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Friday, 15 November 2013

Andrew Mwenda’s atheistic big bang solution to the D.R.Congo makes it to the New York times…Why? The USA loves intellectuals who can make obscurantist analyses that disguise their evil skirmishes in DR.Congo. They love Intellectuals like Mwenda that have the ‘skill’ to portray the D.R Congo Confusion as an essentially domestic one.


My comment
Andrew Mwenda is a typical neo-liberal intellectual hypocrite. For example he has propelled  a gullible  view that, ‘’Most people I have met trust the UN `experts’ and international media when they claim that Rwanda and, most recently, Uganda, are the ones supplying arms, ammunition and soldiers to the rebel movement…. Their claims of heavy weapons shipments from Rwanda are naive. If Rwanda moved weapons across the border, even amidst the darkest night, American satellites in space would get clear pictures of it.’’ This fallacious  view is based on the false assumption that the USA is a holy big brother and  neutral player in the DR Congo conflict. An  honest  intellectual should know that Rwanda and Uganda are client states of the  USA and the their armies are proxy armies that  USA  is using in its neo-liberal imperialist agenda. It is naïve and idiotic to think that the USA would spy on its proxy Rwanda.  Every dirty that Rwanda is doing in the DR Congo has the full backing of the USA and the USA wants confusion to continue in DR Congo because this facilities the primitive accumulation of resources from the DRC .

Andrew Mwenda has also shown how heartless and atheistic he is by  arguing   that,  ‘’The best way to save DRC is to let it burn. From the ashes of catastrophe lies the chance for a solution’’. In other words, the killing of innocent people, the raping of women, the defiling of children, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and heinous human rights violations should be allowed in D.R.Congo as best way to create order and good governance in the D. R. Congo of the future. This sounds typically atheistic i.e order comes out of chaos just as the world came out of a big bang. Haaa…Haaa… Woooo….Woooo!!!!


Andrew Mwenda’s order by Chaos thesis  is further  solidified  in his opining that  ,  ‘’To solve the problems of Congo, the United Nations and other African countries may need to allow the belligerents to fight until one secures a decisive military victory or all sides get exhausted by war and find working together more attractive than further fighting’’. This view is also based on the flawed assumption that the fighting of the belligerents in the Congo has no western or American dialectic or catalysts. The truth is that America and her client western allies have a neo-liberal capitalistic system that primitively accumulates  resources  through disorder and chaos. This satanic system has nothing to do with human rights and good governance. Therefore Andrew Mwenda’s domestic thesis that the problem of the D.R Congo is a domestic one and should be given a domestic solution is a fiction.

The confusing world of Andrew Mwenda 

Some times he appears  to be right on point in his analysis
During his 2008 campaign, Obama gave three speeches where he denounced Museveni for stifling democracy and promoting corruption. Shivers went down the spines of many at State House in Entebbe. Yet this week, Museveni travels to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings from whence he will go to Washington DC for meetings at the Pentagon, State Department and later meet Obama at the White House. He will be feted and treated as a prince by US leaders. America will announce doubling its military assistance to Uganda – including giving lethal military assistance. What happened to Obama of 2008? America’s geostrategic interests in our region, and Museveni’s pivotal role in them, demand that the American president pampers his Ugandan counterpart. The rest was election idealism. Obama has just matured in office as Museveni did. Both now appreciate reality with the humility of experience. Welcome to the real world. (http://independent.co.ug/andrewmwenda/?p=571)

Other times he turns out to be a confused confuser

This set the country on a trajectory of entirely new politics that has set it apart from the rest of Africa. This factor, in the eyes of some, tends to reinforce the view that Kagame runs an authoritarian state, a criticism that is partly true. However, the “authoritarian” aspects of the government are necessary to liberate the state from capture by a few elites so that it can serve ordinary people. (http://independent.co.ug/andrewmwenda/?p=576 )

Don’t Save Congo

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/12/opinion/dont-save-congo.html?_r=0#h

By ANDREW M. MWENDA
Published: November 11, 2013
Kampala, Uganda — Last week, the Congolese Army defeated the rebel group, M23, with the help of United Nations forces and Tanzanian and South African troops.

Many observers seem to believe that this victory promises to bring an end to the intractable conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Yet foreign intervention to help President Joseph Kabila secure a military victory against his opponents is treating the symptom but not the disease that ails Congo.

The M23 is a manifestation of a deeper crisis. The Congolese government lacks the rudimentary security and administrative infrastructure to ensure law and order, let alone providing public goods and services like roads, schools, hospitals, electricity and water. Its army is undisciplined, poorly trained and poorly paid (when it gets paid).

All too often, the army survives by scavenging on ordinary citizens whom it frequently loots, terrorizes and rapes. This creates incentives for rebellion against the government.

Worse still, most of Congolese society is polarized along ethnic lines. Without a viable state to mediate these conflicts or protect one community from attacks by another, Congolese civilians often form ethnic militias to defend their specific interests. Although the United Nations, human rights organizations and the media have focused on M23 (perhaps because it was the strongest) there are over 40 rebel movements in Congo, each fighting the central government or holding precariously to an uneasy peace.

These political divisions are accentuated by the natural endowments of the Congo. The eastern region, for example, is heavily forested, mountainous and endowed with rich minerals like gold, tantalite and diamonds. These physical conditions create opportunities for violent rebellion; forests offer sanctuary to rebels; the mountains make it difficult for Congo’s corrupt and incompetent army to use mechanized vehicles to attack their camps while rich minerals provide revenues to sustain the rebellion.

The state in Congo is mostly absent. And where it is present, it is rapacious and repressive. Hence, most Congolese citizens prefer to either fight or avoid the government. The United Nations intervention will not resolve the issues that make violent rebellion attractive for many Congolese citizens. The United Nations has simply taken one side in the conflict. And this is likely to accentuate rather than ease existing tensions.

Defeating M23 might provide the Congolese government with a temporary reprieve from its most formidable opponent. But a viable solution won’t come from outside actors. It will have to come because incentives force elites in Kinshasa to build a more effective state that can defend the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The best incentive is a threat — and it has to be an existential threat.

If Mr. Kabila and his ruling allies in Kinshasa knew that they have to defeat rebel groups or otherwise face losing power or territory, that would be a powerful incentive on them to develop a state worthy of its name — one that can exercise a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence.

The only way to achieve this is to build an effective military and police force to ensure order and security across the country. This is unlikely to happen when the international community subsidizes Mr. Kabila’s incompetence and fights his wars.

In defeating M23 and establishing a semblance of peace, the international community has achieved a short-term humanitarian objective — an end to one rebellion. But it is a partial victory at best. It won’t end the myriad other rebellions raging across the country. And it hasn’t given Congolese elites any incentive to build a more robust state that defends its citizens against violent insurgents or seek political accommodation with them.

The defeat of M23 has created an artificial winner and an artificial loser. Mr. Kabila knows he has won because of external intervention. Fighters from M23 know they lost for a similar reason. In the future, Mr. Kabila will likely always seek to lean on his external benefactors to resolve internal conflicts. That, in turn, will make M23 and other groups wait for Mr. Kabila’s external benefactors to leave so that they can relaunch their rebellions.

Foreign intervention is helping Congolese leaders in Kinshasa look outside for a solution to a problem that can only be solved by internal political reform. It is liberating Mr. Kabila and his government from the necessary internal military and political bargains that can secure a lasting peace. And so Congo will remain a fragile state.

The most likely outcome will be to force the international community to continue babysitting the government in Kinshasa in the naïve hope that it will be able to defend itself against its internal competitors in the future. But as the experience of South Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan show, this is likely to become an open-ended commitment.

To solve the problems of Congo, the United Nations and other African countries may need to allow the belligerents to fight until one secures a decisive military victory or all sides get exhausted by war and find working together more attractive than further fighting.

Anyone with capacity to organize an army, mobilize resources and pacify the country should be given a chance to prove this on the battlefield. If no one can secure a military victory, they may then seek political accommodation. Indeed, this is the path Mr. Kabila had begun in 2009, when he co-opted various belligerents into the political process, thus turning enemies into strategic allies.

It could happen again, but not if the international community fights his wars for him.

Andrew M. Mwenda is the founding managing editor of The Independent, a Ugandan news magazine. 

 

Corporate thieving in the DR Congo, Banro Gold fields

Also read:

How to save Congo from the UN

http://www.independent.co.ug/the-last-word/the-last-word/6939?task=view

Journalists who have been trained and paid to defend US proxies: Seeing through the hypocrisy of American New world order neo-liberal elites: Andrew Mwenda and his simplistic analysis of the DR Congo Crisis: Andrew Mwenda’s hypocritical defence of Dictator Paul Kagame.

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2012/12/seeing-through-hypocrisy-of-american.html  

Asad Ismi , The Western Heart of Darkness: Mineral-rich Congo ravaged by genocide and Western plunder


The curse of neo-liberal elitism : When American gloomed neo-liberal elites make obscurantist analyses aimed at disguising western and American tentacles to the DR Congo Conflict: According to athesit Andrew Mwenda, To solve the problems of Congo, the United Nations and other African countries may need to allow the belligerents to fight until one secures a decisive military victory

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-curse-of-neo-liberal-elitism-when.html

End of the M23 Era but no end yet to USA and her clients’ looting of Congo resources : Kabila Congratulates Congo Army for Defeating M23 Rebels: FARDC captured Ugandan and Rwandan Nationals fighting alongside M23 Rebels

http://watchmanafrica.blogspot.com/2013/10/end-of-m23-era-but-no-end-yet-to-usa.html


Asad Ismi , The Ravaging of Africa, Western neo-colonialism fuels wars, plundering of resources


CHRISTIANS IN AFRICA: AWAKE! America and the American Church Are Not Your Friends

http://www.antipasministries.com/html/file0000234.htm

THE THIRD WORLD AS A MODEL FOR THE NEW WORLD ORDER

http://www.antipasministries.com/html/file0000156.htm

 

Inside Obama’s vision of Museveni

http://independent.co.ug/andrewmwenda/?p=571

by Andrew Mwenda

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How the US president has swallowed his idealism and transformed from a critic of his Ugandan counterpart into an ally

Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States in 2008 was a moment of great hope. It is difficult to recapture the emotional tone of that moment. But, to use the words Robert Bates used on Africa’s independence, “the depth of it, the fullness of it and the promise it offered” left its mark on all those who followed his campaign up to his inauguration.

It was presented as a new dawn, a rebirth. In Africa, our chattering class saw in Obama a savior to liberate them from local dictatorships and their corruption.

Obama projected himself as a messiah sent by providence to liberate the world from the Bush-Cheney “axis of evil”. He denounced George Bush and demonised Dick Cheney. He promised to rebuild the economy at home and improve America’s standing abroad.

He said the things the Bush administration had done in pursuit of the war on terror – detention without trial, torture, foreign bombings and occupations, surveillance of people abroad and citizens at home, the Patriot Act, the horrors of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib – all went against the grist of American values and decency. 

 

So the first thing Obama did upon entering the oval office was to sign an executive order closing Guantanamo Bay. He then promised transparency in government activities especially in allocation of projects and the war on terror, declared that he was going to repair America’s relations with Russia, extend an open hand to Iran (both of which, he claimed, Bush had mishandled), reconstruct the ties with Europe, improve relations with the Arab and Muslim world and rebuild confidence in the image of America as the world’s savior.

At home, he promised to rebuild roads and bridges, end the corruption and privileges of Washington DC, promote transparency in government spending, curb political patronage (Americans call it “pork-barrel” politics), push through healthcare reform, invest in renewable energy, finance improved education, cut military spending and end occupations abroad. He initiated the largest state-financed recovery – pouring over $800 billion into the economy.

For many people in America and the world, the hopes Obama built have given way to disillusionment. In spite of his rhetoric, Obama has failed to stimulate serious economic recovery at home or improve America’s standing abroad. Instead, the man whom Colin Powell, perhaps in a moment of unguarded optimism, suggested would become a “transformational figure,” has turned out to be a transactional president, a mundane tactician.

He has not closed Guantanamo. He has not ended illegal imprisonment and torture. He has not stopped foreign bombings. In his first year, he threw more bombs against defenseless Afghan, Pakistani and Yemeni civilians than Bush did in eight years. He has intensified security surveillance of people abroad and citizens at home.

He has not cut the defense budget. He has not improved relations with Russia, they have become worse. He has achieved nothing with Iran. He passed a watered down healthcare legislation.

Instead, Obama has presided over growing governmental corruption and incompetence. Funds allocated to finance research and investment in renewable energy went to companies owned by his former campaign managers and financiers.

The number of non-authorised surveillance of Americans has sky-rocketed, a sign of limited transparency in pursuit of a “war on terror.” In short, Obama has failed in almost every big and small initiative he has undertaken.
I wrote in my column during his 2008 campaign that Obama’s idealism was going to confront American reality. I think there is little in Obama’s personality, values, personal managerial and leadership competences to explain his failures.

It has a lot to do with the animal called the United States of America. A US president, however well intentioned, cannot change the way the system works. Rather than change the system, they bend to its rules.

Obama’s predicament reminded me of a conversation I had last week, over tea, with a top NRM politician and close confidant of President Yoweri Museveni. He told me of how, in 1986, Museveni/NRM thought enthusiastically that by 1990, they would have put in place the necessary mechanisms for Uganda to transition to democracy.

They would then handover power and go home. Wow!! This was the naivety with which our revolutionaries came to Kampala. But it was not going to last, reality checked them.

It is coming close to 30 years and there is not much of a fundamental change that Museveni has brought. I am not saying there has been no change under Museveni. There has been; but it has been change of a slow and incremental nature, not rapid transformational change that he and his allies envisaged.

On the contrary, on almost every issue where Museveni criticised Milton Obote (corruption, tribalism, militarism, dictatorial tendencies, East African integration, cronyism, etc), he has performed worse or the same and rarely better than the man from Lango. What happened?

Like Obama, Museveni’s idealism met Uganda’s reality. Where he said he would leave power in four years, Museveni has clung onto it for 27 and counting. Where he denounced corruption, it has become the bedrock of his presidency.

Where he scorned militarism, he has survived because of it. And where he criticised tribalism, he can be accused of descending to sub tribe and family. Yet today I am inclined to be more sympathetic to Museveni (or Obama) than I would have been a decade ago, recognising that he is a mere cog in the wheel of history where he thought he was the wheel itself.

During his 2008 campaign, Obama gave three speeches where he denounced Museveni for stifling democracy and promoting corruption. Shivers went down the spines of many at State House in Entebbe.

Yet this week, Museveni travels to New York for the United Nations General Assembly meetings from whence he will go to Washington DC for meetings at the Pentagon, State Department and later meet Obama at the White House. He will be feted and treated as a prince by US leaders. America will announce doubling its military assistance to Uganda – including giving lethal military assistance.

What happened to Obama of 2008? America’s geostrategic interests in our region, and Museveni’s pivotal role in them, demand that the American president pampers his Ugandan counterpart. The rest was election idealism. Obama has just matured in office as Museveni did. Both now appreciate reality with the humility of experience. Welcome to the real world.


Inside Africa’s politics of patronage

http://independent.co.ug/andrewmwenda/?p=576

 by Andrew Mwenda

Filed under Uncategorized | No Comments
How Rwanda is defying the established mechanisms of organizing politics in Africa and why it is succeeding
Last week, we were at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) for a two-day conference on Rwanda. It always amazes me how this small (geographically), poor (economically) and geo-strategically unimportant country attracts attention far out of proportion to its position.

Critics and fans of President Paul Kagame battled each other over his legacy. Both sides agreed that the country has registered rapid state reconfiguration and economic reconstruction. For critics, however, the reasons that have made this possible were incidentally the reasons for their attacks. This article seeks to demonstrate this. 

 

All governments (whether democratic or authoritarian or anywhere in between) need and seek support of various constituencies to consolidate and survive. Force and repression alone cannot sustain a government for long. Support is important for legitimacy and governments legitimise themselves through a variety of ways.

One strategy is ideology; by articulating such ideals as democracy, patriotism, development, poverty eradication, security, equality or human rights, governments can rally their people behind the cause. The other could be cooptation of influential traditional or modern elites through what is popularly known as patronage or “pork” (as Americans call it). Another source of legitimacy is the government’s delivery of public goods and services to ordinary citizens.

Governments don’t always choose “either or” of these strategies. Often they use a combination of all of them. The real question is the degree to which a particular government or ruling coalition – political party, military or revolutionary group etc. relies on any of these options as its “core” strategy. In most of Sub-Saharan Africa, at the core of the regime consolidation project is patronage.

It involves co-opting influential elites representing powerful constituencies – often ethnic or religious – into the government through appointments to influential positions in the government as ministers or ambassadors. It also involves creating private sector opportunities for government tenders and contracts. These elites then deliver the block (or wholesale) support of their co-ethnics. 

 

In Kenya, for example, President Uhuru Kenyatta (from the nation’s largest tribe, the Kikuyu) allied with William Ruto (from the country’s third largest ethnic group, the Kalenjin) and made him his vice presidential running mate. This created a formidable political force.

His opponent, Raila Odinga (from Kenya’s fourth largest ethnic group, the Luo) allied with Kalonzo Musyoka (from nation’s fifth largest tribe, the Kamba). This ethnic mathematics put the Raila-Musyoka ticket at considerable disadvantage. In the 2013 election, each of these powerful men got over 90 percent of the “ethnic vote.” This, of course, is a general outline. The real story is more nuanced.

Such alliances among these powerful men and women are characterised by a trade in private goods. For instance, the president (or ruling party) will offer a politically influential or financially lucrative ministry to a pillar of pubic opinion from a given ethnic or religious community.

The person so appointed will have access to official salary and allowances and unofficial opportunities to profit through corruption. Indeed, corruption becomes the way the system works, not the way it fails. In exchange, this powerful individual will deliver a significant block vote of his/her co-ethnics for the president and his party.

How does a man like Ruto sustain his pre-eminent position among the Kalenjin? He must be able to leverage his position to also provide private goods; jobs and lucrative government tenders and contracts to other members of his community.

This way he cultivates a large clientele of influential supporters. Meanwhile, each of these persons appointed also uses their influence to secure jobs and contracts for the political operators in their community. It cascades downwards in a reciprocal arrangement, eroding the principle of merit from the center to the lowest unit of local government.

Although the system may be technically dysfunctional (it creates distributional inefficiencies because of the personalised way it addresses problems), it is politically profitable. In the context of agrarian values (I wrote about this last week), it helps build and lubricate a network of political support.

At the lowest level, peasants seeking assistance to treat a sick relative or to educate a child will receive help from such rich patrons. Contrary to what many elites in Africa believe, a genuinely democratic system would tend to reinforce rather than erode these informal practices.

If the president can win a big share of the block vote of that community by merely coopting a few of its influential members into his cabinet, that is a much more cost-efficient strategy than delivering public goods and services to ordinary citizens.

It costs more money, intellectual exertion, time and discipline to deliver public goods and services. Thus democratic politics (multi party competition as currently organised, like the one party state or military junta before it) tends to reinforce the informalisation of power.

However, post genocide Rwanda has defied this logic. The RPF-led government seeks legitimacy largely through performance, not the distribution of favours among influential ethnic and religious elites. This is not to say that the Kagame and the RPF are immune to the politics of patronage.

Rather it is to say that patronage, although it exits, plays a very small part in the government’s strategy of legitimisation. The fount and matrix of the system is public sector performance through the delivery of public goods and services to ordinary citizens using impersonal institutions. The strategy is to win support of every individual citizen through public service delivery i.e. by retail.

This is especially intriguing because Rwanda has a large rural population and a very low level of per capita income, both of which would predict elite patronage as the fulcrum of politics. Indeed RPF initially tried this system in the mid to late 1990s and failed.

This set the country on a trajectory of entirely new politics that has set it apart from the rest of Africa. This factor, in the eyes of some, tends to reinforce the view that Kagame runs an authoritarian state, a criticism that is partly true. However, the “authoritarian” aspects of the government are necessary to liberate the state from capture by a few elites so that it can serve ordinary people.
When RPF captured power in Rwanda in 1994, it sought, like most governments in Africa, to rely on the cooptation of influential ethnic elites from the Hutu community for its legitimacy. In pursuit of this, it appointed a Hutu president, a Hutu prime minister, a Hutu minister of this and that. This way, the RPF sought to rely on these Hutu politicians to win over Hutu masses.

A problem soon emerged: although formal power was vested in these Hutu faces, effective power remained in the hands of the Tutsi elites who had fought the war. But these Hutu leaders did not want ceremonial titles. They wanted to exercise real power and the prerogatives and privileges that go with it. And they knew (or believed) that the Tutsi-led (at that time even Tutsi-dominated) RPF could not survive without them.

So the Hutu faces of the regime and Tutsi power-holders behind it lacked a shared vision of national reconstruction. The alternative to hostile stalemate in this ethnic coalition government would have been a retreat to the exchange of material favours i.e. corruption. By giving individual Hutu politicians a free reign at official loot, Kagame/RPF would have kept them busy at self-enrichment.

But they would also have accumulated sufficient evidence of theft. So if anyone of them tried to challenge the system, they could be legitimately prosecuted for corruption. The trick would have been to keep a tight grip on the military to counter-balance power. Indeed, many African leaders, past and present, have successfully used this approach.

It seems to me that Kagame personally was either unable to appreciate the necessity of such a bargain and/or was unwilling to accept it as a method of management. There is something in his make-up, his personality that is incapable of such deals; a puritanical streak that drives him to the adherence to certain principles/values. This streak also gives him an authoritarian reputation. Rather than trade corruption for loyalty, Kagame just allowed the tensions between his Tutsi-led RPF and the Hutu leaders to escalate leading to a divorce.

Throughout the 1990s senior Hutu politicians fell out with the government. Always, they resigned and ran into exile clearly knowing that in so doing they were stripping the regime of legitimacy and strengthening the civil war then raging in the north east of the country. Kagame’s first mission was to defeat rebellion militarily and thereby demonstrate that a violent power-grab was impossible. This he achieved. But he could not stop the tide of Hutu elites turning against him and his government in droves.

As more and more Hutu politicians fell out with the government, Kagame and his colleagues must have realised that this strategy was not sustainable. The legitimacy of the government depended on the goodwill of a few influential Hutu elites they could not control. RPF needed a strategy where the cards of legitimacy were in its hands. Rather than rely on unreliable Hutu elites, the RPF decided to work directly with Hutu masses to win their hearts and minds.

There was not a single moment when such a decision was taken. It evolved gradually and I think out of necessity. But if there is a date to attach to it, it is when Kagame came out of the closet and accepted to become president in place of Pasteur Bizimungu. That decision set an entirely different tone in Rwanda. Initially the government derived legitimacy from ending the genocide, establishing security, curbing revenge killings (many Hutus had been told that an RPF power-grab would lead to their mass murder) and returning the refugees.

The presence of Hutu faces in top leadership positions also helped win over the hearts and minds of Hutu masses. But as the situation stabilised and senior Hutu politicians (Seth Sendashonga, Alex Rezinde, Pierre Rwigyema, Faustine Twagiramungu, Emmanuel Habyarimana, Bizimungu, to mention only but a few) were resigning in quick succession, the RPF began the delivery of public goods as the focal point of its search for legitimacy.

The strategy to seek performance-based legitimacy has had powerful implications on the organisation and exercise of political power in Rwanda. For such a strategy to work, the country had to build institutions on the basis of professional competence so that the state can deliver on its promises.

Henceforth, recruitment and promotion were to be based on merit. Yet many Hutu professionals had been ringleaders of the genocide and were therefore in jail or exile, many others had died defending Hutu power. The professionals available were the Tutsis diaspora returning from exile where they had worked for international organisations and foreign governments.

Insistence on merit could easily be seen as a disguised form of consolidating Tutsi power. Yet forging a semblance of ethnic accommodation by appointing every Hutu regardless of merit would create institutional incompetence and undermine state capabilities.

The RPF was no longer for appearances anymore (how it would be seen) but for substance (how its rule would be felt by ordinary people). As the government began to deliver, it pulled the rug from under the feet of ethnic populists. Save for standing on the platform of identity (Hutu power), critics of Kagame would find it difficult to fight him over public policy.

To deliver public goods and services effectively and efficiently, the RPF has had to make fighting corruption a corner stone of its governance strategy. Kagame has rigorously enforced an anti-corruption regime that has antagonised him with many sections of the Tutsi elite who have been its largest victims.

But such fights only win Kagame increasing admiration from many moderate and responsible Hutu leaders and Rwandan masses. And unlike in most of Africa where corruption charges are used to trim the wings of political rivals, Kagame has used it to ensure a government that delivers.

This brings me to the final lesson – democracy in Rwanda. According to American political theoretician Robert Dahl, democracy has two elements – participation and contestation. Participation refers to the ease with which citizens can organise and place their demands on the national political agenda.

The RPF has expanded participation through such local institutions as councils, national dialogue (umushikirano), farmers’ cooperatives and imihigo. Here, ordinary citizens can and do influence public policy. Contestation refers to the easy with which opponents of the government can organise to challenge its hold on power. Most political contention in Rwanda is over this issue.

There is limited political contestation in Rwanda especially the kind of adversarial competition we see elsewhere. One reason is because the government has entrenched a system of power-sharing among political parties. No political party, however popular, can take more than 50 percent of cabinet seats. This makes political parties find it more profitable to accommodate rather than to attack each other during elections. Although it has taken heat out of the electoral process, it has stabilised the country.

The other reason is government has closed space for anyone who seeks to use ethnic identity as the basis for organising political support. Political parties and media that offer a platform to this kind of politics get muzzled. These actions have armed critics with ammunition to denounce Kagame as a despot. Yet every reasonable person would agree these measures are absolutely necessary in Rwanda’s specific context of ethnic polarisation causing genocide.

To reform the power-structure in Rwanda so that the state serves the ordinary citizens, Kagame/RPF found that resistance is better if it is organised through the democratic process. It is elites who organise and control political parties, own and write in newspapers and appear on television and radio and who form “civil society” organisations. They use these platforms to promote their interests. Ordinary citizens are often integrated into these “democratic structures” – not as rights bearing members – but as clients of powerful individuals.

This way, conventional democratic processes tend to empower a few elites at the expense of the masses. To liberate the state and the masses from the power of elites, Kagame/RPF found themselves in the shoes of former Venezuela President, Hugo Chavez – fighting institutions conventionally seen as democratic. As Rwanda’s success has shown, that is a worthwhile battle in the war against the politics of patronage.
amwenda@independent.co.ug