Saturday, 7 February 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015 | Why Museveni’s growing influence should worry us

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda speaks at Nyayo Stadium, Nairobi during the 51st celebrations of Jamhuri Day. He said he would lead African leaders in a mass pull-out from the ICC. He accused the court of being used as a "tool to target" the continent. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The increasing camaraderie between the Ugandan president and President Kenyatta is worrying. A joke went viral on social media after police tear-gassed pupils demonstrating against the grabbing of their playground in Lang’ata, Nairobi, recently.
It featured Ugandans asking their uniformed officers to step up their game as there was a new competitor in town threatening to dislodge them from the top spot in terms of human rights abuses.
This dramatic parallel might appear isolated, but a lot of Kenyans are apprehensive that our hard-won freedoms are being reversed gradually and systematically. A number of actions the Jubilee administration has taken do not augur well for our civil liberties enshrined in the Constitution.
The freedoms we enjoy were not delivered on a silver platter. It took years of sweat, toil, tears and even blood to realise them and Kenyans should jealously guard against their erosion.
The increasing camaraderie between Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and President Uhuru Kenyatta is worrying.
Mr Museveni is definitely no paragon of democracy, particularly freedom of expression.
Opposition leader Kizza Besigye’s suffering all manner of indignities at the hands of Ugandan security forces is common knowledge.
While Mr Museveni’s frequent "gracing" of our national holidays should be a welcome sign of good neighbourliness, his poor democratic and human rights record, coupled with his patronising and paternalistic attitude, represent a radical departure from a free and tolerant society we aspire to build.
Is it a coincidence that the more Mr Museveni comes to Kenya, the more the difference between Kenya and our western neighbour on the front of human rights seems to fade?
Increasingly, President Kenyatta is finding the intimidating military fatigue fashionable. The draconian Security and Media Bills were passed despite protests from many Kenyans. 

Then there is the abuse of state power as highlighted by the detention of Narok leaders. The lowest point in Kenya’s descend into repression and moral decadence was the tear-gassing of innocent pupils of Lang’ata Road Primary School whose only mistake was to demonstrate for what was rightly theirs.
All these have been happening as President Kenyatta takes on a more prominent role in regional and African affairs.
There are rumours that Mr Museveni is preparing to take over the leadership of the East African Federation once it comes into being. What message would we be sending to the world if the region places a man like Museveni at the helm? The proposed federation would only thrive if it stuck to the tenets of democracy that Mr Museveni does not espouse.
The question is: Is President Kenyatta his own man in his quest for a more integrated region or he is preparing the way for President Museveni to ascend to the East African political federation?
Kenya’s economy is the heartbeat of the region and when it coughs the rest — including Uganda’s — catch severe cold. Why then does Kenya appear to shamelessly pander to the whims of Mr Museveni? We ought to be assertive in tandem with our powerhouse status.
But it is the ICC saga that has underscored Mr Museveni’s mastery of doublespeak. He has been unleashing verbal artillery against the court, exhorting Africans to give it a wide berth.
However, he has attained the dubious distinction of becoming the first person to go against his own word by hauling Lord's Resistance Army senior commander Dominic Ongwen to The Hague-based court. 
Kenya, therefore, should take its rightful place in East Africa and stop playing second fiddle unnecessarily.
For that to happen, we must be at peace with each other and uphold the Constitution. We cannot achieve this while we actively roll back the clock of reforms. 
This is why calls for dialogue should be given the attention they deserve.

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