COULD BOBI WINE BE THE REASON BIG POWERS ARE SHUNNING UGANDA
By John V Sserwaniko
One of the reasons why the very influential world media focussed on Africa this week was the high profile visit of UK Premier Theresa May and German Chancellor Angel Merkel. The two influential world leaders were in Africa to primarily seek partners with whom to do business in the next decade. Uganda, that some years back used to feature prominently on such leaders’ itinerary, was conspicuously missing on the two leaders’ list of things to do while in Africa.
Especially for the UK, the agenda was trade partnerships and May travelled with influential UK investors in technology, agribusiness & manufacturing. In her entourage too were the members of the influential UK trade association. Whereas talk on democracy & good governance featured too (and inevitably migration), May’s visit was largely about forging post-Brexit relationships in Africa that is home to a fast-growing consuming class that must naturally be of interest to companies in the UK. Of course Britain, like much of Europe, remains nervously frightened with the increasing assertiveness and interest in Africa that has previously been exhibited by new rising economic powers like India, China, Turkey & to an extent Russia. French strongman Emmanuel Macron too has previously been in Africa. Mind you Germany & UK are continental Europe’s biggest powers closely followed by France. That the trio of Macron, Merkel & May have been to Africa this year and non of them considered Kampala; is clearly indicative of Uganda’s diminished appeal & relevance to such world powers. And this is something that officials at Foreign Affairs Ministry must be sleepless about. May & Merkel visited Nigeria, Ghana & Kenya. Nigeria is unavoidable because of its big economy; it along with South Africa, accounts for 50% of Africa’s economy/GDP. Kenya is increasingly becoming very assertive and representative of the EAC region. Its perceived as relatively more democratized than Uganda. It’s also EAC’s biggest economy. That makes them a model of both political & economic excellence for EAC region, a reformist reputation Uganda’s M7 enjoyed especially during Blair/Clinton days. That even our role in Somalia pacification couldn’t persuade either May or Merkel to look at us more favorably is further proof of the extent to which our role as the Great Lakes region’s most influential power has diminished. Could it be because of the bad publicity we have lately suffered globally as a result of the Bobi Wine skirmishes? Is Kampala beginning to pay the price for the reckless actions of some members of the security forces that Gen Otafiire is complaining about in his latest missive? In the same week, Uhuru Kenyatta who is increasingly distinguishing himself as the big man of the EAC was in Washington & had a one on one moment with Trump.
These visits etc may be dismissed by some as small little things but the resultant publicity & positive portrayal means a lot for any country’s efforts to attract credible investors & tourists. Nigeria significantly benefited b’se May & Buhari signed generous economic, security & defense partnership agreements strengthening Nigeria. As the leaders visited, Zimbabwe’s Emerson Mnangagwa acted very opportunistically. He denounced torture by his own security forces & announced a globally-supervised inquiry into the post-election violence that claimed 6 lives. This move, according to BBC, was clearly aimed at cleansing Mnangagwa’s image as a leader committed to human rights protection.