Letter: President-Elect Trump Abandon African Dictators Like Museveni

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A Ugandan intellectual urges president-elect Trump to abandon African dictators

[Open Letter]

As Americans begin their new journey, after what was one of the most grueling and, at times, worrisome electoral exercise, we Ugandans can but only wish them well.

That Mrs. Hillary Clinton could so quickly embrace the results of the vote, unlike what Gen. Yoweri Museveni did in February 2016 when he refused to acknowledge and recognize Dr. Kizza Besigye as the undisputed choice of the Ugandan people, is testament to the workings of democracy and the rule of law in a democratic America.

Here in our home country, Uganda, our people are currently engaged in a life and death freedom struggle, through which we hope to cleanse ourselves of an obnoxiously corrupt and repressive dictatorship, which, for 32 years, has violated and trashed the people’s rights and freedoms with such callousness and unhindered impunity.

In Uganda, the people’s tormentors have, for over three decades, been spurred into repressive and exploitative actions by Gen. Museveni; a ruthless, corrupt, self-seeking and clearly heartless dictator, who has turned Uganda into a huge prison where the citizens are engulfed by a fathomless darkness of pain and hopelessness.

This, as a result of the groundswell of poverty, widespread unemployment, the abject lack of proper educational opportunities, as well as the near-absence of requisite health and social care.

As the newly-elected American President prepares to take oath of office on January 20, the message from Ugandans is a simple one –--President-Elect Donald Trump, and the in-coming United States administration, do not seek to make the lives of Ugandans more difficult by supporting the corrupt and repressive Gen. Museveni gang which has enjoyed U.S. backing since the Ronald Reagan administration.

Gen. Museveni recently subverted the democratic choice of Ugandans when he overthrew the voters' choice through a military coup. He now runs the country with his notorious police chief Gen. Kale Kayihura. We urge Donald Trump not to help strengthen and perpetuate Gen. Museveni’s anti-people and anti-democratic transgressions.

Noteworthy, some American administrations of the past have actively empowered African dictators like Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, providing them with the requisite tools including arms and military training which they callously used for the gross repression, brutalization and killings of Ugandans.

The daily experience of Ugandan people is nothing but pure hell: a hell that manifests itself in wanton arrests; kidnappings and murders of Ugandan citizens who dare to criticize Gen. Museveni’s bad leadership. In Museveni’s Uganda, it is a crime to demand for your intrinsic human rights and freedoms. The country’s political leaders, such as Dr. Kizza Besigye, the man who is widely believed to have won the February 2016 presidential elections, now spends most of their living days inside prisons or under house arrest.

Youth unemployment is at 83% and thousands of young people who have devoted themselves to the struggle for a democratic and peaceful Uganda are regularly kidnapped from their homes, universities or colleges, and taken to torture chambers or so-called "safe-houses," where their rights are systemically violated.

The political infrastructure of Uganda is eroded of any form of democracy. Gen. Museveni has transformed a whole nation into a family enterprise, where his own family monopolizes the economic resources and finances of the country, and also operates the entire government as if it were their personal fiefdom.

That is why you now hear of what Ugandans locally refer to as a Kifesi-family government.

Here is the set up: Gen. Museveni is the President, his wife Janet Museveni is the most powerful minister in the cabinet, holding the Education portfolio; his own brother, Gen. Salim Saleh is in charge of a multitude of secret, and not-so-secret, fund-raising programs that are disguised as "developmental" military operations.

Gen. Museveni's son, Gen. Muhoozi Kaneirugaba, is the commander of the American-sponsored Special Forces Command (SFC), which also serves as Museveni’s personal guard. The all-powerful foreign minister is Sam Kahamba Kutesa, who is Museveni’s own brother-in-law. He is also one of the richest men in the country. He helped bankrupt the Uganda Airlines, the country's only carrier by stripping its assets. His company, Entebbe Handling Services (ENHAS), which operates the international airport, earned nearly $30 million from a UN contract Kutesa won without disclosing his interest in the ENHAS, a clear conflict of interest. It is widely believed that Kutesa is the business front-man for the Museveni Family.

How many more millions of innocent Ugandan citizens must die, or suffer perpetual torture and enslavement, before global powers like the United States realize that they have a responsibility to protect and help advance human rights and with it global stability. When the world sees millions of Africans trying to escape the continent for Europe it's because of economic ruin created by dictators like Museveni.

The freedom struggles in African countries like Uganda are today transitioning into the most critical and, in some cases, final phases. Iron-hearted dictators like Gen. Museveni, are now on the defensive and bound to be defeated by pro-democracy forces.

The hope among most Ugandans, and Africans generally is that the new in-coming American Presidency will see sense and align itself with the forces of liberty and freedom in Africa. At the very least a Trump administration must not support African dictators like Gen. Museveni.

Democratic dispensation and the emergence of truly democratic governance infrastructures will enable Africa to have effective people-centered governments, which can then work to bring about economic development, political stability, as well as cultural and social empowerment of all Africans.

This can only be good for Africa and Africans, as well as the whole world outside. A peaceful and economically empowered Africa is a good thing for all humanity. It is only then that Africans can at last stop being burdensome and overly dependent on the outside world, and instead become equal partners in the creation of a stable and inter-dependent world for all.

Dr. Vincent Magombe, Secretary, Free Uganda Leadership Committee and Press Secretary FU.

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