Sunday, 22 May 2016

Africa not yet free

Africa is not yet free, despite formal independence. Most of the continent’s nations are in the grip of criminal regimes whose leaders belong in jail for widespread human rights violations. But those leaders always stand with one another to defeat justice.
That the recent swearing-in of President Museveni for a fifth consecutive term as leader of Uganda garnered the biggest attendance of African Heads of State speaks to my thesis that Africa is still largely "Not Yet Uhuru". How can African leaders condone a clearly un-free election, with documented evidence and also clearly seen on TV, YouTube and blog postings and the evidence, undisputed, that the main opposition leader Dr. Kiiza Besigye was repeatedly imprisoned during the election itself? Even during the inauguration, the opposition leader was detained! Where else in the world in the recent past have there been detentions of opposition leaders during the very election that is supposed to determine a democratic outcome? Can one exercise freedom of association, speech, expression and freely campaign while in prison? And you are the main opposition leader? And the outcome of that election is regarded by anybody including the African Heads of State who attended the inauguration as having been free and fair!
The European Union, the USA, Makerere University faculty in the School of Law and many other observers deemed those elections to be a travesty. The main opposition leader was even prevented from seeking the only remedy in a democracy, that is the remedy of judicial review. The court was seized with a weak petition from a lightweight opposition leader who was allowed to file the petition for judicial review. Consequently the petition was dismissed by a clearly corrupt judiciary, according to some reports. If the main opposition leader Kizza Besigye had been allowed to file an election petition, perhaps the Supreme Court of Uganda would likely have treated the petition a little more seriously as there would have been direct evidence of detentions and rigging. The result of the judicial review may not have been different but still some transparency and rigging as well as judicial corruption would have been exposed in the process.
By barring Besigye from tendering the evidence through litigation, the Museveni side hoped that the evidence had been buried and would remain buried forever. But it rarely works out that way. Evidence leaves fingerprints and echoes into the future. A retired Ugandan Supreme Court judge previously stated that a previous judicial challenge to a Museveni election victory was made in error and he was very sorry about it and that that election had not been free and fair. Some judges develop a conscience once they retire.

Look at some of the leaders who attended the Museveni inauguration: Jacob Zuma is a disgrace to his nation; Robert Mugabe is an un-indicted criminal for his human rights violations which are well documented and he clings on to power to prevent an inevitable criminal indictment; Sudan’s al-Bashir is a wanted criminal by the International Criminal Court; Tanzanian leaders, former and current have a special relationship with Museveni because they ousted Dictator Idi Amin together after Amin had invaded Tanzania and Museveni had studied in Tanzania and was operating out of Tanzania, so this was an unavoidable obligation, stating it generously. Zambian President Edgar Lungu is facing an election this year and his statement that Ugandans must accept the election result was completely denounced by Ugandans and the evidence of that is in the newspapers. But Lungu's statement was also aimed at Zambians to accept the August 11, 2016 election result no matter how they may be obtained especially if they are in favour of the government.
Museveni took time to denounce the International Criminal Court (ICC) during the introduction of wanted war criminal al-Bashir, as a preventative measure because Museveni after losing power will be bundled to the ICC for his abuse of power during his reign. Museveni himself had used the ICC against an opponent when it suited him. He wants to use the international judicial system when it suits him just like he is abusing the Ugandan judicial system to his advantage. He has learnt from his previous backers, the USA and all western governments. That is what they have always done. They designed the international criminal  system for the prosecution of others (but not themselves) including leaders of former colonies while removing jurisdiction from the prosecution of colonial crimes, the crime of abetting apartheid, environmental destruction through mining and oil production pollution, international corporate criminality, bribery and corruption of African leaders, tax evasion, assassination and overthrow of democratic African leaders and so on.
But Museveni's criminality has not escaped the eye and ear of US Republican presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump, himself a narcissistic personality who stated in February that Museveni belongs in jail and not in State House, along with Robert Mugabe. Could Donald Trump as president ironically end up being the redeemer of Africa, Trump the harbinger of Uhuru?
It is not yet Uhuru in Africa. Trump would have a lot of work to "Uhuru" Africa. Dictator Kagame who says his people forced him to go for a third term, a clear lie because he could have refused, as Sam Nujoma  of Namibia did, would have to dealt with it. The following dictators have been in power forever and might have to face Trump the Redeemer: Yahya Jammeh of Gambia, Idriss Deby of Chad, Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbassongo of Equatorial Guinea, al-Bashir of the Sudan and Paul Biya of Cameroon. He already has his sights on Museveni and Mugabe.
Hillary Clinton will, however, become the President of the United States of America, and while Trump would send tremors into the hearts of African dictators, they will find succour in the presidency of Hillary Clinton and Africa will continue to be largely "Not Yet Uhuru".
* Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa teaches law at Zambian Open University School of Law and is the author of, ‘The International Law of Human Rights in Africa: Basic Documents and Annotated Bibliography’, and as well, ‘Getting Away With Impunity: International Criminal Law and the Prosecution of Apartheid Criminals’

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