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Wednesday, 14 November 2012






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The Ugandan President is in the tight-rope walking visionary mould of new leaders of the post-colonial world, such as Mahinda Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka. His Excellency Yoweri Museveni now on a state visit to Colombo, brought stability, progress and hope to Uganda, which was memorably ravaged by the likes of Idi Amin, about whom there is no special need to educate your average seventh grade kid, even.

But in the process he has been pragmatic, and almost as a corollary been accused of suppressing political opposition, even though he is credited with some of the most remarkably successful programmes in Africa, such as the triumphant drive conquering the AIDS epidemic.

He is a kindred spirit therefore, and may be his fraternal identification with the Sri Lankan leader, being like-minded in many respects, led his country to be one nation that gave a clear no vote against the U.S. sponsored resolution on Sri Lanka in Geneva in March 2012.

This has to be remembered in the context that several African countries chose to vote with the Resolution while a good many of them which initially expressed solidarity with Sri Lanka, abstained when it came to the actual vote.

Museveni has other pragmatic credentials which make him similar to the Sri Lankan President. He worked with the IMF and the international donor agencies, though his detractors had initially called him an isolationist who was known to ally with some of the global powers that did not exactly have favoured nation status among the world's well known donor and lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund.

Pragmatism, but yet pragmatism with a soul had been the hallmark of the Mahinda Rajapaksa foreign policy. His presidential tenure has been marked by Sri Lanka closing ranks with countries such as Uganda in forging a broad rainbow-coalition against being bullied in UN forums for instance, by powerful nations that command disproportionate clout in such world bodies by virtue of having cash-rich economies coveted in the developing world.

But, those who were salivating in the hope of resulting foreign policy chaos due to what they perceived as a confrontational path with the allied Western powers such as the U.S. and the European Union, were to be disappointed.

U.S. Sri Lankan relations are remarkably on an even keel after the Geneva resolution in March, and the President, as does the Ugandan President, continues to work with the IMF and the traditional lending agencies -- even as he has forged a broad coalition of friendly backers from diverse and disparate nations which both extend aid to the country, and invest here.

He had walked the tightrope maintaining the fine balance that's required when maintaining good relations with countries seen to be having contending interests, such as India and China. Uganda does extensive business with China, as does Sri Lanka.

Trade between Uganda and China was in excess of US 400 million last year, and 255 companies invested in the country, creating 28,000 jobs. There is no special need to underscore the value and extent of Chinese investment here in Sri Lanka, of course.

In perspective, what all of the above means is that countries such as Uganda and Sri Lanka have foreign policies that are both pragmatic and unyielding. When Uganda voted with Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council in March of this year, the message was clear that Uganda does not brook overt and for the most part undue influence in the internal affairs of fraternal countries, in the name of global oversight.

But, then, countries such as Museveni's and ours are also a sterling example of cooperation with the traditional big powers through what can be termed a policy of 'walking softly while carrying big stick' -- which of course was Roosevelt's prescription for the muscular United States, but traces to a West African proverb, closer to His Excellency Museveni's home ...!

The big sticks that are carried by the Ugandas and Sri Lankas of the world are not to be swung in naked aggression but are to be used deftly to fend off overt undue influence brought to bear sometimes on our countries, with ulterior motives. But we walk softly in the meanwhile even as we yield the defensive big stick, forging allies in the European Union, garnering investment from emerging friendly nations such as Hungary, and maintaining financial rock stability being on equal terms with the IMF, the Chinese, the Indians, what have you, that chip in to stabilize the Ship of State.

Lanka doesn’t love India less, or China more - Part II:

Asia, not a playground for other countries

This is augmented by some Sri Lankans who fight the Cold War from the opposite side as it were. In part because of their understandable anger with the West for its efforts to prevent the eradication of terrorism, they forget India’s support for our struggle, and lump both together, while promoting a polarization that exalts China as the principal trustworthy ally.

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The Human Dimension

Surfing Change

Change has often been cited as a buzz-word in today’s modern world. Be it in adapting to the speed of technology that is fast garnering acceptance in every sphere or changing our perceptions, change is cited as the main reason that will empower us in the future.

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Leadership re-invented

Change is in the air - in our economy, our nation, and our world. The use of technology, a desire for authentic community, and a hunger to communicate and live good lives are challenging the present leaders to rethink the way they lead.

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