IT'S TIME FOR MUSEVENI -
TIME FOR AFRICA
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
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.