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Great Expectations: Uganda’s mineral and oil fever

April 15, 2010

Managing wealth is managing expectations, and managing expectations is not downplaying them

Usually a journalist should do a story and not involve in it, get overwhelmed or despise it, I almost burst out in laughter when a man brought a jerrycan to an oil-exploration site expecting to get some crude as jaribu— vernacular jargon for a free sample of a product that a seller gives a prospective customer.  It was two years ago, during a stakeholders’ tour of the exploration areas and proposed site for setting up a mini oil refinery, when the resident of Kaiso-Tonya village in Hoima district appeared with his jerrycan to the amusement of tourists who included legislators, local leaders and journalists.

Until recently, people in that place still ask what happened to the promise of fuel and electricity which the now abandoned early production system, was to deliver.  This shows how far expectations from the discovery of oil deposits have reached across all levels of Ugandans from national planners to the middleclass, investors, politicians, cultural leaders, and now country people.  The concern about allowing expectations ride higher than realities is that it is the other factor that has been found to cause the so-called oil curse, besides secrecy and excluding locals residing in oil-rich areas from actively participating in the program of developing the resource.

‘Ignorant Expectations?”

Many Ugandans are expecting that the price of fuel will at least halve, when the country begins refining petroleum products locally, not considering that fuel is an international product whose price is determined at that level and not domestically.  Government planners are expecting more room in planning because the national budget could for the first time be fully financed using local resources not subject to conditions known to be imposed by donors, but Uganda is part of the global economy including institutions like the International Monetary Fund and others that pressure for democratic and economically rational budgeting. Cultural institutions such as Bunyoro where some oil fields are, are expecting special treatment in developing social services, yet other folks from West Nile have been heard saying that oil flows from there and deposits in Bunyoro, literally suggesting that the resource should be fully treated as a national asset and proceeds distributed equally.

Individual land owners are expecting to make a kill when explorers confirm presence of high-value resources on their plots, not knowing that the government valuing officer has parameters that take into a constitutional considerations that resources at a certain depth on any land in Uganda belong to the State and are therefore not part of the compensation package on top of the surface area.  Support sector entrepreneurs in areas like insurance, health, foods and beverages, logistics and other industrialists, are expecting a frenzy of business, not knowing that they must push for government policy that positions them to gain and limit on outsourcing, such as allowing for establishment of a re-insurance company for that sector.  People have been promised that the oil industry will create thousands of jobs.  But it seems it has not been thought of how the majority of indigenous employees will react when they find that almost all jobs that pay much higher wages in comparison to what they have been appointed to do, are occupied by expatriates as the reality is that Uganda will be short of technical skills needed in the new industry for some time.  Government is still considering whether to establish a new institution for higher learning for petroleum and mineral studies only, or begin with a faculty at Makerere University, but which ever path it takes, it will still take a couple of years before Ugandans can fully manage their mines and petroleum assets across all disciplines.

Generally many Ugandans expect life to become a bed of roses whenever the oil begins to flow.  But once reality strikes, and it begins to occur to people that the resource only catalyses economic transformation, and that they need to work even harder to gain from oil, life could already be a bed of thorns for many, and analysts say that this is often the beginning of social unrest.

Managing expectations is everyone’s role

I interviewed Prof. Venansius Barya Baryamureeba, Vice Chancellor Makerere University for a magazine published by the newly established Chamber of Mines and Petroleum.  I understand this Chamber will among other things, engage various stakeholders including the Executive, legislators, local leaders and companies to manage expectations, by helping beneficiaries understand what is realistically accrued to them., following a philosophy that; communication of truths about issues at hand to all stakeholders in a uniform manner, transparency and participatory management is arguably the best shot at managing expectations.

Barya like he is popular called uses previous well-intended government programs to illustrate a scenario of Uganda’s social welfare in the event that expectations and indeed the actual resource are not managed well.  For instance people got overly excited for the Universal Primary Education, and sat back because they did not have to work hard to pay for education, and instead bore more children.  “The government has good intentions, but to what extent do we communicate them to the people? Beginning with Parliament, there are people in Parliament who do not even know about these issues, and they are the ones supposed to go to the constituencies and talk to the people.  most people in political parties do not really understand these issues, so who is going to communicate them because they are the ones going to look for votes, you should be able to communicate some facts at least as part of your services to the people.”

Barya advised that the political leadership should borrow a leaf from faith institutions. “We have churches and different denominations, but there are things they communicate that are the same across the board, like values, how to bring up children, etc.  But what is common in this country among our parties? What message can we all go to a rally and say we want this message for every body? But because you want to be different as a party, you communicate the other message.”

He warned that as things stand in Uganda, political parties could use oil and minerals to divide the country.  “For instance someone will go to Bunyoro and say with federalism, this is your resource, so you should not let the government take even more than 50 per cent, and try to make sure that those resist, then another goes to Karamoja and says that you have a lot of gold, people should not rob you of your wealth.  So at the end of the day, you have a country where the leader is not in control of anything,” Barya said, “Even when you are supposed to educate people on a program like UPE, another party will be more interested in seeing it fail, they call it byoya bya nswa (empty promises), they are not interested in saying that as long as this government is in power let us help to make UPE a better program, and do an oversight role to ensure that the money is not stolen. So to me I see parties using this issue of oil to divide the people.”

Some critics argue that Barya’s appeal is insensitive of the fact that political parties must point out and capitalize on weaknesses of implementing a program by the ruling regime to gain political mileage, rather than do the work while incumbents claim all credit given the level of inadequate communication among the electorate.   They indeed argue that to curb corruption, the pressure groups find it more strategic to focus on the bad practices, rather than throw flowers in faces of the corrupt and poor managers.

But Barya insists that many people act out of selfish rather than national interest and it shows in failure to table convincing alternative policies.

I called up city lawyer Ely Karuhanga, President of the new Chamber. This guy who, I am told owns the Barbeque Lounge, a bar I visit down at the centenary park is also the Chairman of Tullow Uganda. He told me; “We need to work with the government to reach people and tell them the advantages of mining and petroleum projects, explaining what is accrued to them.  For instance for compensation, people must understand that it is the government valuer who puts a value to the land, and tells them what they benefit.”  It has happened before that investors find themselves stranded, when land owners demand outrageous compensation packages.

“We also need participation of legislators to ensure that laws affecting this sector are implemented, also on the part of investors because it is a high-risk business involving huge capital investments.  So we must ensure a conducive investment environment that respects the sanctity of contracts,” Karuhanga further told me.

To a significant extent expectations are legitimate because minerals are capable of giving huge economic benefits to a country when managed well, but if people do not understand how they can turn this mineral capital into the improved welfare they seek, they will inevitably become frustrated.

Financial analysts explain that managing wealth means managing expectation, and that managing expectations is not down playing them.  The first step usually is to anticipate proceeds and then agree on the strategic plan of how revenue is going to be used.  Secondly, communicate to all the leaders who matter at all levels whether in government or not including politicians, civil society, cultural and religious leaders, academicians, planners, the private sector, etc, and get them to partly own the process.  This group should decide on a single policy on the matter and communicate only that to masses regardless of political, religious, tribal or any other orientation, and let it be illegal to communicate otherwise.

Some people have advised that the strategic plan of economic transformation based on oil revenue should feature plans on things like investing in value addition so that farmers know that they will not drop their hoes for oil tankers, but sharpen them and gain from where the country has had an international economic comparative advantage for so long.

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Raila’s enigmatic visit to Uganda

April 15, 2010

POLITICS; No permanent friends or enermies

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s visit to Uganda for his Easter holiday was not only a gesture of salvaging relations between him and President Yoweri Museveni after a diplomatic chill of over two years, but also breathed fresh impetus into the pursuit for regional integration.

Political analysts had warned that if relations between the influential leaders in the region are left to deteriorate further, it will reflect in their country-to-country relations accordingly, and boil down to failing the East African Community. For instance Uganda has just discovered oil and vast presence of minerals and will need a transport corridor through Kenya to the sea to commercialise her wealth, something that could be difficult if the two countries’ leaders do not click. On the other hand, Uganda is an important market for Kenyan products, and transit hub for goods that come from the Mombasa coast to other countries in the region, meaning that not cooperating could adversely affect nationals and regional economic welfare.

Mr. Odinga had a one-on-one full hour meeting with President Museveni at the Entebbe State House before heading to the countryside in Soroti district, eastern Uganda where he told a rally that he had a ‘frank discussion’ with the President on issues including; intra-regional trade, cross-border cattle-rustling, and the Migingo territorial question. It was the first time Mr. Odinga and President Museveni were meeting since Kenya’s general elections in December 2007 that culminated into bloody civil unrest.

None of the leaders ridiculed each other in public, but neither of them dispelled the notion that they were at loggerheads when observers accused President Museveni for meddling in Kenyan politics during the campaigns and hastily congratulating President Kibaki on declaring him winner of a vehemently contested election. On the other hand, some legislators from Uganda’s ruling party accused Mr. Odinga for dinning with the opposition here, partly why his campaign visit to Uganda in 2007 when he addressed students at Makerere University had minimal participation from officials of the NRM party.

Relations between the two men reached the bottom when Raila Odinga’s State visit to Uganda last year was canceled at the last minute because of a territorial dispute between Kenya and Uganda over the Migingo Island. Later, President Museveni was reported to have been abusive to the Jaluo community during his address to students at Dar es Salaam University, reports that provoked Kenyan youth to uproot the railway line that transports goods from the Mombasa coast to Kampala, and other dstinations in the region.

I learnt that certain politicians have been working behind the scenes to improve the leaders’ relations, and their meeting over Easter is just the beginning of clearing mistrust and building confidence. “I had a frank discussion with President Museveni about many bilateral and regional issues and I can assure that we have good working relations. Some things might have happened during the elections, but that is behind us now,” Mr. Odinga said.

When I personally talked to Odinga, and when he addressed a rally in Soroti, he pointed to the Migingo issue, cross-border cattle rustling and intra-regional trade as some of the things he discussed with President Museveni. “I told President Museveni that we can not be talking regional integration, then we quarrel over a piece of rock, and we agreed to quickly settle that,” Mr. Odinga said.

He also said that Kenya will arrest any people who come and raid cattle in Uganda, and return the animals. “Any one who comes from Kenya and raids cattle here is not a true Kenyan, and anyone who comes from Uganda and raids cattle in Kenya is not a true Kenyan,” he said. Mr. Odinga also said that Kenya is going to begin buying drugs from the new factory that is making life-prolonging drugs for people living with the virus that causes Aids.

I was told by a friend that on the Uganda side, Cpt. Mike Mukula a former junior minister for health, one of President Museveni’s chief mobilisers, and personal friend to Mr. Odinga who hosted him during his campaign tour in Kampala has been the mule behind repairing these relations. I visited Cpt. Mike at his country home in Soroti to verify some of these things; he told me, “It is very important that these leaders work together because of the influence they hold in the region, any problem between them will affect the regional integration we all looking for, so far we are on course to dispel mistrust and build confidence.”

Mr. Odinga used his visit to also cultivate some political capital at a regional scale when he visited and mingled with ordinary Teso people in Soroti district to drum up support for regional integration.

In Raila’s word
For the few minutes I personally talked to Raila he said; “It is our ordinary people who are the key to this integration, that is why we must engage them across the region and show that we are one.” Mr. Odinga’s address to a rally of hundreds of people in Soroti was a reminder of how things used to be in past, and why it is important to integrate. “When I first came to Soroti in 1958 with my father when he was fundraising for a memorial hall to be built in Kisumu, all we needed to show at the border in Busia was a driving permit. Business people, students and laborers used to cross freely. Why should I go and buy malaria drugs elsewhere when Uganda is now manufacturing them? We should invest here, and trade among each other before we think of the outside world,” he said.

The entourage
His entourage was indeed a statement of reaching out to the communities that exit in both Kenya and Uganda; Assistant Minister for Labour Odeke Ojaamongson, Minister for Fisheries Development Dr. Paul Otuoma, Minister for Medical services Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, and a legislator Justus Kizito, whose name is common among Ugandans, all have ancestry ties with Ugandan tribes including Teso people and Samias.

The Teso people who historically reside in Teso district in the western part of Kenya, and eight districts in eastern Uganda including; Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Bukedea, Kaberamaido and Tororo are silently building a movement to reckon with in not only social, cultural, economic, but also political aspects under a joint apex body dubbed; Teso Development Forum (TDF). The ethnic group also has a cultural leader bearing the title Emorimori who receives allegiance from Teso people in both countries.

I found out that the scramble for new districts that has showcased rare political maneuvering in Uganda for the Teso region is being led by a joint task force that includes Ugandans and Kenyan Itesots. After getting two new districts in Uganda’s Teso sub-region, the taskforce is now in Nairobi lobbying politicians there for new constituencies in western Kenya where Teso people reside so that they can increase their numbers in Parliament. Analysts think that if this is also true for other ethnic lineages that extend beyond national borders in East Africa, then it will be clever for politicians especially those with regional ambitions to look for political capital there.

New ethnic-centric political order for East Africa

April 15, 2010

Ethnic streams that extend beyond national borders in East Africa could shape regional politics in anticipation of the political federation sooner than later, going by emerging theories over Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s meeting with Teso people during his Easter holiday in Uganda’s countryside.

I chanced to talk to the popular politician for a couple of minutes when he told me that he was spending the Easter holiday here to visit old friends and drum up support for regional integration among the ordinary East Africans, although sources within his visit told me separately that he is cultivating political capital at a regional scale. I immediately thought that this lends credence to the school of thought that has hastily pitted Mr. Odinga against Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni for a possible contest for leadership of the anticipated East African political federation. In 2007, President Museveni took a road trip through Kenya to Tanzania, and the way mingled with ordinary citizens talking regional integration and historical links among tribes and dialects in the region.

Mr. Odinga’s address to a rally of hundreds of people in Soroti district, in eastern Uganda was a reminder of how things used to be in past, and why it is important to integrate. “When I first came to Soroti with my father when he was fundraising for a memorial hall to be built in Kisumu, all we needed to show at the border in Busia was a driving permit. Business people, students and laborers used to cross freely. Why should I go and buy malaria drugs elsewhere when Uganda is now manufacturing them? We should invest here, and trade among each other before we think of the outside world,” he said.

When asked about issues of national supremacy as a threat to regional integration, Odinga said, “It is our ordinary people who are the key to this integration, that is why we must engage them across the region and show that we are one.”

His entourage was however a statement of reaching out to the communities that exit in both Kenya and Uganda; Assistant Minister for Labour Odeke Ojaamongson, Minister for Fisheries Development Dr. Paul Otuoma, Minister for Medical services Prof. Anyang’ Nyong’o, and a legislator Justus Kizito, whose name is common among Ugandans, all have ancestry ties with Ugandan tribes including Teso people and Samias.

The Teso people
The Teso people who historically reside in Teso district in the western part of Kenya, and eight districts in eastern Uganda including; Amuria, Soroti, Kumi, Katakwi, Pallisa, Bukedea, Kaberamaido and Tororo are silently building a movement to reckon with in not only social, cultural, economic, but also political aspects under a joint apex body dubbed; Teso Development Forum (TDF). The ethnic group also has a cultural leader bearing the title Emorimori who receives allegiance from Teso people in both countries. “We want Teso to be a factor,” Cpt. Mike Mukula, who hosted the Prime Minister in Soroti told me.

I also found out that the scramble for new districts that has showcased rare political maneuvering in Uganda for the Teso region is being led by a joint task force that includes Ugandans and Kenyan Itesots. After getting two new districts in Uganda’s Teso sub-region, the taskforce is now in Nairobi lobbying politicians there for new constituencies in western Kenya where Teso people reside so that they can increase their numbers in Parliament.

More in Uganda, Teso people have uniform positions on some national questions such as land ownership. For instance Itesots are vehemently against a proposal that empowers government to acquire land compulsorily, because unlike areas like Buganda in the central part of the country where the land tenure system is largely individual ownership, in the Teso, Acholi, and Lango region (east and northeast), it is owned communally, and only leased not sold.

They are now forging a formidable force comparable to Buganda to begin demanding for compensation for the losses they incurred during the war. Apparently, heads of cattle including long-horned cattle predominant in western Uganda were looted during the war, an injustice that is blamed for impoverishing the region many years later. Cpt. Mukula said, “There was a government emergency restocking program for two years, but this is nothing compared to what people lost, and this has caused them to hate the NRM government.” However the Teso people have been silent on the question of national governance where Buganda has been advocating for federalism, while the executive has decided of a regional tier system.

Leaders from the Teso Development Forum said that they have development plans on paper, but are now on a strategic course of galvanizing unity among Itesots within the region and in the diaspora to implement their plans.

Until these revelations, it is Buganda that has been known to be a major factor in national issues outside the Executive, and recently Bunyoro to a certain extent because of oil discoveries on its territory. However Capt. Mukula a man whose political stature has been an enigma since he was dropped from Cabinet over corruption allegations in the Ministry of Health told me that a new political order at both national and regional level was inevitable, especially now that people want to belong.

Political pundits who I talked to said that whereas multiple determinants in governance could remedy marginalization, they would deepen the cancer of tribalism beyond national frontiers to a regional scale, and possibly be the next cause of the ultimate collapse of an East African union for the second time. It is not a secret that leaders in northern Uganda have expressed the possibility of uniting with fellow Luos in southern Sudan to for a ‘Nile State’ one that would find ties in Kenya and Tanzania, because there are Luo there too.

Lydia Wanyoto a member of the East African Legislative Assembly told me that the assembly is in the process of designing structures of the political federation, and we want the final recommendations to be out to a referendum so that people own it. Whichever path it takes, ethnic lineages in the region could form the real political order in East Africa.

Here comes the science salesman

October 9, 2009

Uganda Science Week; Here Comes the Science Salesman

By David Malingha Doya

Business Writer

With about 5,000 people engaged in its activities, this year’s National Science Week in Uganda was held in September under the theme “Youth in Science for Sustainable Development.” Scientists use the annual science week as an opportunity to show off their achievements and to showcase their contributions to the country’s welfare.

The event was hosted by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, a semi-autonomous government agency established to advise, develop and implement policies and strategies for integrating science, technology and research in Uganda.

 

Events and Exhibitions

This year’s science week featured a series of colorful events that took place across the country with most of the activities being held in the eastern part of the country. Events included a science walk in Tororo district (about 230 km from Kampala City), a national students’ science innovation competition at Busitema University, and a science fair in a primary school in Busia district (less than 5 km from the Uganda-Kenya border in eastern Uganda).

In one secondary school exhibition; a group of girls who had concocted a cold remedy were later driven to Kampala City to be recognized at the closing ceremony. There were also school visits by the mobile team in most of the other districts in this part of the country.

Meanwhile in Kampala, two events were taking place simultaneously: a secondary students’ science seminar and debate at the Uganda Museum; and an annual science conference at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences.

The last two days of the event featured an exhibition, followed by a colorful closing ceremony at the prestigious Speke Resort on the shores of Lake Victoria at Munyoyo near Kampala. The event was also attended by scientists from South Africa with whom the Ugandan government signed a collaborative agreement to develop science and technology.

Extraction of the anti-malarial solution from plants Bottled ready solution Of all the exhibitions taking place, one of the most visited was the exhibition-tent set up by a team of scientists who showed off an anti-malaria solution.

The scientists demonstrated how they made the solution from Artemisia, avocado and lemongrass. The participants could even purchase some of the products made by the group of scientists.

Another exhibit that caught the attention of attendees, especially the children, was one showcasing a sizeable Nile perch fish. In one of the Millennium Science Initiative projects funded by the World Bank to promote science, a group of scientists is researching the best methods to breed Nile perch to help sustain the best selling fish species. This includes the development of feeds that will substitute for other fish species that the predator Nile perch feeds on.

At Busitema University, students exhibited a portable water pump that could dramatically improve access to safe drinking water in the countryside. Some secondary schools showed off bracelets and bangles the students had made from waste paper, while most of the primary school children shared their dreams of making things they only see in movies such as James Bond’s multi-function car.

I noticed that a diesel car, that was made by students at Makerere University, one of the country’s biggest technological achievements, was missing. I was told that it wasn’t on display as it could easily overshadow other equally important exhibits.

 

And the Winner Is …

This is the third year that the National Science Week has been held in Uganda, and fundings of up to US$30 million were competitively given to Ugandan scientists through the Millennium Science Initiative (MSI) funded by the World Bank.

This year, there were over 100 proposals by scientists competing for less than a dozen grants. Senior and junior researchers from public universities were among the winners to receive funding for research in various subjects such as increasing animal production and rural electrification.

Funds were also awarded for the best proposals concerning improvement of university science education curricula, and for the best joint proposals between the private sector and the Academy for Science Development and Promotion.

Besides this, the best exhibitors were recognized. These included the team that made the anti-malarial remedy made from fruits and grasses, the girls who made the cold remedy and the boys who made bracelets and bangles from waste paper. This year, science week coincided with the Ugandan government’s drawing of its national development plan.

Scientists want science and technology to take a central part in the plan via the creation of a science ministry and adequate governmental funding of their activities. The national science week is the main selling point for this strategy, which is why highly ranked government officials including ministers, diplomats, and representatives of the development partners were invited to actively participate in the activities.

Next year’s science week will be held in northern Uganda, a part of the country emerging from two-decades of bloody conflict, but which is known to be home to some of the country’s leading scientists.

David Malingha Doya is a journalist based in Uganda, and Chairman of Nile Media Network Uganda Chapter. He writes in international media on a number of issues from around the world including; science and technology. You can contact him on healthandscienceATiolteamDOTcom

GADAFRICA

April 2, 2009

GADAFRICA

 

Politics. Economy. Emerging global challenges.

 

Libyan leader Col. Muammar Gaddafi becomes Chairman of the African Union, at a time when the future of the continent is so uncertain

 

By David Malingha Doya

 

 

The future of Africa has never been so uncertain than at this time when a man with absolute ambitions of formally uniting the continent’s diverse masses is at the helm of a continental body that African countries assent to.  Col. Muammar Gaddafi, leader of the Libyan Jamahariya takes over Chairmanship of the African Union from Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete when no one can see a clear path ahead as far as politics, economic development, security and social standing on the continent goes.

 

It is anticipated that less aid and foreign direct investments will flow from rich countries in the West, as they attempt to contain an economic recession.  Already, some multinational with roots in the West but also operating in Africa have closed shop, while central governments here have reported alarming rates of capital flight from capital markets.  Protection tendencies are emerging among economies in Europe America and Asia, a development promising to reduce exports from Africa to those countries.

 

Home made challenges include in instability in the Great lakes region with fighting continuing in DR Congo, and renewed unrest in Somalia which is in the process of establishing a new government.  Additionally, chronic diseases are for the first time more prevalent in Africa than anywhere else in the world, and are killing many more people than infectious diseases, yet the World Health Organization and national health departments continue to mainly focus on the latter. 

 

At the same time, countries like Angola, DR Congo, Ghana and Uganda have discovered extractive minerals notably oil and precious stones underneath their earth, a development that could lead to national economic development or deeper impoverishing.  Also, although countries like Zimbabwe and Kenya have resolved to run on governments of national unity, the complexities that have come with it so far offer no clear pointer going ahead.

 

Politicians; what do you expect from a pig but a grunt

Development experts and politicians have said that Africa will have to determine its own destiny now more than ever, after they woke up to a reality that their so-called ‘development partners’ in the West have a bigger mess to deal with at home.  This is the situation Col. Gaddafi is coming on to, yet he continues to sell his idea of a single government for Africa, this time round with more difficulty convincing Heads of Governments that it might make everything right.

 

At the African Union Summit where Col. Gaddafi was elected to be Chair of the continental body, he wasted no time attempting to gather consensus among Heads of Government for his idea of having a United States of Africa.  He pushed the meeting by an extra day, and stayed up his colleagues until the wee hours of the night, but did not pull it off.  The idea is to leverage a critical block mass in the formulation of a US of Africa, to spur economic growth and help solve conflicts on the continent.

 

Before this aggravated opportunity, Col. Gaddafi has all along been advocating for his idea and recently decided to take it to traditional leader where he apparently got more mileage than he did with Heads of Governments.  Some 200 Kings, Sultans and Princes from all over Africa gathered at Benghazi in Libya on Col. Gaddafi’s invitation where they joined his Forum for ‘Traditional Leaders,’ and later crowned him ‘King of Kings.’  Col. Gaddafi was in reality drumming up support for his United States of Africa idea, arguing that traditional leaders are critical representative of the people, although it is known that it was easier for the ambitious leader to gain support from traditionalists who are usually not so wealthy or influential, unlike Heads of Governments with almost absolute power and are well catered.

 

Indeed a follow up meeting for traditional leaders’ was due to take place in Kampala, Uganda before government stopped it saying that the law of the land barred traditional leaders from engaging any sort of politics.  “The issue of uniting Africa is political, not cultural, so we did not want to put temptation to our traditional leaders to involve in that dialogue and break the constitution,” said Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, whose position still ruling the day is against establishment of the United States of Africa as a single government for the continent.

 

It emerged from the last Summit that Heads of Governments shared the view of strengthening the African Union to deal with emerging challenges including the deepening global financial mess, spiraling conflict, infrastructural development and disease.  In strengthening the African Union, Col. Gaddafi was for a single government, President Museveni, the most vocal opposition against the idea, proposed an African Commission, but later settled for an African Authority that would have a substantial mandate to tackle the mentioned challenges, but with no supreme powers.

 

“Our position has been to create and consolidate regional blocks first, then go ahead and form an economic community for Africa,” President Museveni said.  He is indeed spearheading the fast tracking of the East African Community whose five member-States are negotiation a common market protocol, and will later complete modalities of a monetary union and ultimately a political federation.

 

Gwynne Dyer a columnist in the State-owned New Vision wrote in his weekly column on global issues that; “The model for the African Union is the European Union, a relatively loose association of democracies with long separate histories, not he United States of America with its single shared identity.  It is probably the right model.”

 

Will it be more bombs or talks

Africa also suffers resounding political unrest. The two wars in DR. Congo one involving Ugandan rebel Joseph Kony, and the other Congolese rebels formerly led by Laurent Nkunda before he was arrested. Somalia which is in the process of establishing a new government has to deal with warring factions, and the Dafur factor lives on now that the International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Umar el Bashir.

 

Col. Gaddafi first and fore most fought his way to power, and has helped rebel movements in the past such as the National Resistance Army led by now President Museveni of Uganda. 

 

The growing trend on the African continent has been peace negotiations rather than conversional warfare to solve conflict.  It has so far worked in ending the civil war in Sudan, which paved way for signing a comprehensive peace agreement between the Khartoum government and the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement in the southern part of the vast country.  However sometimes these peace negotiations go on indefinitely and often fail.  For instance peace talks between the government of Uganda and Kony’s Lords Resistance Army collapsed, after the elusive rebel leader did not turn up for the signing ceremony, and war was opened again.  Sometimes pursuing rebels has worked to stop conflicts, like in Angola’s case when they were hunted down and killed.

 

If Gaddafi advocates for war, he could probably read from the same page with countries like Uganda that fired the first shot when they realized that Kony was not about to sign the peace agreement.  If he promotes talk, or a combination with war, on the other hand, he will perhaps head to The Hague to discuss an arrest warrant for a sitting President in Africa, and indictments of LRA rebels, which are partly blamed for failing the peace talks.

 

Money shower and free trade

On the economic front however, Col. Gaddafi through the Libyan African Investment Portfolio, an investment State agency, has done a job of investing in various projects using the model of foreign direct investment, and in some cases engaging in ‘suspect deals’ of acquiring State property, an or swapping debt for equity in government-owned enterprises.

 

For instance in Uganda, Tripoli agreed with Kampala to give Libya shares in National Housing and Construction Company as part of a long standing debt settlement.  In Kenya, it is known that Libya has invested in hotels and oil industries to substantial levels.  This approach has in most cases created a few extra jobs for locals in the country, although Libya is yet to originate an investment in Uganda that creates thousands of jobs.

 

African countries including especially those in eastern Africa have called for foreign direct investment, sometimes promoting the region as a single investment destination, but the more important thing has been improving the trade environment. 

 

The idea has been first to ask trade partners in Europe, America and Asia to open up their markets by removing non-tariff barriers, although this might be a wasted shot given the emerging protectionist tendencies in these markets.  Part B, of this idea that is gaining prominence is increasing trade among the African markets themselves, so that market can be guaranteed regardless of what happens in the other markets in the world.  This would mean bringing opening frontiers and allowing free trade, a concept that is already breeding among three regional blocks namely; The East African Community, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, and South African Development Community.

 

This arrangement could be preferred against foreign direct investment per say, or advocate for the two to be pursued together, in either case it will be interesting to see what which way the new Chairman for the African Union will as far as Africa’s economic future is concerned.  What Africa needs nevertheless, is a new economic order that will sustain economic growth and development amidst a global financial storm, ensuring that realization of the MDGs is on course.

 

 

ENDs.

 

 

The Party was only held in Uganda, to its despair

November 30, 2007

It was the time for Uganda to be in the lime light in the world, to feature on global wires and Papers.  It was a time to consolidate the Pearl of Africa’s international image, to pull down the face of Amin and the ghosts that remain of him and put up Museveni’s face- a ‘liberator’ who picked up the country and ‘put it back on truck.’ 

Indeed over 700 journalists descended on Kampala to perhaps bump into this cause. If each journalist could reach at least 1million people even when repeated, 700 million people would know Uganda for Chogm and the praises that came with it- at least for its leaders. 

But to its despair, the media did not –to the occasion’s hype- make good Uganda’s cause.  Or was the meeting dull? The international media reported proceedings, from the arrival of the queen, to the opening and closing ceremonies.

With media reporting that climate change took a soft turn at the Club Summit, perhaps it’s the CMAG announcement that Pervaiz Musharaf’s Pakistan was suspended from Commonwealth, that gave hacks something to write home about- but this was not about Uganda at all. 

For most of the local Press, to their own folly, was marvelled at the locally rare media operations and international colleagues whom they read over the internet or watch on T.V.  And could this be why they missed the real stories, and settled for headlines such as- “Inside the Queen’s Shs4m room” and “The Queen rejected State House food.”  Where they also too busy to work and settled for By-lines such as- “XXX and the Agencies.”   

The Ugandan government wanted the local press to put out stories on investment opportunities that the country has, and cover the Royal family with at most accuracy and of course spare the skeletons in governance for the time the party went on.                                                                                        

But the real stories were missed. Save for The EastAfrican which reported on a spared Museveni-person as the Summit kept busy with Pakistan and Climate Change (not because I work for it). 

Did anyone go down-town, in the thick of strokes of the baton, where a handful of demonstrators struggled to have their voices heard?  I know they did, but that picture was not seen in various reports.  Masses in Uganda like other developing countries would have loved to hear more talk on the real development factors needed to pace up development.  International trade, immigration policy, health, good governance, and the list continues.  But where ever these featured, it was flat rhetoric. 

Perhaps the party is only held in Africa, but some times is not really for Africa  

Politicians and businessmen are friends in the developing world! At least for climate change

November 29, 2007

When James Smith Chairman Shell UK asked developed Nations to back off the industrialisation drive in developing countries, I sighed for President Museveni who has been attempting to cut down forests for industry. 

But for the first time, I saw politicians and businessmen become bed fellows courtesy of climate change.  This time, it was not hustling over exploitative prices by businessmen against the electorate or politicians reviewing tax policy tantamount to ‘discouraging’ investment.  

No. Chogm in Kampala was the opportune time and place for ‘good’ but aggressive if not ‘selfish’ businessmen to ask the developed world not to tell the developing world what to do as far as reducing carbon emissions is concerned.  For heavens sake they don’t have to buy carbon credits here too! 

In other words do not tell the developing world to set targets for reducing carbon emissions, because you- the developed world are to a greater extent responsible for the world’s climate changing.  Second because the developing world has a right to industrialise too, which means it would need more energy to run machines and ensure air condition as it continues to suffer a warmer world now, thanks to greenhouse gas emissions over the past decades in the developed world. 

What struck me though, is that all business persons who publicly aired their views at the commonwealth business forum and argued from all possible angles in this line, run businesses that emit greenhouse gasses in significant amounts and are on an expansion drive in emerging markets in Asia and Africa.   

Shell for instance, Smith used his time at the podium to announce what his Company is doing to filter bad gases through new technologies and remind the developed world that it is because of their industrialisation era, that there is too much gas in the atmosphere today.  But he is also looking for money this side of the world, signing up new partners, positioning products to suit customers down here and working against all odds to create a love mark of Shell in the developing world. 

President Museveni of course nods, knowing that people now ‘understand’ that the developing world should not continue with environment protection while still leaving in a backward economy.  These days, when ever a new factory opens, there is always a story to write home about and the politician who officially opens it, often makes the News.   

I still do not know why this part of the Chogm final communiqué on climate change missed, given that a voice of 53-in-1 at Bali would definitely be heard.  Or was there a mutual compromise to warrant flat rhetoric of concepts that would inform commonwealth members’ position on climate change at subsequent more decisive summits like the post-kyoto talks in Bali, Indonesia. 

Could it be that Canada stuck to its position that no targets for reducing carbon emissions for some countries alone should be set, while other partners in the ‘crime’ like china and India remain exonerated.  Because, besides setting targets for emissions for developed countries, small states wanted the former to commit funds to help the later adapt to the effects of climate change and work mitigation measures too. 

What ever policy succeeds the Kyoto Protocol- it is still unpredictable… 

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November 29, 2007

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