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What Mugabe’s troubles teach us about a dictator’s art form

Posted CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

on  Thursday, November 16   2017 at  16:30

This week has offered a feast of dramatic news, thanks to the events in the fair land of Zimbabwe.

On Tuesday, tanks and armoured cars were seen moving towards the capital Harare, sparking off speculation of a coup a against 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, who has tormented the country for most of his 37-year rule.

The moves came a day after the head of the armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned that the military was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of Vice-President Emerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked last week.

Mnangagwa, a liberation war hero who enjoyed loyalty in the army, has long been viewed as Mugabe’s likely successor.

Mnangagwa’s supporters and the military, viewed his dismissal as a purge of independence and liberation-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his tempestuous wife Grace.

Whichever way this ends, it was remarkable that, on social media, at least, there was wide support from sections of Zimbabweans, fed up with the depredations of a military coup.

Out of fashion

Coups are supposed to have fallen out of fashion in Africa, too, and that anyone should support one even in the basket case conditions of Zimbabwe, tells a lot about the level of desperation in that once great country.

At a wider level, the dilemma of the corrupt and cruel African despot was fully on display.

The primary problem they have to deal with is what to do with the people. They usually face a few options. First, is to starve and impoverish them, so they are too broken or grateful for crumbs, to rise against you.

This was the route taken by the venal Mobutu Sese Seko in Congo. Mugabe must have picked a few pages from his book.

The second is to ply them with bread, butter, and monuments of glory, so much that many become content to trade freedom for comfort — without you having to resort to the whip.

Watered down

Because most African countries have been or are still poor, this model has not fully been implemented anywhere, but a few have a watered down version of it. Asia has had more success with it.

The next problem is what to do with the security services, especially the military. Here, there are three general approaches. The first was again the Mobutu model.

Here, you don’t pamper the military, leaving them poorly equipped and paid. To make a living, they have to prey on the population.

The result is that they become so hated, the people can never join them in an uprising.

At the same time, they will not have the resources — the cars and fuel — to drive from their bases around the country and converge on the capital to seize power.

Take a bullet

It’s an approach that works, until as in the case of Mobutu, you provoke a determined neighbour such as Rwanda. In 1997, Rwanda led Congolese rebels and ousted Mobutu all the way in Kinshasa. The soldiers will not take a bullet for you.

It was, therefore, interesting that the Zimbabwean military had tanks and armoured cars, and the fuel to run them, although one of them, not surprisingly, broke down.

The other approach is to treat the military like nobility, with special privileges and a vast stake in the economy.

Nowhere has this been perfected into an art form in Africa than in Egypt.

It works, but a military that is treated that way soon rises above narrow partisan squabbles, and because it has so much to lose, will not fight back the people once a million of them come out on the streets, as the revolutionaries did in Egypt in 2011 and ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak.

A business class

The successful model for Big Men, is somewhere in the middle, and as seen in Uganda, and which also kept Muammar Gaddafi in power in Libya for a record 42 years, is to take care of the army just about enough, but set up a well-paid, trained, and fed praetorian guard (call it special forces group, republican guard, or presidential guard), that has an edge over the regular military.

To top it, have a half-or-quarter democratic order, and allow a business class to emerge and grow rich, creating a constituency that provides you with endless cash to buy votes at fraudulent elections.

Mugabe, for all his seven university degrees, has just not done his despot’s homework. He has lasted long, yes, but won’t end well.

The author is publisher of Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3

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Africa can learn from the Dubai experiment

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Thursday, November 9   2017 at  19:47

Last week I visited Dubai where everything happens. I was lucky to be among the five African journalists who were invited to attend the Global Business forum and meet the Expo 2020 organisers.

I mean, if a country can use their oil wealth to reclaim land from the sea and put up magnificent structures, then how else could you describe that?

And a desert transformed into a beautiful city? In Dubai, everything looks glamorous. And interestingly enough, they are now working around the clock to ensure the 2020 World Expo becomes a successful one.

Dubai won the bid to host the 2020 World Expo in November 2013.

From that day, they embarked on extending invitation to people and nations to a global six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, humanity and world cultures.

The Expo 2020 organisers explained to us that it would be a time to create and renew connections that will strengthen and deepen through 2020 and beyond.

Going by the massive construction we saw taking place in the southern district, one can rest assured that it will be a spectacular six month event and an opportune time to do business.

Let me bring you to understand what this expo is all about. According to the media kit we were given, it is one of the world’s oldest and largest international events, taking place every five years and lasting six months.

Sharing ideas

And everyone can learn, innovate, create progress and have fun by sharing ideas and working together. Each expo revolves around its own theme to leave a lasting impact on the path of human progress.

Expo 2020 Dubai’s core theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.

What awed me was how the leadership in Dubai and its people have managed to transform their country, which was once a fishing village into a mega metropolis.

And we saw a floor plan of the expo, visited the site then were shown how it will look like by October next year and 2020.

For Africa, it is a testament that everything is possible if we have a good leadership with strong will.

Own pavilions

Dubai has made a great strides in infrastructure development, thereby impressing the world with its rapid growth and amazing achievements.

Our countries should take the opportunity since they will be given their own pavilions and get a few development and business lessons from Dubai.

At the moment, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry is working with Expo 2020 to facilitate communication with Africa.

And they confessed that Africa can no longer be ignored if many Africans I saw working there, is anything to go by.

As they had put it to us when we were addressed by the Dubai’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO and President Hamad Buamim, Expo 2020 Dubai wants to motivate people to come up with solutions to the most pressing challenges we face in Africa.

Good brains

What I am trying to put across is that development is possible in Africa with all the natural resources we have. Not to forget the creative and innovative youth we have here with good brains to boot.

I was looking at the construction workers and wondering if it would be possible to build the 4.38 square kilometres site and transform it into a city by next year.

We were reassured that it was all-possible. I hope I will get the opportunity to go and witness that come true.

I want to be part of that history and I hope our African leaders could learn some development lessons from Dubai.

@JanetOtieno
kikijanty@gmail.com

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Why secession is frowned upon by international community

Posted SEKOU OWINO

on  Sunday, November 5   2017 at  17:20

Talk of secession in some parts of Kenya has gained traction after leaders from the Coast on Friday said they had started taking legal steps towards splitting the region from the rest of the country.

Secession is the withdrawal by a section of country from its institutions and laws and administrative authorities simultaneously with the assumption and or declaration by that territory of a different state altogether.

It is the equivalent of divorce by which a marriage is dissolved and persons who were previously spouses go their separate ways. In corporate law terms, it is the equivalent of a de-merger – the splitting of one corporation into separate units.

It has both political and legal consequences. No country or constitution anticipates that a section of it could secede.

This is why declarations of secession often attract aggressive and even violent opposition from the central authorities in the original state.

Matter of liberty

While the section that seeks to secede sees this as a matter of liberty for its peoples, the central authorities view this as a divisive and treasonous challenge.

The pre-amble to Kenya’s Constitution declares that the country should live in peace and unity as one indivisible sovereign nation.

There was no contemplation within the drafters of the Constitution and the masses who approved it at the 2010 Referendum that Kenya would ever be more than a single state.

Article Five speaks to this by stating that the territory of Kenya shall consists of the land and territorial waters which were under the Republic of Kenya on the date that the Constitution took effect or any additional land which may be defined by an Act of Parliament.

Different country

This contemplates addition to the territory, never any reduction in it.

Secession is never only a matter of national law. There is an international dimension to it. That is, even if a section of a country were able by some means to carve itself out and declare itself a different country, this would be of no consequence if the new state were not recognised as such by the international community.

A state is not merely a group of people who occupy a piece of territory and declare themselves a nation.

International law

There is a dimension of acceptability by other states for its claim to statehood to be complete. Somaliland, which is yet to be recognised by any government despite its separation from Somali in 1991, is an example.

While it may be argued that the right to self-determination includes the right to secede, the acceptance of the right of such people to secede and declare themselves a separate state is one which is not readily accepted in international law.

The believers in this principle readily quote Woodrow Wilson’s words that no group of persons should be forced under sovereignty which they do not wish to abide.

International law does not readily recognise the right of national groups as such to separate themselves from the state in which they form a part of by simply expressing the wish to become another state.

Writer is head of legal services at NMG

*Article first published on http://www.nation.co.ke

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I join #MeToo rallying cry against sexual harassment

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Tuesday, October 31   2017 at  16:49

It all started with several sexual harassment allegations by an actress against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Then more actresses and other people in the industry opened up.

They alleged ills ranged from indecent assault, verbal coercion, to rape.

And then soon a hashtag #MeToo became a rallying cry by many women across the globe detailing how they had been sexually abused at some point. It was actor Alyssa Milano who started the hashtag to give people the sense of the magnitude of the problem of sexual harassment.

Since many women had decided to keep quite for a long time, it was a good thing that they finally came out strongly to encourage the next generation not to be ashamed about speaking out.

Their career

I read actress Lupita Nyong'o’s letter in New York Times detailing her ordeal in the hands of Weinstein. She states: "I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred”.

So you see men like Weinstein took advantage of this to disrespect women. He allegedly made women believe that the future of their career in Hollywood would be jeopardised if they did not give in to his advances.

Going by the expose, I can authoritatively submit that many women were suffering silently, not knowing how to speak out about sexual abuse, especially at the work place.

Often, some men colleagues frustrated women and made then believe that they needed to drop a skirt or two for them, or let them talk inappropriately to survive.

Some even shamelessly ogled women in their places of work from head to toe. At times, abusive men pushed women out of their profession. What about the nauseating stereotypical remarks about women that we hear everyday and do nothing about? Related content: Let's join hands and support our girls

Many women have been indecently assaulted in one way or the other, but were not willing to talk about it, fearing that they would be judged.

When you sift through the #MeToo conversation social media, you wouldn’t help but notice that women needed redress about these abuses.

Believe you me, if you have 100 women in a room and asked those who had been abused to raise up their hands, only a few would do so.

Are married

But let us do it this way, ask everyone in the room to close their eyes then ask women who had been sexually abused to raise their hands up.

Nearly all the 100 hands would go up. That is the magnitude of the problem. And at times, women were blamed for the abuse. For instance, people start asking questions like; “What were you doing alone with him? Why did you go out clubbing? Why did you wear a short skirt? You turned him on!” and all other kind of rubbish.

Why is it that when women are abused, the society tries so hard to justify the action?

If it is a spouse, they would say something like this, “you are married so it is not an issue, you are not submissive” and all other mean things.

I think there’s still a huge work to be done in confronting sexual predation in our society. As a woman, enough is enough.#Metoo.

@JanetOtieno

kikijanty@gmail.com

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A statue of Jacob Zuma in Nigeria? I tell you, oga, some people here no get shame

Posted JENERALI ULIMWENGU

on  Wednesday, October 25   2017 at  19:17

It will be said time and again, and it will never get tiring. Always something new out of Africa. Ex Africa semper aliquid novi. Never mind what a bemused world thinks about us, we have the capacity to spring surprises even on ourselves that few other races seem to possess.

For instance, who in this day and time would ever think of honouring Jacob Zuma, the discredited and beleaguered ruler of South Africa? Apparently, there is a volunteer, in the person of the governor of the state of Nigeria’s Imo State, one Rochas Okorocha, who recently unveiled a giant bronze statue of Zuma on a street also named after the man who has come to signify all that is wrong in his country.

At almost the same time, the highest court in South Africa decided to open the doors for the eventual prosecution of Zuma on charges of corruption. The Supreme Court, sitting in the judicial capital, Bloemfontein, decided that it was proper to pursue corruption charges (more than a whopping 800) that had been dropped by prosecutors a few years ago.

Committing corruption

Eight hundred corruption-related charges? It seems that Zuma can hardly leave his house without committing corruption. Whether it is to do with a financial advisor with mafia-like ties, dubious military contracts, or the Gupta family whom he has allowed to run a shadow government, the man seems to be so mired in sleaze that one must wonder what time he has left to carry out state functions.

For a Nigerian state governor to go out of his way to erect a statue in honour of such a broken reed is hardly believable. Well, we will all probably say that Nigeria is renowned as a leader in corruption on the continent, but at least Nigerians have not been in the habit of erecting monuments to their most corrupt rulers. At least I have not heard of one for Sani Abacha and such other weirdos.

In fact, if Nigerians started putting up such landmarks, they would soon run out of space in all the major cities, so long would the list be. So they do not even try.

So how did Okorocha think up this most bizarre of edifices? He says he has no apologies to make for his decision and that those who question his action are “enemies of our people.”

Being honoured

Really, Okorocha? Look, there is the fact that this man being honoured by you has already become an enemy of a good percentage of his people, who want him gone, not home but to jail. The highest court in his country has given leave for him to be prosecuted.

In the meantime, the indefatigable Jacob Zuma is once again mired in a scandal involving the siphoning out of the country of funds to the tune of $500 million in a case involving reputable global banks and a major audit firm.

It seems the man has a finger in every pie and a hand in every till, and there is no satisfying him. It is ironic that Thabo Mbeki, the man Zuma conspired to oust as ANC president at Polokwane in 2007, has over the past few years led an international effort to identify the extent of, and find ways to stem, the illicit financial flows out of Africa.

Mbeki’s report on the illicit flows from his own country must make interesting reading, because behind these flows that Mbeki is pursuing, he is likely to find the unmistakable footprints of Jacob Zuma, his erstwhile nemesis. How he is likely to treat those revelations will be intriguing, for Thabo may not want to be seen as exacting revenge for Polokwane.

Young man

Still, personal considerations of this nature must not stand in the way of efforts to deliver South Africa from the talons of an evil clique that has reduced the country to the status of a failing banana republic, despite all its obvious potential.

That Zuma can get away with serious crime is in no doubt. What is in doubt is whether he should be feted by any person or institution with any claim to decency and propriety.

You will no doubt say that Okorocha is not a candidate for those attributes. Looking at his pictures, he looks like a relatively young man, but his actions and words suggest he is older than me. Okorocha, you no get shame?

Jenerali Ulimwengu is chairman of the board of the Raia Mwema newspaper and an advocate of the High Court in Dar es Salaam. E-mail: ulimwengu@jenerali.com

*Article first published: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke

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Museveni-for-Life will mean the death of Uganda

Posted CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO

on  Tuesday, October 24   2017 at  17:01

Finally, it has come to pass in Uganda.

For many months, President Yoweri Museveni’s proxies made the case for an amendment to the Constitution to lift the 75-year age limit on the presidency, to allow him run for an eighth term (two of them unelected) in 2021.

He played the reluctant Big Man, even hinting he wasn’t interested.

But as opposition rose, and determined opponents in parliament disrupted attempts to table a private member’s Bill for the amendment, Museveni lost patience and brought out the brass knuckles.

A military siege of parliament had been on for days, and on the day MPs scuffled over the amendment on the floor of the House, he sent in the presidential guard to wallop them.

Now he has come out openly to say he wants the age limit lifted, and that ruling NRM politicians opposed to the president-for-life project are like “enemies”.

Up to about 15 years ago, it was hard to find people, even critics of Museveni, who thought he would seek to rule “forever”.

Came to power

There were three exceptions:

First, were a group of Ugandan politicians, activists, and academics associated with the left wing of the Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) that came to power after the fall of military dictator Idi Amin in 1979.

From the outset, they held that Museveni was a dyed-in-the-wool militarist, who didn’t believe in civilian politics, but worshipped the gun. Also, that he was not a departure, but a continuation of the militarist tradition that Milton Obote began in 1966 to abolish the Independence constitution and turn the presidency into a dictatorship – and that Amin carried on.

The country was not ready to hear them. Their comeback was that time would vindicate them. It has.

The second group were Nyerere-era securocrats in Tanzania. Both before and after the fall of Amin, Tanzania had easily the best external intelligence network in Uganda.

Democratic restraint

That network became entrenched after the Tanzanian army helped Ugandan dissident groups oust Amin. Museveni had spent many years in Tanzania as a revolutionary exile, and from there made forays into the Mozambique war of liberation.

A section of Tanzanian intelligence and CCM politicians held that Museveni would in the end rule as a tribal chief, not a progressive leader, and would turn the country into a personal fiefdom. The Tanzanians were seen as bitter and biased in favour of Nyerere’s buddy Obote, against whom Museveni launched a guerrilla war in 1981 after the latter stole his way back to power in the disputed December 1980 election.

The other group were the radical wing of Obote’s Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) party. In their view, Museveni was part of a grand design to restore the Chwezi dynasty that collapsed in 1500.

His was an imperial and messianic quest, and he would not allow himself to be subject to democratic restraint, they argued.

It was a very outlandish line, and hardly any self-respecting intellectual gave it credence.

The reality, however, could be simpler. Once someone works for so long, and puts his life at such risk as Museveni did to become president, it’s perhaps not the most surprising thing on earth that he would want to die on the throne.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is publisher of data visualiser Africapaedia and Rogue Chiefs. Twitter@cobbo3

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Tony Elumelu initiative worth emulating

Posted JANET OTIENO-PROSPER

on  Thursday, October 19   2017 at  19:06

Last week, I attended the third annual Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneurship Forum in Lagos, Nigeria.

I was lucky to make it to the final list of Africa Journalism Fellows after a rigorous selection process.

The TEF forum is a gathering of African entrepreneurs, where representatives from over 54 countries meet with business leaders, established entrepreneurs and policy markers to forge partnerships, share insights and fashion Africa-made solutions to accelerate the transformation of the continent.

The gathering is the culmination of the TEF entrepreneurship forum’s initiator who is also a renowned philanthropist Tony Elumelu’s $100 million commitment to identifying, training, mentoring and empowering 10,000 entrepreneurs in 10 years.

TEF seeks applications annually, which they review and make their selection based on a transparent criteria and contact successful applicants.

Seed capital

The selected applicants go through 12 weeks of intensive training on setting up and managing businesses.

A mentor then guides successful applicants in creating a robust business plan. Afterwards, TEF gives $5,000 seed capital through the United Bank of Africa (UBA) in a non-returnable grant plus access to a $5,000 convertible loan.

So, through this programme, many young entrepreneurs across Africa were already doing successful businesses, which have created employment for more people.

Well, that is how Tony Elumelu is touching lives in Africa to make it a respectable continent. He is already giving hope to the hopeless youth who are frustrated by unemployment. And he encourages the already established entrepreneurs to help others to succeed.

Tony Elumelu says many Africans die with great ideas which could change in their communities because there was no one to hold their hands and give them some hope – seed capital to help them actualise these dreams.

Political stability

So you can imagine if in each African country, we could find people who were selfless like Tony Elumelu trying to rid their nations of poverty. Our nations would be boasting strong economies and prosperity.

These budding entrepreneurs would create a lot of wealth and jobs, and in return it would bring back hope to our people.

I don’t think our people would even be dying in deep seas while going to look for greener pastures abroad. And for our leaders, it was time to respect human and democratic rights to ensure there is peace for these businesses to run smoothly.

It is upon states to help promote such initiatives by building productive economic sectors and removing stringent policies, which inhibit development.

One of them is the government regulation and red tape, which include registration, permitting and licensing. I believe there are many others out there preventing businesses from operating.

For any business to make profits and play a role in any economy, there has to be a political stability in that nation since government policies determine their fate.

A conducive environment is crucial for business to operate efficiently and play a role in poverty reduction.

Great sons of Africa like Tony Elumelu were already doing their bit. It is up to us to emulate him ands make Africa great again.

@JanetOtieno

kikijanty@gmail.com

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Museveni will win but only because he is at his weakest, not strongest

Posted DANIEL KALINAKI

on  Thursday, October 19   2017 at  16:51

Few people doubt President Yoweri Museveni’s ability to push through the age limit constitutional amendment to allow him to run again in 2021, and possibly for life.

On the face of it, such an outcome is surprising because the proposal is widely unpopular across the country. An opinion poll by Afrobarometer found unanimous opposition to the removal of the age limit across the country regardless of gender, age, socio-economic status or region. In northern Uganda, the region with the lowest opposition to the proposal, 65 per cent said the clause should be left intact.

So why is the pragmatic money on the clause being removed? Mostly, it is because Mr Museveni is at his weakest, not his strongest.

This is rather counter-intuitive and needs some explaining.

Over the years, Mr Museveni has been able to extend his reign by exchanging tenure with a more desirable future outcome.

One-party system

In 1989, it was with a promise for a new review commission to produce a new Constitution. That Constitution imposed restrictions to multiparty political activity, but it introduced a two-term limit that political rivals in and outside the Movement could wait out.

That, of course, didn’t happen because in 2003, Mr Museveni then traded in the one-party system, offering a return to multiparty politics in exchange for lifting the term limits out of the Constitution. It was brilliant politics but it required sporadic applications of violence to enforce, with flare-ups every three years (2006, 2009, 2011, 2014, 2017).

The problem with the current proposal is that Mr Museveni has no plausible political offer to make to his rivals.

The most obvious one is to offer a return of the term limits in exchange for the removal of the age limit, but not only has this particular card already been played twice before, it is hard to defend alongside the quasi-legal argument that the age-limit clause is discriminatory.

Another option is to make a personal-to-holder argument for a “thank you” term or two for the incumbent while keeping the age limit and returning the term limits but this, too, doesn’t sit well with the “liberation” narrative. Revolutionaries aren’t servants to be thanked willy-nilly.

To compound matters, a slow down in the economy since around 2011 has reduced the amount of largesse available to win friends and influence people, while slowing down the number of jobs and opportunities for the hordes joining the working class.

The biggest problem here isn’t with the middle-class types who have been forced by the economic downturn to downgrade from single-malt whiskies to tummy-bloating lagers in huge, unwieldy bottles, or who now face the ignominy of paying their private school fees by instalment. It is with the millions of Ugandans who, according to the latest data from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, slipped back into poverty over the past few years.

Poor people don’t fight for what they have never had but they hate to lose whatever comforts they get.

A fellow in the village will walk miles for years without a bicycle without a complaint but try asking a boda boda (motorcycle) rider to return to the trials and tribulations of “chest-power” bicycles!

The millions that have fallen back into poverty in recent years or are hanging onto the edge of the cliff by their gnarled fingers, are the biggest opponents to the status quo. No wise words will stop their bleeding and promises of growth and prosperity down the road, even legitimate ones, are reminders of a recent future now behind them.

Strong-arm tactics

Mr Museveni is smart enough to look at the numbers and it is probably why he has chosen to argue the amendment on legalities (discrimination) rather than on politics (prosperity).

It is also why he has decided to do away with any civility and pretence. Parliament will be stormed, if need be.

Popular musicians carrying populist political messages of protest will be stopped from holding their concerts while their lyrics are checked carefully.

Members of Parliament will be restricted to holding consultations only within their constituencies and even these will be carefully monitored. Cabinet ministers, especially those who might have skeletons in their closets or family members under investigation, will be called upon to proclaim their support for the amendment “in order to survive”.

Mr Museveni will pull all stops to get the amendment, even if it means a return to the strong-arm tactics of past years.

After three decades in power, he is more motivated to keep what he has than his opponents who seek to gain what they have never had.

The smart money is on Mr Museveni, because he knows he is at his weakest, not his strongest.

*Article reproduced from the Daily Monitor

Mr Kalinaki is a journalist and a poor man’s freedom fighter. dkalinaki@ke.nationmedia.com
Twitter: @Kalinaki