25 November 2017

Uganda: Another Fine Mess - Uganda Under Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is depicted in a new book as a repressive ruler responsible for much of the chaos that has shaken East Africa since he took power more than 30 years ago.

Helen Epstein, a professor of human rights as well as a US reporter, is winning favourable reviews for Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda and the War on Terror.

The 262-page book catalogues transgressions President Museveni is alleged to have committed in the cases of Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan and within Uganda itself.

Epstein's briskly narrated yet detailed chronicle is as much an indictment of US policy toward East Africa as it is of President Museveni's record at home and abroad.

In her telling, successive US presidents have either enabled or ignored the Ugandan ruler's actions because he has proved to be an effective ally in Washington's war against radical Islam in Africa.

White House and US State Department officials are said to have failed to prevent or stop Uganda's army or proxy forces from rampaging through neighbouring nations.

Epstein, who worked in Uganda as a public-health consultant, argues this case by way of analogy to the African folk tale of the hare who cunningly overcomes predators and much more powerful creatures.

"Museveni," she writes, "has modelled himself as the wily, clever hare, and cast America's national security officials as the dim-witted lions, elephants and hyenas. Whether they know it or not, he manipulates them at his pleasure by playing on their fears, and then leaving them flummoxed and humiliated in the midst of pandemonium they helped create but do not understand while he leaps unscathed from one briar patch to the next."

Epstein's book may resonate among the few US Congress members interested in Africa.

Scepticism regarding President Museveni on the part of policy-shapers and opinion-moulders could intensify concerns in the US that he could be toppled as unexpectedly as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe.

The multi-faceted case Epstein makes against President Museveni includes the charge that his government deliberately failed to halt atrocities committed inside and outside Uganda by Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army.

All this would not be possible without the connivance or indifference of the US, Epstein surmises.

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