The unmanned bus

Kizza Besigye was today arrested again, this time even more brutally than the last.

Many claim that Museveni has now lost it — this is the kind of brutality not seen since the days of Amin. But back then, such things were whispers in the dark, rumors you hoped weren’t all true. Today they are broadcast far and wide for all to see.

But if the state (read: Museveni) appears in disarray, so too does the movement opposing it. Anger, not vision, drives people to the streets. Not one Uganda, one people, but one Besigye who has been brutalized. The campaign is still more anti-Museveni than pro-anything.

As Andrew Mwenda says, Uganda is barreling down a highway, facing four exits: Exit Saudi Arabia, where protests go to die, Exit Yemen where stalemate prevails, Exit Egypt with transformative revolution, and Exit Libya, where civil war reigns.

The problem is that this bus is unmanned, and traveling at high speeds. Which exit will Uganda take? Ordinarily one could try to predict the outcome by the relative organization of either side — Museveni or Besigye/opposition. But disorder and chaos abound on both sides. Thus, the outcome is to a large extent vulnerable to random chance. An accidental gunshot, a careless arrest, a viral video. All these can send the unmanned bus veering off wildly. Who will grab the wheel then?

Voter turnout and support for Museveni

I’ve been looking at the 2011 Ugandan presidential election data on voter turnout and support for Museveni by district. The trends mirror those in the 2001 and 2006, which I reported on in the Independent, and which Elliot Green also examined in his post-election blog post.

Voter turnout appears to be higher in districts that have greater support for Museveni. This relationship appears robust across the past three elections and even within regions. The question, of course, is what explains this trend? Is it that NRM is better at getting out the vote in it’s strongholds? There is more rigging going on in NRM strongholds? Opposition is apathetic and feels their vote won’t matter, so they stay home on polling day? Other ideas? I’m currently brainstorming ways to test these explanations, which are not mutually exclusive. Any and all ideas welcome.

from the campaign trail

Above: Incumbent MP and minister of defense Amama Mbabazi in Kunungu District, Western Uganda

Above: Campaign Posters in Masaka Town, Central Uganda

Above: Besigye arrives in Kanungu

Above: Besigye addresses his supporters in Kanungu

Above: Museveni’s rally in Lwengo, Central Uganda on February 10, 2011

On the campaign trail: Masaka, Uganda

I traveled through central and western Uganda with Andrew Mwenda last week/weekend. Some video I took from the trip is posted on the Independent website under the video tab (right side of the page) but I will also be embedding them here. The first, below, is Andrew’s analysis after attending Museveni’s rally in Masaka.

Uganda Election 2011: 8 days to go

I’m in Masaka today, a small town 2 hours southwest of Kampala,  following President Museveni’s campaign. This is a small and quiet town, but from the hotel in town I can hear a lot of hooting and shouting — it’s possible Museveni’s convoy has just arrived. He has won this central region district in past elections, winning about 64% of the vote in 2001 and 59% in 2006. The urban areas, namely Masaka Municipality, tend to vote for Kizza Besigye, the main opposition candidate for the past three elections. But the rural areas are pro-Museveni.

In all likelihood Museveni will win again here, and win big.

More soon….

Goodluck on Friday the 13th

It seems Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has some good luck on this Friday the 13th — he will be allowed to contest in the January 2011 presidential elections. BBC reports that he has not yet announced whether he will indeed run for president, but I for one would be shocked if he did not. After all, wouldn’t you if you had just bought 3 new jets? I somehow can’t shake my skepticism of leaders who wear the same head attire everyday. From Mobutu to Museveni to Goodluck, why can’t these guys part with their headgear?

President (re)elect Paul Kagame

Preliminary election results announced by Rwanda’s National Electoral Commission put Kagame’s win at about 92.9% of the vote, followed by Dr. Damascene Ntawukuriryayo (PSD) with 4.9%, Prosper Higiro (PL) with 1.5% and Dr. Alvera Mukabaramba with 0.7%. In the diaspora, he won nearly 97% of the vote, reports the New Times today.

This result was entirely anticipated by all, but I’m sure Kagame is happy to have the election behind him nonetheless. After serving his second seven year term, the next presidential election will be held in 2017. There is much speculation as to whether he will go the way of Museveni and others in massaging the constitution to accommodate for an extended state house stay. I do not think he will. In a recent Economist article, Kagame was quoted as saying, “I would be very happy for a woman to succeed me,” — and I think he means it. I can definitely see a female president (not, however, Ingabire) in Rwanda’s future.

For more on this, live and from the president (re)elect himself, tune in to 89.7 Contact FM tonight at 7pm, where President Kagame is scheduled to be the guest tonight, hosted by  journalist Andrew Mwenda of Uganda’s Independent magazine.

Touching a raw nerve

In yesterday’s Sunday Monitor Angelo Izama wrote of widespread concern regarding the potential for electoral violence leading up to the 2011 Uganda national elections. He writes:

“In several interviews including with donor sources Sunday Monitor has confirmed that there are serious concerns about the militarisation of Ugandan society ahead of the next elections. In particular, are the military training course tailored for village level officials allied to the NRM and the issuing of military fatigues and guns to them.”

But exposing the campaign of militarisation of NRM supporters, or “election watchers”, clearly touched a raw nerve in Museveni who immediately phoned the Monitor protesting the article and spoke out publicly in Gulu, saying:

“These people of Monitor, I am going to deal with them if they don’t change their ways,” Mr Museveni later said yesterday afternoon in Gulu while officiating at the consecration of Rt. Rev. Johnson Gakumba as the seventh bishop of the Northern Uganda Anglican Diocese. “They want to scare away investors by such reporting,” Mr Museveni said.

Militarisation of the public + media crackdown = bumpy road ahead. Still, it’s not too late to prevent election violence. And it begins with exposing raw nerves.

Johnnie Carson is Obama’s Pick for Asst. Secretary for African Affairs


“President Obama’s nomination of Johnnie Carson to be Assistant Secretary for African Affairs is a strong choice. Carson is an accomplished career foreign service officer with an excellent track record on African issues spanning many decades and a range of positions. Carson has a deep understanding of our diplomatic capacities and the importance of regular interagency collaboration. I look forward to considering his nomination and hearing how he and the administration plan to address the many challenges we face on the African continent.”

Says U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommitee on African Affairs. Ambassador Carson worked in the Foreign Service for 37 years (serving in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Portugal, Botswana, Mozambique and Nigeria) before joining the National Intelligence Council, serving as officer for Africa. See his complete bio here.

I understand he has been less than chummy with Museveni, criticising, among other things, his running for a third presidential term. What will Carson mean for Uganda? For Africa?

“Whether there are new ways for Museveni to re-invent himself and his government in the eyes of an Obama administration will now be seen,” says analyst Angelo Izama in a November 2008 article in the Daily Monitor. “President Museveni’s appeal is waning. On the eve of the last election, senior US Africa policy heads, including Johnnie Carson noted that Uganda is a success story gone bad.”

Museveni has allowed the potholes of his regime to grow wider and deeper in recent years, and now he is in for a bumpy ride.

Why M7 Overestimates Himself

Ok, I don’t understand Museveni’s psychology enough to take a legitimate stab at why he seems to overestimate his own abilities. But a recent article in TIME (by the way, did you know that TIME is an acronym? “The International Magazine of Events”) discussed precisely this issue — namely, why people in powerful positions (from Obama to Putin to M7) tend to overestimate their own capacity.

The article discusses a new study by two Stanford researchers published in Psychological Science. Authors note, “By producing an illusion of personal control, power may cause people to lose touch with reality in ways that lead to overconfident decision-making.”

How does M7 measure up?
Personal control. Check. Losing touch with reality. Check. Overconfident decision-making. Check…

M7 was until recent years hailed the “new breed of African leader.” Just months after coming to power in 1986 he announced, “The main cause of Africa’s crisis is leaders who do not want to leave power. There is no reason why anyone should be president for more than ten years.” And yet here we are, in 2009, with two years until the next presidential election, and his fourth term is already inevitable in the eyes of many. So what happened? Was his personalisation of power inevitable? (see last week’s article in The Independent, “Family Rule in Uganda” , for more info on the subject)

I don’t think an experiment with Stanford students rolling dice can provide any definitive answers to these questions. Nevertheless, I find valuable research on the psychology of power, and why some leaders take their countries to moon while others drive them into the ground. I tend to think that individual agency plays a large role…but of course this is a subject of great debate. Does a leader shape society more than society shapes a leader?