Alagi Yorro Jallow
Fatoumatta: 2020 was a year of challenges and losses when all of our plans were upended by the Covid-19 pandemic; when dictatorship and political leaders in America (Donald Trump) and Africa( Alpha Conde, Alassane Ouattara, and Yoweri Museveni and others) those leaders addicted to power are an ongoing struggle and conversation refuses to relinquish power rages, and many people struggled to survive.
It has been a rough start to 2021, and no one knows what is to come. So a circling of powers together with a web of protection for democracy and a wave of protective energy to assure a peaceful—and thorough!—transfer of power!
However, we enter a New Year with new hope—a vaccine on the horizon, a new administration of President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Vic President Kamala Harris about to be inaugurated tomorrow, the citadel of democracy, and Uganda’s President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni won the election amid allegation of massive fraud. It is a perfect moment to take stock, learn the lessons of resilience this year has taught us, and envision how we can bring them forward to regenerate good governance, globalization, and curbing the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fatoumatta: President Donald J. Trump and President Yoweri Museveni are not stand-alone power-mongering clowns. They belong to a solid caste of strongmen who hold strong beliefs in their permanence and political prominence. Politicians like to sniff immortality. They enjoy being the sole definers of politics and its rules. They want to dictate forever who gets what forever. They enjoy playing God.
Fatoumatta: Politicians who gaze forever at their muscles believe they must win all contests no matter how weak their biceps are. Such African politicians are not different from what Donald Trump has done with American democracy. Yoweri Museveni, as the grand old ex-rebel gave the world that much to chew on, he made sure he put the military in every corner of the country, mounted roadblocks after roadblocks, and shut down the internet. Then the election held, and ‘they’ said he won! It is his sixth term.
In 2016 Yoweri Museveni of Uganda was asked why he was not stepping down for a younger person. His answer: “How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?” American writer O. Henry, in 1904, did a similar thing, coining ‘banana republic’ to describe his fictional Republic of Anchuria. Five years down the road of Museveni’s faux pas, commentators say the harvest is still on for the Monkey-owner of Uganda’s Banana Farm. The strongman had just won another term, using naked power and fire to defeat a man who was three years old when he came to power in 1986. However, the dictator here is just a metaphor for all that ails Africa.
Fatoumatta: It will be a long time before the concept of democracy falls out of fashion, that is, if it ever will. Out-going President Donald Trump refuses to leave the office and uses lies, manipulation, and violence in his quest to retain power. The difference between America and the Third World African countries is that Africa’s independent institutions are not strong enough to resist. The United States of America, the most outstanding exemplar of democracy and the rule of law ideal, has all but eviscerated it under out-going President Donald Trump. However, still, it remains the best system of governance by far. After the unprecedented invasion by Trumpian hooligans, the dust is settling the US Capitol building in an undemocratic attempt to stop the US Congress from validating Joe Biden’s presidency.
The ramifications of the January 6 invasion of the US Capitol, the citadel of American democracy, will extend to the farthest reaches of the earth. Of these, none will be worse than the loss of image as the world’s beacon of democracy. Staff-writer Anne Applebaum of The Atlantic says, “The allure of democracy was America’s best asset abroad.” She further says, “by far the most important weapon that the United States of America has a wielded-in defense of democracy ever, in defense of political liberty, in defense of universal rights, in defense of the rule of law was the power of example.”
Fatoumatta: Comparing with the United States of America and the Third World and African countries are not spurious. President Donald Trump’s desperate efforts to retain power have taken place in an established democracy with robust checks and balances. There is nothing peculiarly African about leaders seeking to cling on. The stakes in most African countries are higher than in western democracies. Victors and their coterie of hangers-on gain access to power and money. Losers are shut out. One reform that democratic forces might pursue, especially in countries with electorates divided along ethnic lines, is to devise not winner-takes-all systems.
Fatoumatta: Nobody throws stones at the mango tree with no fruits. The more stones President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni throws at the opposition leader and political rival Robert Kyagulanyi (Bobi Wine), the more he casts doubt that a free and fair election occurred on January 14. Let us quickly count some stones:
Banning social media to limit information transmission in and out of the country
restricting phone lines
filling the streets with the military and security forces to intimidate voters and surrounding media houses with army or police and switching off electricity nationwide and surrounding the leading opposition candidate’s house.
Also, “tallying votes” while the internet is turned off. Arrest and murder of poll workers. Filling jails and prisons with opposition members and volunteers. Arbitrary arrests, disappearances, and murders. If Museveni is confident that Ugandans want him to continue to lead the country after he has already ruled Uganda for 35 long years, why must he carry, polish, and throw stones? If people love him as much as he claims, he does not have to convince or remind us—and he definitely would not need to use force.
No king or President is allowed to rule forever. Every empire must come to its ruin – no matter how long it takes. However, what makes men of promise lose their heads in power? For instance, Maitre Abdoulaye Wade, Professor Laurent Gbagbo, Dr.Yoweri Museveni, and Dr. Robert Mugabe had a good education, transforming them into freedom fighters and dedicated Pro-Democracy Activists. The Ugandan President read Economics and Political Science at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. He was a Marxist, radical pan-Africanist who later led armed insurrections against his country’s serial abusers. He has been in that power since 1986 and has done worse than Idi Amin and the successor-dictators he overthrew.
Fatoumatta: What to do with PresidentYoweri Museveni?
Dr. Museveni is a very knowledgeable President with a deep understanding of history, Economics, Governance, Military strategy, and maneuvers, name it. All biases aside, listen to Yoweri Museveni speak. In Africa, the other person who played in his intellectual league was Robert Gabriel Mugabe. And very few others. Politicians who have that ability draw in their path a legion of fanatical followers. We have seen Maitre Abdoulaye Wade freely tell us about world economies, about the history of Pan Africanism and African renaissance, about danse macabre in France, and then p Pan African rhetoric and his Africa Resnaasice philosophy of Infrastructure of utopia: ruination and regeneration of the African future as a defining aspect of the materiality of modernity and then people go mad. President Museveni mixes such things with successes of his 36-year reign and threats of going back to the chaos of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Fatoumatta: Museveni could have won the votes we saw through human billboards as a tool of intimation and political coercion, and the Stockholm Syndrome works well in Uganda. Up until 1986, Uganda was probably the most unstable country in East Africa. Then with Museveni’s “emancipation” of Uganda, he fomented a five-year terror campaign on his road to the power that is still the talk of Uganda. The spine chilling atrocities committed in the most decisive theatre of that war, the Luweero Triangle, has never been lost to Ugandans. When he was done, close to half a million Ugandan civilians lay dead. Most of rural Uganda and many are the homes where whole families were wiped out.
Moreover, in Luweero town in the Central region of Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni has used this every time in his public speeches as a scarecrow, freely talking about the bones of Luweero. This political effectiveness of the instrumentalization of fear has made sure a voter who does not like Museveni goes to the ballot box and ticks his name so they never again go back to what they saw—liking through intimidation. It is a confusing cocktail voter cannot handle. They vote for him whether they like him or not. Kampala and other cities are bustling with commerce. Things are cheaper because of the comparatively lower tax regime. Who wants to interfere with that? However, such intimidation is in itself election theft.
Nevertheless, like the king who wanted to live forever, how far can he and our local variants go in their quest for permanence in political prominence? President Abdoulaye Wade, Laurent Gbagbo, and Robert Mugabe failed in their struggle to live in power forever. They are bitter and broken, and Robert Mugabe was alive when he lost power – and then he died broken and sad. Everything that has a beginning must end.
Fatoumatta: President Yoweri Museveni’s tribesmen in politics are in the political ascendancy, and they always make jungles of every city of ideas. Donald Trump’s presidency ends Wednesday, January 20, 2021, at 11.59 noon AM. We could see how he has fatally altered the course of politics in America. We could see that the US could not make a value pronouncement on the Ugandan election. America’s commander-in-chief has stuffed its mouth with more troubles than it has ever chewed. Washington DC is now virtually a militarized war zone – like the streets of Museveni’s Kampala. A man was arrested in the US’s capital on Saturday with a loaded gun and a fake Inauguration Pass. Everything now sounds African – and the third world. That is what we get when we promote the wrong men with toilet-roll credentials into the right office. We have them all over Africa. They stay put and sit tight, over-eat, and defecate on the rug. They claim victory even when they lose; they kill their nation and shout that they are rescuing it.
Fatoumatta: President Museveni and his sit-tight tribe are everywhere. Nevertheless, why would any human being think he must win at all times and in all contests? Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 35 years; he has just ‘won’ another five-year term. He is 76 years old. President Donald Trump of the United States is a seventy-four-year-old man who leaves power Wednesday, January 2021, an unfortunate, bitter man. If Trump were an African leader( Alpha Conde, Alassane Qattara, Ali Bongo, and Yoweri Museveni), he would not need to struggle for votes; the armed forces would get votes for him above abundance. However, Trump is sad, angry, and bitter because his people did not allow him to subvert their system and remain forever in power. Trump and Museveni are not the first to think they can be relevant and live forever. They are mentees of sadder beings who played God and crashed.
Fatoumatta: America is wounded. The faltering of the citadel of democracy under siege in the US Capitol Hill on January 6 makes it harder for the United States of America and other Western nations to lecture African leaders about their shortcomings. Even so, donors should continue to brave charges of hypocrisy to make clear where they stand. The message needs to be nuanced, but President-elect Joe Biden should clarify to African democrats that he is on their side. Even more critical is what Africans do themselves.
Alagi Yorro Jallow