dictators have turned the Covid-19 pandemic spectacularly in their favour.

In the campaign, Wine and his team were subjected to sporadic arrests from the regime accusing them of breaking lockdown rules, while Museveni convened mass rallies unchecked.

Selective application of the law, aided by captured state institutions, is an important tool of dictators at all times.

Across the continent, reports of opposition members being persecuted for breaking lockdown rules abound from newsrooms to the world.

The Uganda election has lived up to the dominant standard of elections across Africa: unfree, unfair and taking more than they give.

The odds were always going to be against Wine.

The lack of electoral reforms in Uganda makes it nearly impossible for an opposition candidate to make it.

This is a challenge not only in Uganda but across Africa.

What I found particularly disturbing was the mute stance of the AU.

This puts beyond reasonable doubt that democracy is orphaned, without a guardian, in Africa.

Here is a useless continental body that rears its head only on half-cooked anti-West political rhetoric.

A body knee-deep in the past, it blames the West for all the continent's woes —  hunger, instability, underdevelopment.

The colonial legacy has its remnants in Africa’s status quo but the last country to be freed from oppression was SA 26 years ago.

The body successfully withdrew the continent from Western oppression but failed miserably to put the destiny of Africa into African hands.

Instead, it captured the continent and awarded it to a cabal of dictators who tread without accountability and with total impunity.

It will be no surprise if the AU ignores all the red flags in the public domain and certifies the Uganda election as free and fair,  giving an undeserved victory to Museveni.

Equally complicit in democracy abortions are regional bodies.

Directionless, out of sorts and out of touch with their constituencies, they also seem to exist only to protect  dictators.

Whenever citizens decide to take matters into their own hands, that is when you hear the dormant AU and its futile regional bodies call for peace, order and stability.

The union was quiet all the time Museveni was trampling on the civil liberties of Ugandans.

Just like a fish, the African continent rots from the top and is contaminated right to the bottom.

As Wine remains under illegal house arrest surrounded by armed state security agents, it is not only he who is in confinement.

The hope of Uganda has been confined; the will of the people has been arrested and democracy detained.

The AU will do what it knows best: turn a blind eye.

Africa and Africans today stand alone with no guardian and at the mercy of  dictators.

Tinashe Mutema is an economist and political analyst.


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