Ghana: Who needs a “Sole Commissioner for Judgement Debts”?

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

President John Dramani Mahama on Monday swore into office Justice Yaw Appau, as the Sole Commissioner of Judgment debt. His main task is “to investigate the judgment debt cases the nation has been confronted with” (Myjoyonline, October 8, 2012).

This measure is in fulfillment of President Mahama’s pledge to Ghanaians in his broadcast to the nation to appoint an independent sole commissioner for this purpose.

Welcome to this onerous task, Justice Appau; but I have serious doubts whether this is how to solve the problem. I won’t hail it as a welcome relief because it is a mere face-saving move. It won’t end the judgement debt spree. For how long will Justice Appau do his assignment for government to act on his recommendations? We need action now, not any further complication of simple cases of thievery through an empty bureaucratic move!!

The weird things that happen in government business don’t redound to our well-being. The earlier we voice out our indignation, the better it will be for those entrusted with the responsibility to solve our country’s problems but are more inclined toward compounding them to know why we don’t trust them.

A case in point sums it all up. Despite all the public anger at the Woyome scandal particularly, and the fact that this payment of judgement debt is a subtle means by some unscrupulous government officials and their collaborators in business to fleece the national coffers, little is being done to solve the problem.

The prosecution of Woyome is moving at a snail’s pace because of the weaknesses of the judicial system that encourage lethargy (whether on the part of the government itself, the officials at the Ministry of Justice/Attorney-General’s Department, or the court system itself).

Someone must be pulling some strings to stall this case. Otherwise, why the painful delay and more salt being rubbed into our wounds? Ghanaians are anxious to know how the huge amount of money paid to Woyome can be retrieved and measures put in place to prevent anything of the sort in the future.

As if mindless of the negative fallouts, the government isn’t doing anything reassuring. Appointing a sole commissioner to investigate all these judgement debt payments won’t solve the problem any sooner than expected.

Neither will the revelations being made by Martin Amidu be pursued because doing so will take food out of the mouths of those perpetrating the fraud in the corridors of power. It is an age-old case of people using their political connections to reap where they haven’t sown anything but rely on their mischief and stealing habits to fleece the national coffers.

They know the loopholes in the system and how to tap into them. It is not a new thing happening under this government. It has been with us all these years and will continue to be so for as long as those in authority who are to plug those loopholes rather widen them.

Here is how they do so. It is the “Ghanaian thing” for those well positioned to detect loopholes in the system itself (the institutional weaknesses) for exploitation by the appointing authorities who fill positions with their cronies to work hard for mutual benefits.

Do we not know how appointments are made, especially in this 4th Republican era when politics has become the inexhaustible goldmine for those who have political connections?

The loopholes are all over the place for such cronies to exploit. If you doubt my claim, just do your own homework at the Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (including the security setups too). As is often heard said by some people who know of such holes, “Everybody eats from his work place.” In other words, wherever a goat is tethered, there it gets its food.

And those who know how to overwork themselves in exploiting those loopholes to share the proceeds equitably last at their posts. Only those who are mindlessly greedy enough to grab the lion’s share or run away with everything under their armpit get kicked out to be replaced with malleable ones.

Why aren’t these loopholes being plugged, you may be tempted to ask. It’s impossible to do so because that is the lifeline of those who find their ways into politics or other departments of national life. They can’t take action to plug those loopholes because it will amount to economic suicide. And they fear to even think of choking themselves that way.

From the lackadaisical manner in which this all-too-terrifying Woyome fraud case is being handled—and the fact that many other sordid ones yet to be known fully (the Construction Pioneer and Balkan ones, particularly)—there is only one explanation: some people in authority are doing things for obvious reasons!! Their desire to protect their interests is really strong.

Again, it may be that the problem is endemic, meaning that intricate networks of thieves parading as government officials or heads of institutions where the economic crimes occur are in operation to the blind side of Ghanaians. I will go for this aspect because what we have heard so far in the Woyome scandal points me to this conclusion.

We are reminded that those who manage to walk the corridors of power to be close to these loopholes know how painful it is to be poor; and once they have access to the “goldmines,” why do anything to impoverish themselves? They will not do anything to plug those loopholes but will be the first to mount rooftops to condemn bribery and corruption, moral decadence, and economic stagnation!!

From what has happened so far, I have no doubt that our country is in the hands of the wrong people. This is not to say that I consider any of those at the sidelines making frantic efforts to return to power as any better. They aren’t because in their own words, “being in the opposition is like being in hell.”

Give them the chance and they will widen the loopholes too. That is our plight. Our country isn’t developing as fast as we expect it to—nor will our democracy mature—because those in charge of affairs aren’t committed in any way to solve the systemic problems to serve the wider national interests. Their main focus is on the self. If you doubt it, monitor their activities carefully. Cronyism does it all for them.

The real issue is that all these people are the same in every guise but use different strategies to achieve their pernicious objectives. That is why we have the differences in political parties, names, and manifestoes but no expectation that anything will change to promote the interests and wellbeing of the citizens down the line who have no means to exploit those loopholes. In effect, though, none of them really has the interests of the country and its 25 million people at heart. I am waiting to be proved wrong.

The inordinate desire on the part of the politicians to grab every public property they come across should be curbed for good. But how can we do so when the institutions to use are themselves so heavily implicated or politicized as to render them ineffective right from scratch?

Don’t even mention any civil society grouping because there is none credible enough to depend on for anything.

One may be talking about using “citizen advocacy” (as Martin Amidu claims to be doing); but it will fizzle out as soon as started because it has no foundation. Individuals on their own can’t effect any change. They need institutions to back them up. Our problem is that we don’t have any institution capable of doing so. How far, then, can an individual’s advocacy go to rid our country of the vices that have taken over public life?

Justice Appau may expend public resources investigating all these judgement debt payments but what will become of his efforts if his recommendations end up in files to be left on office shelves to gather dust? Ghanaian politicians lack what it takes to solve problems of this sort. That’s why they cannot and must not be trusted to plug all those loopholes that facilitate corruption. They are the problem confronting us.

Eritrea accuses Ethiopia of destabilizing Eritrea

Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, Osman Mohammed Saleh, addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, October 1, 2012. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Eritrea has asked the U.N. Security Council to lift sanctions against it after a recent U.N. experts’ report showed that the tiny east African state had cut its support for the al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab militant group in Somalia.

But in a letter released on Monday, Eritrea also slammed the report – which probes violations of arms embargoes on Eritrea and Somalia – for “falsely accusing the government of Eritrea for violations that are not substantiated with solid evidence.”

The Security Council imposed an embargo on Eritrea in 2009 over concerns its government was funding and arming al Shabaab – charges Asmara denied. The U.N. experts’ report released in July said that support has evaporated.

Eritrea responded in the letter to the 15-member council, dated September 27, saying sanctions should be removed as “the initial and principal accusation concerning Eritrean support to al Shabaab has now proven to be non-existent.”

“The admission is acknowledged with obvious resentment and uncalled-for caveats, omissions and ‘rationalizations,” he said. “The (U.N.) ‘monitoring group’ does not have a case against Eritrea.”

“The events over the past year have clearly shown that it is in fact Ethiopia that is actively engaged in destabilizing Eritrea,” Eritrea said, rejecting claims by the report that it remained a destabilizing influence in the region.

The Red Sea state has previously rejected these allegations and has called for the replacement of the panel’s members over what it calls their bias in favor of its arch-foe Ethiopia.

Eritrea, which declared independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long war, is routinely accused by Addis Ababa of supporting Ethiopian separatists. Eritrea says the accusations are false and aim to tarnish its reputation.

Ethiopia and Eritrea had another war from 1998 to 2000. The two countries’ border disputes have yet to be resolved.

Asmara has blamed Ethiopia for the sanctions drive against it and the rivals have frequently clashed as they seek to influence events in Somalia, where Ethiopian troops are among African forces fighting al Shabaab.

“The (U.N.) group’s report is an attempt to not only to create a wedge among friendly nations but also to unjustly penalize Eritrea by falsely linking it with several armed groups,” Eritrea wrote.

Al Shabaab has controlled much of southern Somalia since 2007, imposing a strict version of Islamic law in areas under its control. But over the last year it has been forced out of the Somali capital Mogadishu and other parts of the south by the coordinated military operations of U.N.-backed African troops.

Last year, the monitoring group alleged Eritrea was behind a failed plot to bomb an African Union summit in Ethiopia, had bankrolled known members of al Shabaab in Kenya and had been involved in the smuggling of weapons through Sudan and Egypt.

As a result, the council prolonged the arms embargo and assets freeze on Eritrea, in addition to a travel ban on some officials, amid an escalation in operations against al Shabaab by African Union, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops and their Somali allies.

Matthew Bryden, the monitoring group’s coordinator, told Reuters in July that Eritrea was lobbying its allies at the Security Council to push for a removal of the arms embargo, but he said other Council members were reluctant to do this.Reuters

Israeli policy on asylum-seekers from Eritrea and Sudan is denial

African refugees share breakfast at a shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel Thursday, February, 16, 2012. Some 50,000 Africans have entered Israel in recent years, fleeing conflict and poverty in search of safety and opportunity in the relatively prosperous Jewish state. A growing number of African migrants say they were captured, held hostage and tortured by Egyptian smugglers hired to sneak them into Israel.

Gershom Gorenberg, prospect.org

Levinsky Park is where you meet a friend if you’re an African refugee living in South Tel Aviv. One recent afternoon, I found around 50 Sudanese and Eritreans sitting on the small stretch of lawn in groups of two or four or five. Nearly all were men in their twenties or thirties. Most were remarkably thin. They wore faded jeans and T-shirts or polo shirts, and talked softly amid the traffic roar.

The park is across Levinsky Street from Tel Aviv’s central bus station, the hulking gateway through which those who had to abandon their country entered the strange city. One man told me that he slept in the park for 10 nights after arriving at the bus station. Bedouin smugglers had brought him across Egypt’s Sinai desert. Israeli soldiers picked him up just inside Israeli territory, questioned him and left him penniless on the street in the southern city of Beersheba. An Israeli gave him bus fare to reach Tel Aviv. Another refugee who came by the same route told me he slept in the park for a month.

Since 2006, over 60,000 people have crossed the border from Egypt into Israel. Nearly two-thirds are from Eritrea, most of the rest from Sudan. Officially they are “infiltrators.” Most end up in the poor neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, among working-class and poor Israelis.

The government hasn’t tried to deport them to home countries where they might face death. Neither, though, does it grant them refugee status.

Instead, Israeli government policy is denial: denial of a legal avenue for Sudanese and Eritreans to prove they are seeking asylum from persecution; denial that Israel has the same refugee challenge as other developed countries; unwillingness to pay attention to where Israel is actually located; blindness to what Israel’s history teaches about giving refuge.

Right now, new refugees aren’t arriving in Tel Aviv. The flow across the violence-ridden Sinai has dropped, but that’s just a piece of the reason. Under the draconian Infiltration Law, enacted last January, those who do make it to Israel are detained in camps—really open-air prisons—in southern Israel, to be held for three years or more.

Worse yet, Interior Minister Eli Yishai has ordered immigration police to begin arresting all Sudanese “infiltrators” and sending them to the camps on October 15, to be held until they can be sent home. That might not be in their lifetime.

Yishai, determined to be the shrillest anti-foreigner voice in Israeli politics, has declared that “the infiltrator threat is no less serious than the Iranian threat.” Yishai’s plan tramples Israeli and international law, as a coalition of Israeli human rights groups argued in a suit filed before the Supreme Court last week. (The next day, they filed a separate suit asking the court to overturn the Infiltration Law.) If the court doesn’t order Yishai to desist by next week, it seems that neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor anyone else in government will keep him from imprisoning the Sudanese.

Part of what’s frightening in this picture is the terrible normalcy, the lack of Israeli exceptionalism. Sane people flee countries like Eritrea and Sudan if they can. If the first or second country they reach is unsafe, some keep going. They pay smugglers to take them across seas or deserts. Western countries, especially the ones most easily reached, try to evade their responsibility under the United Nation’s 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The Israeli suit against Yishai cites judgments of the European Court of Justice against Italy and Greece for failing to grant asylum. In every destination country, there are sincerely or cynically racist politicians who declare that refugees, along with immigrants merely fleeing hunger, will dilute, will wash away, the national character. These politicians are human amplifiers hooked up to the fears of citizens whose neighborhoods are changing and who feel they own little besides their national character.

For an Israeli, what’s particularly frightening about Yishai and other anti-refugee politicians is that they are our own racists, and that quieter politicians follow their lead rather than ostracizing them. When the Knesset passed the Infiltration Law, most members of parliament simply stayed away from the vote. Netanyahu has neither reprimanded Yishai not overruled him. The military, clearly acting on government instructions, tries to prevent refugees from getting into Israel. Early last month, a group of 21 Eritreans who’d entered Israeli territory but hadn’t crossed Israel’s new border fence were left stranded in the desert for a week. Finally, two women and a teenager were allowed to stay in Israel. The rest were turned back into Egyptian territory, in violation of the convention on refugees. No one knows what happened to them. Israeli human rights activists say the incident is unusual mainly because it reached the media. Upset Israeli soldiers have called to report similar cases.

It’s true that Israel is unusual among Western countries: It’s on a direct land route from Africa, which may make it marginally easier for refugees to get here. What makes it more unusual is the story of refugees and refused asylum seared into its identity. As every Israeli learns from childhood, in the 1930s, Jews trying to escape Germany were denied refuge by comfortable Western countries. Of all Israelis, the 1930s-fixated Netanyahu should be aware of this. He, Yishai, and other morally myopic politicians of the right apparently learn from this past only that Jews need a place of safety.

An Eritrean refugee told me that he heard about Israel when he was in Egypt. He knew of Jerusalem and Nazareth in church, but he didn’t know where Israel was. He was surprised when he arrived that it was an earthly country, with traffic noise, grime, and smokers. He was surprised that not everyone was deeply religious. This dissonance is common among tourists, pilgrims, and immigrants to Israel.

Yishai, Netanyahu, and partners aren’t new here. Nonetheless, they too suffer from the dissonance between their myth of Israel and the actual country. Their picture of the Jewish homeland is located in a Jewish story of exile and return, but not in a geographical spot on the route that people have taken out of Africa for a million years or so. They never imagined anyone besides Jews wanting refuge in Israel, or Israel having an obligation to provide it. The very real people in Levinsky Park irritate their imagination. But they need to get real.

Assessing Turkey’s Role in Somalia

Nairobi/Istanbul/Brussels,As a new Somali government is established, Turkey’s engagement in the war-ravaged country must be thoughtful and carefully coordinated so as not to lead to yet another failed international intervention.

Assessing Turkey’s Role in Somalia, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines Turkey’s role in helping stabilise Somalia and its new government. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s courageous visit to Mogadishu in August 2011 at the height of the famine and his decision to open an embassy gave fresh impetus to efforts to establish lasting peace in the country. But Turkey should tread with caution. Over twenty years, many states and entities have tried to bring relief and secure peace in Somalia, often leaving behind a situation messier than that which they found. Ankara must understand that it cannot solve the country’s many challenges alone.

“Trying to go solo could backfire, hamper ongoing efforts and lose the immense good-will Turkey has accumulated”, says Abdirashid Hashi, Crisis Group’s Somalia Analyst. “It needs to secure the support and cooperation of both the Somali people and the international community”.

Turkey’s humanitarian endeavours and its status as a Muslim and democratic state established it as a welcome partner. Ankara has signalled it is in for the long haul. Because of its timely famine relief and apparent strong commitment, as well as Somalis’ gratitude, its contribution is seen as colossal, even though Turkey’s presence on the ground is relatively small. But the positive image has a downside; it creates great expectations in regions that are not receiving Turkish assistance. Despite generous diplomatic and political support, Turkey’s means are modest and its material support will likely remain limited.

Somali criticism of the two conferences that were held in Istanbul from late May to early June 2012 should serve as a reminder of the volatility of and multiple fault lines in Somali politics. Turkey should lay out a public, clear and realistic long-term strategy for its Somalia policy, backed by secure funding and expertise. As it continues its activities, it should build up its knowledge of Somalia and coordinate with other countries and international agencies active in the country.

It is essential that Turkey remains impartial in Somali politics, and avoids being manipulated by Somali politicians who are long experienced in outwitting foreign newcomers. Targeted assistance should also be expanded to peaceful regions outside of Mogadishu.

“Turkey faces incredibly high Somali expectations that will lead to disappointment unless well managed”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Project Director for the Horn of Africa. “Ankara should be under no illusion that it can work unilaterally in Somalia; it should focus on building consensus and improving external coordination if its intervention is to be effective in stabilising the country and achieving lasting peace”. International Crisis Group

Ethiopia’s Hailemariam Desalegn and the Challenges Ahead by Dr.Solomon Deresso Ayele

Dr.Solomon Deresso Ayele

by Sophia Gebrehiwot, VOA

-Solomon Ayele Dersso Phd, is a senior researcher with Peace and Security Council Report Program at the Addis Ababa Office of the Institute for Security Studies. He has published articles on the ongoing political situation in Ethiopia.

Regarding the newly appointed Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn, Solomon says, it did not come as a surprise. However, to concerns raised by observers that the new Prime Minister might not hold real authority, Solomon asserts that the Prime Minister ship is the highest executive authority in the country, and the person holding the position cannot be said not to have authority, because he/she has the power inherent in the job.

Solomon draws a parallel between former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi and Prime Minster Hailemariam Desalegn.  “Daniel Arap Moi like Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister came from a small ethnic community. When Jommo Kenyatta passed away and Mr.Moi assumed the presidency, he was met with resistance from the group that at that time was dominating the power base in Kenya.”

Despite the initial resistance from ‘real power holders’, Mr Moi managed to very successfully make himself an influential president and ruler of Kenya,” states Solomon.
When critics point to the fact that the Prime Minister is a political novice and might be overshadowed by his subordinates with longer experience in politics Solomon says, “he is not new to politics.”

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn has been around, particularly in the seat of power in Addis Ababa following the 2005 elections as well as serving as an advisor to the late Prime Minister. After the 2010 election he was appointed deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.”

However Solomon admits that the new Prime Minister might have limited experience when compared to those who have been in power for the past two decades in the ruling party. Although that could be construed as a disadvantage, the Prime Minister, according to Solomon, has to reconcile with the situation. Ultimately, Solomon says, “what matters is the team of people the prime minister is going to surround himself with. If he has a very good team of people to provide him with the necessary historical memory and insights on various aspects of leading the country, then surely he can compensate for the shorter period of political experience and be able to exert and assert his full authority.”

Drawing a parallel with Meles Zenawi, Solomon states, “we need to understand how long it took for the late Prime Minister to become as influential as he was at the time of his death.  It took quite a lot of time in terms of asserting his full authority within the government as well as in the country as a whole”.

According to Solomon the rise to power of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn is a continuation rather than a start of the succession plan by the EPRDF. It is a process of replacing the old guard with, ‘the new generation leadership’. According to Solomon the fact that Hailemariam is now appointed as Prime Minister after Meles Zenawi, is surely an indication of the commitment by the EPRDF to continue the succession plan that began earlier. On the issue of whether or not we will see a complete withdrawal of the old guards by 2015, Solomon says it could be a phased process.”

In his acceptance speech the newly appointed Prime Minister expressed his willingness to work with various sectors of society including the opposition. According to Solomon the Prime Minister’s speech emphasized more continuity rather than change. He seems reluctant to reverse the direction set by the late Prime Minster. However, Solomon points out that the Prime Minister needs to be flexible and needs to adjust to emerging circumstances as events warrant.

Solomon also highlighted a number of areas that require a very serious consideration. “The new leadership should show a high level of willingness to listen to the concerns of all sectors of society,” Solomon asserts.   He further noted the need to abrogate laws that proved to be inimical  to individual freedoms and liberties adopted since 2005 , as well as tackle inflation to  address the economic challenges that some sectors of the Ethiopian society is facing .

Solomon also talked about the needed interventions in the area of major development projects. For a successful implementation of this development projects he says it is important to engage sections of the society that are directly affected by the projects. In this effort he points out mobilizing the support of sectors outside the power base is paramount.

On the challenges of building a multi- party democracy with some opposition parties not committed to working together, Solomon said, “strengthening the legal, political and social environment of the country will allow different political ideologies and political movements to triumph in the society. Working together is always good for the society and the country but is not necessarily a sign that multi-party democracy does not work.” He further states that freedom of association and expression are strongly entrenched  in the constitution but they are not fullfilled in practice.

To the concerns raised by some that due to his rather strict religious orientation that the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn  might be too soft to resolve pending issues such as the Ethio-Eritrean question and EPRDF’s relation with opposition parties Solomon said,“the Prime Minister’s religious conviction will not have so much influence on his exercise of power rather the central background for his action seems to be the conviction surrounding the ideological orientation of his political party.”

Ethiopian President plans lower the inflation rate to a single-digit number

Ethiopian legislators observe a minute of silence in honor of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi before swearing-in Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn, Addis Ababa, Sept. 21, 2012.

Ethiopian legislators from both houses gathered Monday to open the new parliamentary year – its first in more than two decades without late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died August 20 – with a speech by President Girma Wolde-Giorgis, who outlined government priorities for the coming 12 months.

Noting that Ethiopia is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the president warned that its double-digit inflation is having a severe impact on the lives of average people.

He also said the government’s current economic policies are having a positive effect.

“Government has strictly followed its decision to limit the amount of money circulating in the economy and to not borrow to cover its budget deficit,” said Girma, adding that government’s goal should be to lower the inflation rate to a single-digit number this year.

President Girma referred to the late prime minister many times, pledging to continue his policies and highlighting his successes.

“We are starting this session of our two houses of parliament with the successful completion of a fully democratic transition of power,” he said. “This has been possible because of the system of the late Prime Minister Meles.”

The Ethiopian parliament will debate the plans for the coming year Tuesday, with new Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn. Ruling coalition EPRDF holds all but one seat in parliament.VOA

Uganda’s Leader: 26 Years In Power, No Plans To Quit

Yoweri Museveni of Uganda

by John Burnett,npr
Rebel leader Joesphy Kony, head of the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, has achieved greater notoriety than any other Ugandan in the world today.

Idi Amin, who ruled the country through most of the 1970s, still stands as a symbol of African dictators who abused power and inflicted gross human rights abuses.

Yet as Uganda prepares to celebrate 50 years of independence next month, the man who has most shaped the country is far less known, at least in the West.

Yoweri Museveni has ruled the East African nation for 26 years, more than half of its post-colonial history. A charismatic former rebel commander, Museveni seized power in 1986, decrying other African leaders who overstayed their welcome.

Museveni points to many achievements in a country with a troubled past. But today, more and more Ugandans say their president has grown heavy-handed as he clings to power.

Despite this criticism, Museveni has dug in his heels. Just before he won a fourth five-year term last year, Museveni changed the constitution to loosen term limits.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera at the time, Museveni was characteristically defiant, deflecting arguments that he had been in power too long.

“The main point is: How would Africa transition from backwardness to modernity?” he told the Qatar-based network. “We should be talking about that, not talking about the individuals. … Talk about the process of transformation from Third World to First World.”

In the Kiseka market, a huge auto parts bazaar in the capital of Kampala, it’s said that you can buy everything you need to assemble a Toyota Land Cruiser from scratch, if you want to. Here, the grease-stained shop owners speak their minds.

Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, has waged an uprising against Museveni's government for more than two decades. Kony's forces, linked to many atrocities, are far less active today. He is being pursued by several nations in the region, with assistance from the U.S.

EnlargeStuart Price/APJoseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, has waged an uprising against Museveni’s government for more than two decades. Kony’s forces, linked to many atrocities, are far less active today. He is being pursued by several nations in the region, with assistance from the U.S.

“I was born in 1986, and all I have to tell you is I have never seen another president,” says 26-year-old electrician Jeremiah Senyondo. “All I see is Museveni, Museveni. And what I feel on the inside of me is [the need for] change.”

This is a sentiment heard more and more across Uganda: It’s time for someone new.

From Freedom Fighter To Autocrat

Museveni sees himself as an aging revolutionary, a historic figure who fought in the bush and overthrew dark forces, and whose mission to transform Uganda is not finished, despite the fact he’s been around for a quarter-century and is pushing 70.

No one denies Museveni’s accomplishments. Under his long rule, security has improved, the army is more disciplined, and the economy has gained traction.

Today, more children go to school, the fight against HIV/AIDS has made progress, and Washington considers him a key regional partner in fighting terrorists in Somalia.

“Uganda has made great strides,” says Ugandan political scientist Frederick Golooba. “But, having said that, I think that we have reached a point where Uganda no longer needs Museveni. Most people would say that.”

President Yoweri Museveni inspects Ugandan troops at a ceremony honoring Rwandan President Paul Kagame in January of this year.

EnlargePeter Busomoke/AFP/Getty ImagesPresident Yoweri Museveni inspects Ugandan troops at a ceremony honoring Rwandan President Paul Kagame in January of this year.

In Uganda’s half-century as a nation, it’s no longer enough that Yoweri Museveni overthrew tyrants Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

Museveni was once regarded as one of the most progressive leaders in Africa. Today many Ugandan analysts say Museveni increasingly resembles any other African big man, characterized by vainglory and egocentrism, nepotism and corruption, repression of opposition figures and intolerance of dissent.

“I guess the longer you stay in power the more vulnerable you become,” says Daniel Kalinaki, editor of the Daily Monitor newspaper. “I think what we’re seeing now is the government entering a phase where regime survival becomes a top priority.”

A report released last month by Human Rights Watch, titled Curtailing Criticism, claims the authoritarian climate in Uganda is typified by the president’s treatment of certain nongovernmental organizations. The report says groups have recently faced closure, intimidation, arrest and decertification for challenging the government’s political and financial interests.

No Tolerance For Dissent

In Kikyusa, a mud-street town where a small nonprofit called the Development and Child Welfare Initiative is staging a civic meeting, villagers pass around a microphone to voice grievances against the government. It is a unique opportunity for the villagers, who are not used to confronting local officials.

The leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, Joseph Kony, is shown in 2006. He has fought against the Ugandan government for years. The U.S. is now sending 100 military advisers to central Africa to help regional armies fight against Kony's movement.

 

One man stands up and faces the stony-faced district police commander, complaining that when he goes to the police department to make a complaint that there’s been a crime committed, the officer asks for money to go arrest the suspect, some 20,000 shillings, or $8.

A woman asks who is supposed to pick up the stinking garbage. A hotel owner wants to know why he should pay taxes when the government does so little for this town. One fuming parent wants to know why a rich pineapple grower is allowed to rape local children and then pay off the police to avoid arrest.

These sorts of questions make people in power uncomfortable, and that’s the point, says John Segujja, the project coordinator. But it’s a project that comes with a cost in Uganda.

Segujja explains that when he went to renew his organization’s registration earlier this year, he was told it was under investigation by the president’s office.

His group, which is supported by international donors, still has not been recertified. He says the government is blocking recertification because the group encourages people to challenge officials.

“We are opening the peoples’ eyes and ears to ask questions,” Segujja says. “And people in government don’t want to be asked questions, especially on matters concerning corruption.”

The president’s spokesman did not return NPR’s repeated phone calls to comment on this story.

Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga, a protege of the president’s for 26 years, said in an interview that foreign NGOs operate “with anarchy” in Uganda and need more oversight.

When asked about the president’s longevity in office, he smiled and said it’s up to Ugandans to decide whether they want to keep Museveni in the country’s top office when he runs for an expected fifth term in 2016.

Ethiopia: Gov’t banned Independent papers

Two weekly newspapers that have been critical of Ethiopia’s ruling party have stopped publication because of government obstruction, the papers’ publishers said Monday.

The publishers are appealing to the country’s newly appointed Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn to intervene. A government spokesman said the Ethiopian government is not telling printers not to print the papers.

Both Feteh, the country’s largest weekly at 27,500 copies, and Finote Netsanet, which is published by the largest opposition group, Unity for Democracy and Justice, have been unable to reach their readers for several weeks after the state-owned Berhanena Selam printing company refused to continue printing them.

“We tried other printers, private ones as well. Some say they don’t have the capacity while others first agree to print our paper only later to refuse us without any reasons,” said Negasso Gidada, a former president of Ethiopia who now leads an opposition political party with the lone opposition member in the 547-seat parliament.

“They simply tell us ‘Please don’t come back … we only want sports and medical issue papers … not politics.”

The group says its paper was forced off market after featuring critical articles on the legacy of Ethiopia’s late leader Meles Zenawi, who died Aug. 20.

The opposition group said it sent Hailemariam two letters demanding he stop “authorities’ attack of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of speech.”

Temesgen Desalegn, editor in chief of Feteh, said that his paper’s July 20 issue was blocked from distribution because a prosecutor said that the news report it hoped to publish — that Meles had died — was false. The printer has since refused to publish the paper, citing an order by the Ministry of Justice, he said.

“They told me if I can bring a written letter from the Justice Ministry saying otherwise we can continue to publish the paper,” said Temesgen. “What we are hoping is the spirit of dictatorship that was taken off by the natural death of the late PM is gone. … Maybe the new prime minister and his government, once settled in, may ease attacks on the free press.”

Shimeles Kemal, communications state minister, denied that the government is telling the printer not to publish the papers.

“It is an absolute lie,” he said. “The government does not have the province and jurisdiction to dictate a contract between a public company and its clients.”

Shimeles said that the printer has the right to refuse to publish a publication that contains “rebellious material and materials that are in violation any written law.”

A media rights official blamed the government.

“Barhanena Selam printing company is controlled by the state and its refusal to print Feteh and Finote Netsanet, two publications critical of the government, is a result of official pressure and political censorship,” said Mohamed Keita of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Meanwhile, CPJ last week said Ethiopia should stop harassing journalists covering Ethiopia’s Muslim community after a reporter for the U.S.-government-funded Voice of America was briefly detained last week. The reporter was forced to erase interviews she had recorded at a protest by Ethiopia’s Muslim community, CPJ said.

Video: The brutal slayings of 4 Nigerian students

This Video contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing”. “Viewer discretion advised

Investigators in Nigeria say they have taken 13 people into custody after a mob attacked four students and burned them alive — killings that were videotaped and posted online.

A gruesome video on YouTube that showed the killings led to several arrests, police say. The video shows several men on the dirt, writhing in pain. Some are bloodied. They have tired shoved over their heads.

Investigators not yet determined why the mob killed the men, said Ben Ugwuegbulam, a spokesman for the police in Rivers State, in southern Nigeria.

It’s unclear when the crime took place.

Mob justice is common in Nigeria, with some people choosing to take the law into their own hands because the police are either unresponsive or unwilling to patrol high risk areas after dark.

The posting has drawn comments from some who feel that the police should have done more before the video appeared to investigate the attack.

Bombing, gunfire hits northeast Nigeria city

EDS NOTE GRAPHIC CONTENT People gathered at the site where two motorcycle riders died after explosives they were carrying went off in Kaduna, Nigeria, Tuesday, Aug.14. 2012. Police in north central Nigeria say two motorcycle riders have died after explosives they were carrying went off. Kaduna state police spokesman Abubakar Balteh said Tuesday that they were riding toward a major roundabout in the city of Kaduna when the explosion occurred. He said there were no other casualties and that it was unclear what the failed attack s target was. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident. (AP Photo/Emma Kayode)

Witnesses say a powerful explosion has shaken a city in northeast Nigeria that’s the spiritual home of a radical Islamist sect.

The blast Monday morning struck Maiduguri at a military post near the local headquarters of the Nigeria Union of Journalists. Authorities immediately suspected the sect known as Boko Haram, though the group did not immediately claim responsibility. A military spokesman later said only two soldiers were wounded in the attack, though the military routinely downplays their losses.

On Sunday, officials say a Chinese worker near Maiduguri was shot and killed while in a local market. Meanwhile, the military claimed to kill 30 Boko Haram fighters, though that information could not be independently verified.

Boko Haram is waging a bloody guerrilla fight against Nigeria’s weak central government.AP