EXCLUSIVE EXTRACT FROM WHY WE ARE COMING, BY YASIN KAKANDE
Ugandans will be heading to the polls early next year to elect the country’s new president. According to international journalist, migrant activist and TED Fellow Yasin Kakande, present incumbent and candidate, President Yoweri Museveni, is already taunting the main opponent, Bobi Wine, as being a stooge of foreign donors.
These, however, were the same cries that Museveni’s predecessor, Apollo Milton Obote, made about Museveni in the ‘80s. True to Africa, Kakande says, there seems to be no other way to power without Western imperialist help.
In this exclusive excerpt from his new book, ‘Why We Are Coming’, Kakande discusses how Museveni remained loyal to his imperialist mentors by expanding Western imperialism to all neighbouring African countries.
Under Museveni, Uganda had placed more troops abroad than any other country in the world barring the U.S. And Ugandan troops were significant in determining the outcomes from conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, and even Kenya, after election-related violence erupted in 2007.
In 1991, after Somalia’s dictator Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown, the country went into a vicious civil war. The U.S. sent 100,000 troops to restore order in an operation they called “Operation Restore Hope,” which began as an effort to underwrite the delivery of UN Aid by guaranteeing security in Mogadishu but ended as an unsuccessful manhunt targeting the Somali faction leader, General Mohammed Farah Aidid. On October 3, 1993, one of the bloodiest days of the conflicts and one immortalized in the annals of U.S. military legend, General Aidid’s militia killed 18 Americans and wounded more than 70 others. More than 300 Somalis were killed. The battle proved to have been the bloody dénouement of the American obsession with Aidid: the U.S. stopped pursuing him, unwilling to risk further casualties. The American troops pulled back into their encampments and compounds, dispatching few patrols until the politicians in Washington formally aborted the expedition. Thus bloodied the U.S. looked around and asked who in Africa was willing to take on the Somali war, and Museveni was the first to raise his hand. The Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) provided about 6,000 troops leading the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom). Uganda’s involvement drew the ire of the Somali Islamist militants “Al Shabab”: in July 2010, a double suicide bombing in Kampala killed 76 people who were watching the World Cup soccer final on television.
As in Somalis so in South Sudan where Uganda acted as the intermediary of the American support to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in its war to separate South Sudan from North Sudan in the 1990s. Two years after South Sudan declared its independence, President Salva Kiir fired his vice-president, Riek Machar, and the political power contest snowballed into military clashes fought along the Dinka-Nuer ethnic lines representing Kiir and Machar, respectively. Museveni immediately deployed Ugandan troops, telling journalists the troops had been sent at the request of the South Sudan government, just in time to save Kiir from being toppled as the country’s leader.
Uganda was instrumental in regime changes involving its immediate neighbors. On his return from undergoing military training in the U.S., Paul Kagame—formerly a senior officer in the Ugandan Army—joined with other Rwandese exiled in Uganda, to form the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF, supported by the Ugandan government, waged a war against the Rwandan government of President Habyarimana that would culminate in the Rwandan Genocide, which decimated the Tutsi population of the country. Kagame successfully overthrew Habyarimana’s government, and has been the president of Rwanda since 2000.
But not all of Museveni’s adventures have been welcomed by all sections of opinion in the West. One such is, their invasion of the Democratic Republic of Congo a resource-rich black hole into which the region was pulled for a decade. The conflict was triggered when the armies of Uganda and Rwanda, both key security allies for Western interests, turned against each other in the Congo. A 2001 United Nations report noted that Museveni and Kagame were “on the verge of becoming godfathers of the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the continuation of the conflict.” The report identified, as The New York Times article highlighted, “three dozen businesses, based in Belgium, Germany, Malaysia, Canada, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Britain, India, Pakistan, and Russia . . . as having imported minerals from Congo through Uganda and Rwanda.”
The allegations were substantiated. Following the war, the Government of the DRC Congo sued that of Uganda and Rwanda for plundering its resources and committing war atrocities. The International Court of Justice found Uganda guilty in December 2005, and the country was ordered to pay Congo $10 billion in damages. Museveni’s closest relatives, including his son Major Muhozi Kainerugaba and brother Lieutenant General Caleb Akandwanaho with the alias of Salim Saleh, were implicated in overseeing the plundering operations.
In Burundi, citizens attempted a coup in 2015 after their late president Laurent Nkuruziza, Museveni’s friend and another strong ally of the U.S., announced he was standing for a third term. Jubilant citizens thronged the streets after the coup announcement and news that the deposed president Nkurunziza fled the country, but that joy was soon darkened by the shadow of regional enforcer Museveni. Ugandan troops entered Burundi to overturn the coup and reinstate President Nkuruziza.
Museveni has been careful to keep his relationship with the U.S. Secure by helping even in its wars in Middle East. During the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, 20,000 Ugandans worked in American military bases.
Somewhat counterintuitively, while it would be reasonable to surmise that when Uganda sent troops to neighboring countries and to the Middle East, the West was bankrolling the costs, the situation is not as simple as that. Certainly, the U.S. and some European countries contributed to the peace missions that were spearheaded by the Ugandan President, but much of the money for Uganda’s adventures, comes from Uganda itself.
Indeed, soaring defense budgets and costs that dwarf government spending on health care and agriculture must be seen as a significant component of Museveni’s legacy. With a population of approximately 42 million, Uganda often ranks at or near the top of the league table for defense spending among nations in East Africa. In 2011, it was first state in the region with an annual military expenditure that topped $642 million, more than $1 billion in the values current at the time of writing.