About me.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding Managing Editor of The Independent, Uganda’s premier current affairs newsmagazine. One of Foreign Policy magazine 's top 100 Global Thinkers, TED Speaker and Foreign aid Critic

Monday, September 18, 2017

The false gospel of governance

How Africa’s obsession with ‘governance’ issues is too much ado over little or nothing

Let me articulate a heresy: the argument that Africa’s failure to prosper economically is fundamentally due to “governance” i.e. that our leaders are greedy, selfish, corrupt, dictatorial and power hungry is baloney. These ills may be morally repugnant but they do not automatically impede economic development.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Opening the Pandora’s Box

How the nullification of the presidential elections in Kenya has put that country on a slippery slope
The Kenya Supreme Court annulled the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta and ordered a re-run because the balloting and transmission of results did not conform to the laws and constitution. There are many legitimate and convincing reasons to support the court decision – the moral repugnance of the irregularities, the need to hold leaders accountable, and the valuing of constitutionalism and democracy. Yet I want to argue that the justices took a very risky decision for Kenya.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Museveni’s dilemma, Africa’s crisis

How the obsession with our internal weaknesses has obscured the international dimension of Africa’s problems

Now in his 32nd year as president, Yoweri Museveni faces a dilemma. Uganda is still a very poor rural agricultural economy in spite of having sustained an impressive rate of economic growth over 30 years. Museveni’s (and Africa’s) problem is excessive reliance on advice from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the main agents of multi national capital.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Trump’s mirror to America

How the U.S. president has exposed the hypocrisy of his nation’s media and academia

Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump did what he does best: hold a mirror to his country. And the American elite hate the image they see of themselves. So they have been pummeling him using all their powerful institutions of mass propaganda, calling him a white supremacist, a neo-Nazi, and a bigoted SOB – all of which is true.

Monday, August 21, 2017

A new Mulago arises

A new Mulago arises: The challenge the new hospital will face and what can be done to protect it from Uganda’s politics

Last week, I visited the new specialised maternal and neonatal center being constructed at Mulago Hospital. With a built up area of 24,000 square meters, ten floors tall and equipped with 450 hospital beds, it is going to be the largest specialised maternal and neonatal hospital in Africa. It is being built to handle such things as in-vitro fertilisation, embryo transfer, pelvic reconstruction, hysteroscope, etc. this will be one of the most advance hospitals on our continent. It will cost $24.4 million to construct, $7.8 million in equipment and another $1 million in training of its staff. The top floor has a presidential suite and eight executive suites for the rich to pay top dollar for the best medical service.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Kenya, Rwanda elections

Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officials make a sweep of electoral material August 7, 2017 at a holding centre in Kagio before their distribution to the polling stations a day before the Kenya general election.
KENYA, RWANDA: How voting in these two East African nations reflects our understanding of democracy

East Africa has recently witnessed two presidential elections – in Rwanda and in Kenya. The two nations are different. Rwanda is a small country with one ethnic group which shares a common language, culture, and a history of nationhood and statehood for the last 550 years. Kenya, on the other hand, is a recent creation of the British; a hotchpotch of tens of ethnic groups that had never formed one unified nation and state. Rwanda has been through military coups, civil war, and genocide. Kenya has been stable.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Defying the odds, defining oneself

African leaders Kagame, Museveni, Magufuli and Mugabe setting an African agenda, defying the odds.
How Africans have been mentally enslaved to hate everything about themselves and how Rwanda is defying it

“In these bloody days and frightful nights when the urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his own brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place.” Maya Angelou.
Brian Klaas, a fellow at the London School of Economics, perhaps did not know what he was getting himself into when he tweeted his Washington Post article, saying: “As the world focuses on Trump, African despots are violating term limits and badly overstaying their welcome.”

Why Kagame won 99%

Kagame during the campaigns. FILE PHOTO flickr/paulkagame

How Rwandans reacted to the west’s war against the symbol of their nation’s success

Last week, Paul Kagame won presidential elections in Rwanda by 98.6%. Historically, such margins have only been won in countries like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, which was under the tight grip of a tyrant. To many observers armed with this experience, the election in Rwanda and Kagame’s margin of victory does not have to be analyzed in its specificity. It is only explained by citing the experience of other nations. Therefore, to many commentators, Kagame’s margin of victory does not reflect anything unique and specific to his country. Instead it only confirms the prejudice that Rwanda today is the same as Sadam’s Iraq.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Hubris of The Economist

How this British newspaper ignores Rwanda’s context in its neocolonial desire to define that country

According to cc, a United Kingdom-based highly opinionated newsmagazine, President Paul runs a tight autocratic political system in Rwanda. The economist arrives at this conclusion entirely based on its reporter’s personal feelings spiced by anecdotal stories told him/her by some fringe of that country’s citizenry. It is always good to be rich and powerful because then you can comment on other people’s lives with the confidence of a priest.

Monday, July 24, 2017

BOU’s war with Sudhir

How the central bank’s handling of the problems of Crane Bank showed lack of imagination and strategy
I have always had high respect for Bank of Uganda (BOU) because of its management competences. Since the collapse of Uganda Commercial Bank in 1999, BOU has kept our banking industry stable hence its impressive and sustained growth. For instance, nonperforming loans as a percentage of total loans fell from 40% in 1995 to 5% in 2015. Since 1995, commercial bank assets have grown from Shs700 billion (Shs4 trillion in 2016 prices) to Shs24 trillion; deposits from Shs383 billion (Shs2.2 trillion in 2016 prices) to Shs16 trillion. All other indicators – profits, wages, branches, accounts, have grown exponentially over the same period.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Too much ado over nothing

Why Museveni is most likely going to succeed in amending the constitution to remove the age limit
Uganda is entering a major political battle that will show us the balance of political forces between President Yoweri Museveni and his opponents. A section of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) will push for the amendment of the constitution to remove the presidential age limit so that Museveni can run in 2021. Most of the leadership of the NRM are hostile to this proposed amendment but will acquiesce to it because the party has evolved in such a way that only those who do so survive politically.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Rethinking healthcare in Africa

Why attempts to provide too much too fast are the cause of corruption and institutionalised incompetence
Last week I moderated a World Health Organisation panel on providing universal healthcare in Africa. These ambitions assume that poor countries have the ability to deliver the set goals and what is missing is honest government and political will. The debate took place in Rwanda where a poor country has achieved universal medical insurance. I have come to believe that using Rwanda as a reference point is misleading because the conditions that have made it successful are rare to find and difficult to recreate. This article’s central message is that we need to unlearn assumptions that inform our policy prescriptions for poor countries.

Monday, July 3, 2017

The incongruence of the incongruence

A summary of the 2017-18 budget                                  
How Ugandans get angrier as government does the right thing when it comes to spending money
Two contradictory things are happening in Uganda. First, large sections of the public, especially the elite public, are angry, very angry with government. They accuse it of ruling without leading and stealing without serving.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Inside Rwanda’s politics of unity

Why other political parties in Rwanda have endorsed the candidacy of Paul Kagame

The government of Rwanda has been working with a concept called “Ndi’omunyarwanda” i.e. I am a Munyarwanda. It seeks to facilitate people to see themselves as Rwandans, not as Hutus or Tutsis. Some Rwandans grew up in circumstances where their entire family was killed and often the killers now live with them in the same village. Others are from families that killed. The children from these families grew up taking food to their parents in jail. This becomes a stigma. People tell them: “so you are the son of this man who killed my family.” For many the shame and guilty are heavy to bear.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Behind the 2017/18 budget

Museveni delivers the SOTN address ahead of the budget
How money is an important a political resource that allows Museveni to manage power

Last week, the government presented the national 2017/18 budget totalling Shs24 trillion in spending. For many commentators on the Ugandan traditional and social media scene, the budget is as an economic issue.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The future of liberty in Africa

Why we need to recognise the breadth of emerging liberties even as we doubt their depth

I want to argue that liberty is taking root in Africa.  Not as fast as we would like. But this should not discourage us. Liberalism grows slowly, at an evolutionary pace. It is tyranny that grows faster, at a revolutionary pace. It is quick and easy to build a dictatorship because this requires the single-minded actions of an individual or small group commanding an all-powerful state. But it is hard and slow to build a liberal democracy because this requires the development of a set of traditions of fairness and justice within society over time.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Jacob Zuma tragedy

How one man has brought South Africa’s democracy and Mandela’s “miracle” from honour to shame!

Last week I was in South Africa and listened to the disaster that blind faith in democracy can deliver to a country in form of bad leadership. President Jacob Zuma and his confederates have indulged in forms of theft and brigandage that expose the myth of the miracle Nelson Mandela is acclaimed to have delivered to that country. Friends in that nation’s intellectual and business community told me horror tales of mismanagement and corruption that make even Mobutu Sese Seko’s former Zaire face competition as the archetype of a predatory state.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Kayihura remains IGP

His contract was renewed because his enemies inside the government underestimate him while the opposition demonise him

Parliament last week approved President Yoweri Museveni’s reappointment of Gen. Kale Kayihura as Inspector General of Police (IGP). With 12 years at the helm, Kayihura is now the longest serving IGP in Uganda’s history and equally the most controversial. This is unprecedented. No one has held such a sensitive job while exercising the amount of power Kayihura does for a long period under Museveni. He has achieved this is in spite of (and also because of) having many enemies in the system and criticism from the opposition and media.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

BYANYIMA: A giant retires

Muzei Byanyima. FILE PHOTO VIA @winnie_byanyima
What Uganda’s current and future politicians can learn from the life and character of Mzee Byanyima

Although I knew he was old (at 96) and was aware of his declining health I was still shocked when I heard the news of the death of Mzee Boniface Byanyima. I have since been trying to frame my impressions of this giant of a man. I knew him very well. I used to visit him at his home in Ruti, Mbarara, sometimes spending Christmas or Easter holidays there. At other times I would be driving through Mbarara and pass by him at his home, even spend a night to talk and listen to his wisdom and experience.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The logic of Besigye’s claims

What psychology tells us about FDC’s claims to have won last year’s presidential election

This column is a logical thought experiment. Recently, opposition presidential candidate, Dr. Kizza Besigye, claimed on a television show that he won the last presidential elections and that he has evidence to prove it. This was a very vital revelation, which Besigye has actually made many times in the past. I was surprised the moderator did not ask him to table his evidence.

Monday, May 8, 2017

On Museveni and Stella Nyanzi

How the detention and trial of a Makerere academic exposes the moral bankruptcy of Uganda’s elites

Dr. Stella Nyanzi, an academic at Makerere University, has been jailed for using foul language to criticise President Yoweri Museveni and his wife, Janet. It is permissible to call the president a dictator or corrupt. I find it morally reprehensible for Nyanzi to refer to their sexual organs in a vulgar way to express her frustration with their power though I disagree that such language should be criminalised. Mrs Museveni responded to Nyanzi’s insults with grace and dignity. Instead of seeing this as an opportunity for a policy debate, Nyanzi used (and abused) it to hurl even worse sexually lurid insults at her.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Uganda’s declining growth

Why we need to think of how to develop national capacity to manage our economy

Uganda is going through the worst economic performance since 1987 when the government of President Yoweri Museveni began liberal economic reform. In the first quarter of this financial year, the economy contracted by 0.1%; the second quarter it grew by 0.8%, far below projected growth of 5.5%. Given a population growth rate of 3.12%, per capita income has contracted by 2.3% between July and December, the reason The Independent last week reported that Ugandans have grown poorer.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The problem with term limits

As Sierra Leone’s president seeks to amend the constitution and extend his presidency, it is time for Africa to pause and reflect
The president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, wants to amend the constitution and remove term limits on the presidency. Koroma is not the first and will not be the last president of an African country to attempt this. Many others have done it with success while a few have failed. Yet each time a country attempts to remove term limits, we have a standard explanation: the leader is greedy for power. Since the 1990s, we have regurgitated this explanation, reducing a social issue to the character of an individual.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

On Museveni-Besigye talks

How the opposition leader has blundered on the chance to promote his political project – if he has any

Media reports have recently indicated there are attempts to organise talks between the government and the opposition. For such talks to be meaningful, they have to involve President Yoweri Museveni and his main rival, Dr. Kizza Besigye. Even before anything tangible could materialise, however, Besigye was already bragging that “the dictatorship” is weak and has, therefore, approached him and his people “begging” for talks. The government, meanwhile, was denying involvement in any talks.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Manufacturing still matters

Why very few poor countries will escape poverty by taking gigantic leaps into the service industry

Two weeks ago, I had a disagreement with the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, at a conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Kim had argued that increasing automation and use of robots is taking away jobs. He showed a slide of numbers of jobs at risk of being lost due to automation by country – China 77%, India 69%, Nigeria 65%, Ethiopia 85%, South Africa 67%, USA 47%, Argentina 65% and Thailand 72%.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Africa through North Korean eyes

Why this communist state, with per capita income like ours, manufactures nuclear weapons and satellites while we can’t
Last week the U.S. announced its intelligence showed North Korea was planning to test another nuclear weapon. If it does, it will be the sixth nuclear test by this poor isolated nation.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Why Museveni will rule for life

How, barring a major surprise, the current power structure in Uganda makes lifting presidential age limit inevitable

Those debating the succession issue in Uganda should refer to Rome in 44BC. Rome had been a republic since 509BC when the patricians rose in revolt and deposed King Tarquinius Superbus. For nearly five centuries monarchy was taboo in Rome. Whenever anyone exhibited signs of strong leadership, critics would, to discredit him, accuse him of trying to make himself king.

Why Museveni will rule for life

How, barring a major surprise, the current power structure in Uganda makes lifting presidential age limit inevitable
Those debating the succession issue in Uganda should refer to Rome in 44BC. Rome had been a republic since 509BC when the patricians rose in revolt and deposed King Tarquinius Superbus. For nearly five centuries monarchy was taboo in Rome. Whenever anyone exhibited signs of strong leadership, critics would, to discredit him, accuse him of trying to make himself king.
On March 15 that year, senatorial conspirators of the Roman Republic led by Marcus Brutus assassinated Julius Caesar a powerful general and politician accusing him of trying to make himself king.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Rethinking Africa’s development

Why our intellectual elites need to begin an entirely new conversation about our nations

African intellectual elites exhibit a conceptual contradiction. When economic performance is poor they argue that the major source of the problem is bad leadership. And when they talk of leadership, our intellectual elites often mean one person – the president. Their argument implies that they believe the destiny of our nations can be shaped by the actions of a single man or woman. This is the “great hero of history” thesis as championed by the Scottish philosopher, Thomas Carlyle. It actually calls for strong man rule, unrestrained by either institutions or other societal forces. This is a call to tyranny.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trump’s war with the press

How the new US president is bursting the Washington bubble and annoying the nation’s hypocrites

For many decades, American journalists have deluded themselves into the belief that they are unelected representatives of the people. They are convinced that their profession places them above politics as impartial, altruistic, compassionate and moral human beings – with the responsibility to hold elected officials to account. The politicians accept this media self-aggrandizement and play (and prey) on it. They massage the journalists’ inflated egos, giving them access. Yet in many ways the politicians control these journalists and shape their career trajectories.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Uganda’s real oil curse

How our overblown expectations of what oil is going to do for our country are likely to cause trouble

I had always thought about the “oil curse” in terms of the “Dutch Disease” and the adverse incentives it creates that foster corruption in politics. The Dutch Disease refers to the tendency of oil revenue windfalls to kill other productive sectors of the economy. This happens when oil revenues lead to the appreciation in the value of the national currency thereby making a country’s other exports less competitive.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Uganda’s agricultural crisis

How politics, not the drought, explains the current famine our country is experiencing 

According a report by the government of Uganda last week nearly 11 million people in this country do not have enough food to eat. I have concerns with the way the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) calculates growth in agriculture. I also have queries on how they ask people the meals they have in a day. I will return to these concerns later in this article.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Why are Ugandans so angry?

How economic success has tended to create more political trouble for Museveni than comfort

Very many Ugandans are angry, very angry. They feel the country has lost direction. They argue that our politics is corrupted, our democracy in retreat, and elections are rigged. They say the economy is not growing, poverty is increasing, inequality is widening, and state capacity to deliver public goods and services has been grossly eroded. Yet the opposite is the case on almost all these issues. Uganda is more democratic today than ever before and elections are increasingly freer and fairer. The country is making massive and unprecedented investments in infrastructure that will give it future productivity gains. Yet when you cite evidence of all these, critics retort that the numbers are cooked.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Unmasking TVO

An investigation reveals who really is behind Facebook character

How do you track a character who is hell-bent on hiding their identity on the online social networking service, Facebook? That is the task several individuals and intelligence institutions in Uganda have sought to answer as they sought to unmask a Facebook character called Tom Voltaire Okwalinga (TVO). Pseudo names associated with this character include Maverick Blutaski, General Shaka, Rtd Gen. Maverick, and Poliko. The only real person name associated with the character is a 41-year old man called Shaka Robert Kananura.

Uganda is stuck with Museveni because the opposition is stuck with Besigye

Given the high growth of visits to my page during the this festive season, I will be posting daily briefs on the crisis of the opposition in Uganda which I want to blame largely on Dr. Kizza Besigye. Indeed Uganda is stuck with President Yoweri Museveni in large part because the opposition is stuck with Besigye. Why is this so?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Why are Ugandans so angry?

How economic success has tended to create more political trouble for Museveni than comfort

Very many Ugandans are angry, very angry. They feel the country has lost direction. They argue that our politics is corrupted, our democracy in retreat, and elections are rigged. They say the economy is not growing, poverty is increasing, inequality is widening, and state capacity to deliver public goods and services has been grossly eroded. Yet the opposite is the case on almost all these issues. Uganda is more democratic today than ever before and elections are increasingly freer and fairer. The country is making massive and unprecedented investments in infrastructure that will give it future productivity gains. Yet when you cite evidence of all these, critics retort that the numbers are cooked.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Why I love Donald Trump

The new U.S president is a breath of fresh air into a political atmosphere polluted by liberal lies and hypocrisy

Over the last two weeks, the mass media in America and the Western world has been pounding President Donald Trump for imposing a travel ban on people traveling from seven Muslim majority countries. They project Trump as a racist violating “Western values.” Yet Trump’s actions are the logical (and inevitable) culmination of a protracted campaign by Western opinion leaders (liberal and conservative) propagating a false and dangerous narrative that demonises Muslims and criminalises black and brown people.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The trouble with Besigye’s radicals

Something must be wrong, totally wrong with Besigye faction of FDC radicals. Either they are few on the ground but noisy on social media. In which case M7 can afford to ignore them.
Or they are many but lack both strategy and leadership to convert their strength into ability to gain power. In which case they need a new leader from Besigye.

Museveni and Besigye, birds of a feather that fly apart

During this festive season visits to my fb page hit a record high. Two subjects were of great interest; one raised by me, that to discuss the future of Uganda, we need to discuss the leadership of the opposition in Uganda especially the role of Dr. Kizza Besigye.

The FDC responded saying that the most important issue for national debate on the future of our country is my sexuality; whether I sleep with boys or girls or both. I had called this section of fanatics mentally retarded. Their position on the future of our country has caused me to change my mind. I think they are the Albert Einsteins of our continent.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Museveni freedom fighter talk

Why Museveni said he is not a servant of anyone and who may have been the target of his statement

On the occasion marking 31 years in power, President Yoweri Museveni told the nation that he is not a servant of the people but a freedom fighter who works for himself and his beliefs. This let loose the dogs of social media war. But the debate focused on the message and the messenger but not the purpose. It seems to me Museveni intended his message as presented. We can speculate about whom (or even what) he had in mind when he made that statement. But it shows the dangers of speaking off script especially when the target of your message is not your audience.

Monday, January 30, 2017

In defense of oil cash bonanza

Why it was morally right to reward public officials for winning Shs1.6 trillion worth of government revenues

“It is not easy to stand apart from mass hysteria, to argue against something that everyone, especially the most respected political leaders, academics, and experts are saying and instead argue that they are mistaken or deluded.” Leo Tolstoy, 1897.

Monday, January 23, 2017

End of a global nightmare

Why Trump may be a breath of fresh air into the global atmosphere that had been polluted by Obama’s megalomania

Finally the nightmare called the presidency of Barack Obama that the world (but most especially America) has endured over the last eight years comes to an end. This self-inflated and self-styled “black man” imagined himself to straddle the globe like a colossus. He deluded himself into the belief that he was a man of boundless importance. He convinced himself that he alone understood the problems of the world and was singularly qualified to solve them.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Economic growth Vs development

Don’t judge Uganda by where it is but by the speed at which it is growing 

I have been arguing that Uganda’s economy has been growing at an impressive rate over the last 30 years. Many readers have written to me saying that although we are growing economically, we are not developing. This shows a misunderstanding of the relationship between growth and development. Economic growth refers to a quantitative increase in the goods and services produced within an economy in a given period of time. Development is a qualitative increase in the same.

Monday, January 9, 2017

ECOMOG’s Gambian gamble

The likely dangers of the Western African states’ attempts to impose a solution on The Gambia

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to send a military force (ECOMOG) into The Gambia apparently to achieve three interrelated objectives: first to “protect” the president-elect, Adama Barrow; second to uphold the presidential elections results that President Yahya Jammeh has cancelled; third to ensure that Barrow is sworn in as president. This is a big gamble that is likely to cause more problems than it seeks to solve.

Kizza Besigye’s biggest mistake

And how it is killing opposition to Museveni

On Feb.2, Kizza Besigye, the former Presidential flag bearer for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), called the press to announce a new pressure group he is calling the People’s Government Network.
Besigye called on supporters to be representatives of the network in their communities and help build pressure against President Yoweri Museveni’s government.