Author Archives: Michaela Collord

Uganda – Tension rising over push to scrap presidential age limits

NRM MPs last week unveiled a private member’s bill aimed at removing presidential age limits from the Constitution.

Already in power for over 30 years, President Museveni will be 77 by the 2021 elections, making him too old to run for re-election, the constitutional limit being 75.

The age limit question has dominated political debate in Uganda sine the 2016 elections, with NRM leaders considering various options for how and when (not whether) to amend the constitution.

With the private member’s bill now due to be tabled in Parliament, the battle lines have finally been drawn. MPs—and the security forces—are now moving into position.

What is in the bill

Article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution currently states that a presidential candidate must be between the ages of 35 and 75 to contest.

The private member’s bill proposes to replace this with the simple provision that any registered voter can run for the presidency.

Some proponents of the bill have argued that scrapping the lower as well as upper age limit is a progressive move, creating room for Uganda’s youth to aspire to the presidency as well. On those grounds, various youth groups, such as Kick Age Limits out of the Constitution, are being mobilised to help popularise the amendment.

The bill also proposes several additional amendments, including one to increase the amount of time permitted when filing presidential election petitions and extending the deadline by which the Supreme Court must reach a decision.

Supporters of the bill point to these proposed changes as evidence that they are not only concerned with the age limit, and Museveni’s so-called “life presidency”. Rather, they claim to be responding in good faith to Supreme Court’s recommendations following Mbabazi’s petition of the 2016 presidential results.

Mixing regressive amendments with seemingly more forward-looking ones is a long-standing NRM strategy, as in 2005, the decision to scrap presidential term limits was softened by the move to reintroduce multiparty politics.

Overwhelming support

The Bill, prepared in secret, was revealed at an informal gathering of NRM MPs, at least one of whom rose in protest after learning what the meeting was about.

The group backing the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill included both backbench MPs and several Cabinet ministers.

A small number of NRM MPs have since denounced the legislation and proposed an alternative private motion urging government to constitute a Constitutional Review Commission.

The Cabinet, however, went ahead and endorsed the original private member’s bill. An overwhelming 287 NRM MPs then voted to support the legislation at a formal party caucus meeting. Only six MPs dissented

In total, the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill is estimated to command the support of over 300 MPs in Parliament, which to pass needs the backing of two-thirds of the House or 298 MPs.

Why a private member’s bill

The Ugandan Parliament has a long history of passing controversial and highly significant private member’s bills.

The current move is nevertheless noteworthy.

Previous legislation, such as the Administration of Parliament Bill (1997) and Budget Bill (2000), both of which aimed to strengthen the legislature, met with strong opposition from Government.

Not all past private member’s bills had “progressive” aims. But until the age limit issue came up, they were not generally used as a tool by the executive to push its agenda.

The decision of NRM leaders to opt now for a private member’s bill is indicative of two related trends.

First, the constitutional review process has become increasingly piecemeal and informal.

The 1995 Constitution was adopted following several years of nation-wide consultations, a careful drafting process by a constitutional commission, and 18 months of debate by the elected Constituent Assembly. The new Constitution was then held up as evidence that Uganda had turned a page in its troubled history, that it was moving towards a consolidated democracy.

Since then, the Constitution has been gradually weakened, most notably with the 2005 scrapping of presidential term limits. All constitutional amendments up to now nevertheless came from Government and followed some pretence of a constitutional review process.

This time, though, Ministers were frank in stating that their chief concern was to push through the changes as quickly as possible. “If you don’t bring this amendment early enough to allow damage control and explanations, it will be difficult”, advised the NRM Chief Whip at a parliamentary caucus meeting on Wednesday.

Discussing what it meant to amend the supreme law of the land, another Minister declared that Article 102(b) on age limits was “disorganized” and that the aim was to “organize” it.

Under the circumstances, it is not surprising that critical MPs have suggested people start referring to the Constitution of Uganda as “the Constitution of NRM and Museveni”.

The informal approach to constitutional amendments aside, the second reason for the use of a private member’s bill relates to Museveni’s dependence on the NRM parliamentary caucus as a support base.

It was an MP who, at a parliamentary caucus retreat in 2014, got down on her knees to move a motion endorsing Museveni as the sole presidential candidate for the 2016 polls. This came amidst rumours that then Prime Minister Mbabazi was planning to run against him. NRM MPs were later sent to mobilise in support of the sole candidacy motion, each receiving Shs300,000 per constituency meeting.

NRM legislators do resist the President at times, a recent example being their rejection (at least for now) of a proposed constitutional amendment on land. But when it comes to defending Museveni’s presidency, they fall into line. A mix of ambition and patronage can also turn what were independent MPs into loyal cadres.

The MP tasked with tabling the age limit bill in Parliament, one Raphael Magyezi, is a case in point. After first being elected to Parliament in 2011, Magyezi was identified with a small group of “rebel” NRM MPs who, among other things, denounced Museveni’s long stay in power. He later turned, though, and lost his independent reputation.

The choice of Magyezi to table the age limit bill is also interesting in that it may help sway the one person who could pose an obstacle, the sometimes-independent Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. Magyezi was the chairman of the special taskforce that Kadaga assembled to spearhead her hard-fought campaign for re-election as Speaker.

While it is unlikely that Kadaga would interfere with the age limit amendment, having a strong supporter as the face of the bill certainly can’t hurt as a precautionary measure.

Where to from here

The plan was to table the bill in Parliament yesterday.

This coincided with a security crackdown in Kampala and in some regional towns. Police raided NGO offices, the Kampala Mayor was arrested along with journalists, the headquarters of two opposition parties were sealed off, groups of protesters across the capital city were shot at with rubber bullets and teargas, their leaders were arrested, a police helicopter circled the city centre, Parliament was surrounded by police and soldiers, and some oppositional MPs were reportedly blocked by police from entering the building.

The US Embassy in Kampala issued a statement expressing concern “that recent arrests and raids stifle the Ugandan people’s right to free expression.” Government spokesperson Ofwondo Opondo later responded that government “wont’ take unqualified lectures from foreign agents.”

The tension in the streets did not stop MPs from attending Parliament. They packed the Chamber, an unusual event given that House debates often go ahead without quorum. One anti-age limit MP showed up in a yellow VW Bug and dressed from leather shoes to baseball cap in the same official NRM colour. An opposition MP, meanwhile, came in a red track suit, declaring that if the constitution could be changed, she could change her dress code.

The debate was a non-starter, though, after Deputy Speaker Oulanyah failed to secure order in the House amidst loud whistling and singing of the national anthem by opposition MPs. He eventually adjourned Parliament till next week, giving him time to consult with Speaker Kadaga on the way forward.

While it is unclear exactly how events will unfold, Parliament will likely soon enact the age limit bill. The real question is what happens after that.

Many Ugandans on social media yesterday likened the general drift of President Museveni’s regime with the administration of former President Milton Obote in the 1960s. One MP recalled the “constitutional trickery” that took place in 1966 and culminated with the adoption of the “pigeon-hole” constitution, so called because MPs found it ready-drafted in their mail while the parliamentary building was surrounded by armed soldiers.

Certainly, Museveni’s own one-time assertion that he would break with the past, letting “people of presidential calibre and capacity” take over, has not aged well. Some of his most ardent supporters have also abandoned all pretences, warning, “They should know that we are the party in power, we have the support of the maggye [army], you cannot tell us Togikwatako [don’t touch it, article 102(b)].”

There is clearly cause for concern not only about next week’s parliamentary session but, more fundamentally, about what a post-Museveni Uganda might look like. The pre-Museveni period does not offer much positive inspiration, but with no clear succession plan and a strong—but factionally divided—security force, it is understandable that people are looking to Uganda’s history to make sense of its current path.

Uganda – Long anticipated, the battle over presidential age limits has begun

Twitter and WhatsApp are abuzz. Posters screaming “Youth Against Dictatorship” cover Kampala. Activists planning a mock funeral for the President are under arrest.

The furore comes after the announcement in the Uganda Gazette that a Constitutional (Amendment) Bill is soon to be published, paving the way for it to be tabled in Parliament. Among other provisions, the omnibus bill is expected to propose scrapping article 102(b) of the Constitution, which sets a presidential age limit of 75 years. Once the bill is gazetted, a Constitutional Review Commission will be appointed to gather citizens’ views on the proposed amendments, although it is unclear to what extent the Commission could influence the fate of the crucial, age limit article. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, in power for over three decades, will be turning 76 ahead of the next elections in 2021, making him ineligible to run unless the age limit is dropped. The latest proposed constitutional change comes after Museveni already saw through the removal of presidential term limits in 2005.

Opposition to the age limit amendment has come from all quarters. Four-time opposition presidential contender Dr. Kizza Besigye has made a series of statements, taking to Facebook to declare, “The people of Uganda are definitely closing in to take back their power and embark on a TRANSITION to a new dispensation.” The opposition Forum for Democratic Change, Democratic Party and Conservative Party have condemned the move while youth from the three parties are behind a pro-age limit campaign dubbed Nchi Yetu (“our country” in Swahili).

Somewhat less predictably, members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) youth league have also rallied around a campaign against the proposed changes, leading to their hasty arrest. More concerning still, from the President’s perspective, is the opposition to the age limit amendment amongst his own rank-and-file MPs. A survey of parliamentarians conducted last year by the civil society network CCEDU with the support of NDI pointed to high levels of unease over the then anticipated move to scrap age limits. Of the 185 respondents (from a randomly selected sample of 196), 73 percent said they would not support a constitutional amendment on age limits. This included a large majority of NRM MPs (65 percent) while Opposition and Independent MPs were overwhelmingly against (97 and 81 percent respectively). Interestingly, MPs from the NRM’s traditional strongholds, the Western and Central regions, were most likely to oppose an amendment. A more recent and less systematic effort to survey MPs spearheaded by the independent Observer newspaper reveals an enduring, lukewarm attitude towards the proposed changes within the NRM.

The various pro-age limit campaigns now emerging, including those supported by a range of civil society organizations, have no intention of letting legislators off the hook. Activists have been circulating the phone numbers and emails of legislators, imploring voters, “Tell them we [want] the clause to remain intact. That one call, that email, that text message may be key in defining the destiny of our country.”

Yet however strong the pushback, it is also clear the President’s camp has its own plan. Indeed, whereas Museveni has repeatedly insisted he was “not interested in age limit talk”, his supporters launched a series of semi-coordinated actions shortly after the 2016 elections, the aim being to cultivate an appearance of grass-roots pressure for Museveni to stay. A number of NRM district conferences passed resolutions calling on MPs to lift presidential age limits. An NRM MP also tabled a private members bill in Parliament calling for the removal of age limits for judges. This was widely seen, though, as a ploy to start a debate during which the issue of presidential age limits could be introduced.

It remains part of the government strategy to present pressure for a constitutional change as originating outside of State House. In an article entitled “Don’t distort constitutional amendment debate”, the government spokesman affirmed, “the issue of age limit has been raised in various forums with many people openly urging President Museveni to stay on and complete what they deem unfinished business.” Even as Museveni enacts the role of disinterested bystander, though, internal manoeuvring continues to intensify.

The plan to introduce legislation to Parliament was apparently adopted after a proposed constitutional referendum was deemed too risky.[1] Charged with mobilising their colleagues is a small group of loyal MPs who have been actively advocating for the proposed amendment in the corridors of  Parliament. There are also plans, according to one MP, “to go district by district, convincing councils to pass resolutions, which the MPs will be compelled to support.” This “convincing” will not depend on the NRM leaders’ powers of persuasion alone. Reports are filtering through that the police and military will receive more equipment to crack down on popular protest. At the same time, a large campaign war chest has been amassed, leading NRM heavyweights to jostle over who will act as campaign coordinator and thereby control associated patronage resources. Some of the money is already reportedly earmarked, including: (a) for NRM MPs, who will receive USh3m (roughly £650) per caucus meeting, although there are also rumours in Parliament that MPs may demand a total of as much as Ush300m each;[2] (b) for as yet unpaid members of the NRM Central Executive Committee, who will start receiving a salary USh25 (£5,400) per month, close to that of the highest paid civil servants and larger than the total pay package of an MP; and, (c) for members of the National Executive Committee, who will receive USh9m (nearly £2,000) per month.

Through a combination of coercion and money, Museveni’s camp still seems likely to succeed in pressuring Parliament into removing presidential age limits. The extent of opposition along with the elaborate and costly plans to overcome it nevertheless speak to Museveni’s increasingly strained hold on power. In 2005, it took a one-off, Ush5m bribe to get MPs to scrap term limits, a move which was at the time shocking and now seems almost pedestrian. The campaign to remove term limits was also fraught, but it came before the rate of patronage inflation reached the current, dizzying heights.

Hovering above the current struggle is the question of what will become of the NRM’s legacy, and thus what lies in Uganda’s political future.[3] After first seizing power in 1986, Museveni promised “fundamental change” and later oversaw a constitutional review process, which was at the time praised by many. The accolades have long since petered out, leaving prominent figures like Kizza Besigye to denounce the increasing personalisation of power under the NRM, quipping, “President Museveni has turned himself into the Constitution.” Museveni’s own supporters are hardly reassuring on this point, with one MP insisting, “The person who has managed to build all [the] institutions is Museveni. If he has built the institutions, which have ensured that the country is stable, why should he be denied the chance to continue leading the country?” It is unclear what exactly is distinctive about “institutions” when they are presumed to come from—and seemingly also to depend on—a single individual.

Ultimately, given the kind of political order Museveni has cultivated, it is now easier to imagine a scenario whereby the age limit is scrapped and he continues as President than it is to imagine the alternative. Should the age limit remain, the ensuing succession battle could easily fracture the NRM, as has happened to numerous other dominant parties.[4] Opposition contenders, most obviously Besigye, could have another go at winning an election in 2021. But it is hard to picture Museveni—or, crucially, the military upon which he has focused so much of his energy—accepting a Besigye win. Indeed, as has proved the case in Uganda’s past, should Parliament resist executive pressure, the balance of power would likely lie with the security forces. But then they too contain their own internal factions.

In short, Museveni’s Uganda is one where, paradoxically, there would be far more political uncertainties introduced if the Constitution remained intact with age limits preserved. That’s in the short-term, of course, as lifting age limits only postpones the inevitable succession. Meanwhile, the many young Ugandans who have only ever known a Museveni presidency will, again, see their dream of a change deferred. And, to borrow a line from Langston Hughes, what happens to a dream deferred?[5]

 

UPDATE: On July 13th, the government surprised MPs by tabling in Parliament a Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, which unlike the promised omnibus bill, addresses only one issue, and not age limits but land. As explained by the Deputy Attorney General, the amendment will enable the compulsory acquisition of land for “development” with government compensating private land owners and taking over the land immediately, thereby circumventing what is now a lengthy process of negotiation over what compensation is due. This proposed amendment is extremely controversial in its own right, which explains why it has remained stalled on the government’s to-do list since the 1990s. What’s more, the government has by no means given up on its aim to introduce an omnibus bill. The Deputy AG made it clear that the much-awaited bill, containing an amended Article 102(b) on the age limit, will come to parliament later this year.

[1] This comes after last year’s election results were hotly contested amidst allegations of rigging. A 2017 Afrobarometer survey, moreover, had 75 percent of respondents declaring they would prefer to see presidential age limits maintained.

[2] Such astronomical payouts seem unlikely to materialise, although some form of bribe-for-votes will be necessary. And this despite the NRM Chief Whip’s strident claims that, “You can’t survive if you approach me to say I give you money to do your work to which [sic] you were elected. […] You imagine, unless this is something else not parliament, to approach the chief whip and say, ‘unless you give this much – Shs300m for us – we’re not going to Kyankwanzi [location of NRM Caucus retreats]’. How?! How can you tell me such nonsense? It is criminal, it is illegal, it is unethical, it is unwise.” The Office of the Chief Whip is known to routinely dole out money, however, making these principled objections somewhat less credible.

[3] Beyond Uganda, the push to strip away any remaining fetters on presidential power fits in with a regional trend. Rwanda recently scrapped constitutional term limits for President Paul Kagame. An NRM delegation more recently went on a fact-finding mission to Burundi where President Pierre Nkurunziza’s ill-fated efforts to circumvent term limits led to a spike in violence, adding to the number of internally displaced people and refugees. In a kind of authoritarian-style “benchmarking” exercise, the aim of the NRM delegation was to learn from Nkurunziza’s mistakes and to avert a similar outcome in Uganda.

[4] For instance, KANU in 2002.

[5] Langston Hughes poem, Harlem (“What happens to a dream deferred?)

Tanzania – President Magufuli versus the investors

In a single day last week, shares in the Tanzania-focused gold miner Acacia mining plummeted, falling 30 percent.

This collapse came after a special presidential probe committee issued a report alleging that containers of mineral concentrates currently being held at the Dar es Salaam port contain ten times more gold than previously declared by Acacia. The committee report also identifies significant amounts of silver, cooper, sulphur and other “strategic minerals”.

It recommends that the Tanzania government reinforce its ban on mineral concentrate exports—first imposed last March—until the right royalties are paid to the State. It further stipulates that the government should ensure the construction of smelters to process the mineral sands and allow the identification of all minerals present in the concentrates.

Following the report’s release, President Magufuli quickly responded by extending a ban on the export of mineral concentrates. He also sacked his Minister of Energy and Minerals.

The committee’s recommendations, as well as Magufuli’s swift response, are consistent with the President’s stated commitment to a form of resource nationalism, which through increased revenue generation, is meant to help finance ambitious infrastructure projects and industrial expansion.

The report was applauded by domestic observers and politicians of all political stripes. There was strong enthusiasm for disciplining investors who have long been accused of exploiting Tanzania’s resources, either through illicit mineral smuggling or as a result of the unfair contracts and legal framework adopted under World Bank supervision in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, the latest actions taken by the Magufuli administration are testament to the distance travelled since former President Mkapa (1995-2005) asserted, “I get complaints that we are being too generous in legislating for this foreign direct investment in the mining sector, but we provide very serious security.”

There is still ample room to question, though, whether the Magufuli administration will be able to proceed with its current agenda. For one, Acacia vehemently contests the committee report’s findings regarding the amount of minerals in the containers due for export. Domestically, some politicians, including the CCM stalwart and former Attorney General Andrew Chenge, question whether plans to construct a smelter are financially viable. The opposition Chief Whip and current President of the Tanzania Law Society has also argued that, while the government is right to highlight the iniquitous nature of contracts with companies including Acacia, there needs to be a more fundamental reform of the legal and fiscal regime governing the mining sector before government can pursue the policies currently being proposed. He advised that, “[I]f we don’t abandon [unfair laws and contracts] first”, then international investors “are going to come back and we will pay big time.”

Acacia has already signalled it plans to suspend production at its two mines in Tanzania with many observers projecting a long, drawn-out legal battle in international courts. Tanzania’s Prime Minister, meanwhile, has recently sought to quell mining investors’ fears, promising “no one will be oppressed as your rights will be protected.” While this may not be a particularly reassuring statement in light of the actions already taken by government, it nevertheless suggests the Magufuli administration may be looking to tread more carefully going forward. What is more, the government is still awaiting a report from a second presidential probe committee. Whereas the first committee, the one that has already reported, was made up of geologists and scientists, the second is composed of economists and lawyers. It is tasked with assessing the financial and legal constraints faced by government and is expected to make policy recommendations accordingly.

Magufuli has shown his ambition to renegotiate Tanzania’s relations with foreign investors and, in so doing, to free the country from an exploitative relationship. For that, he is rightly applauded. But as has proved the case with many of the President’s actions to date, his latest efforts to gain the upper hand over mining investors demonstrate more brash self-assertion than strategic nous.

As some of his critics suggest, there is a need for a long game, one that involves difficult negotiations and fundamental legal reforms. Otherwise, the fire driving a resurgent resource nationalism could fizzle fast.

 

 

 

Uganda – President Museveni’s term of “no joking around” takes a dramatic turn

President Yoweri Museveni, recently re-elected for the fifth time, continues to pursue his term of “no joking around” in spectacular fashion. After adopting the new slogan, using the Swahili phrase kisanja hakuna mchezo, Museveni has remained unusually hyperactive, doing everything from transporting water on a bicycle in a demonstration of drip irrigation techniques to personally editing routine government communiques.

In recent weeks, though, Museveni upped the ante still more, taking a direct hand in snaring two civil servants and a minister in high-profile bribery cases. On March 28, the Police’s Flying Squad Unit encircled the Ministry of Finance and arrested two Ministry officials on suspicion of soliciting bribes of over Sh15b (£3.2m) from Chinese investors looking to establish a phosphate plant. This dramatic intervention came after said investors reportedly complained directly to the President, who in turn advised them to comply with the officials, the idea being to ensure the police could catch the wayward public officials  “red-handed”.

A second, strikingly similar incident occurred less than two weeks later. This time, the Minister of State for Labour, Herbert Kabafunzaki, was caught by security operatives from police and Special Forces Command allegedly in the act of receiving a Sh10m (£2.1k) bribe from the prominent Sudan-born businessman Mohammad Hamid. The exchange occurred during a meeting at Kampala’s five star Serena hotel while not only security but also the media—tipped off in advance—lay in wait. Again, the story was that Hamid had personally phoned the President after Kabafunzaki demanded a bribe to ignore complaints of sexual harassment from workers at the Pearl of Africa Hotel, owned by Hamid.

These two Hollywoodesque operations have fuelled a heated debate. Museveni insists both interventions were aimed at rooting out corruption in the civil service and Cabinet, which he likened to a den of “thieves”. Some observers accepted this narrative, arguing that anyone soliciting bribes should be punished. Others remained more sceptical, questioning the President’s personal involvement when Uganda has an alphabet soup of anti-corruption agencies. Still other commentators argued that the entire sequence of events was stage managed to provide an opportunity for the President to perform his role as anti-corruption crusader.

These more critical appraisals have considerable merit. We can take the analysis a step further, though. Indeed, kisanja hakuna mchezo not only appears superficial and performative. It is also being skilfully manipulated to further entrench—as opposed to challenge and uproot—the constellation of, yes, often corrupt interests upon which Museveni’s regime rests.

To understand this point, it is worth taking a step back and revisiting Museveni’s original speech, in which he introduced his new “no joking around” mantra. In June of last year, shortly after his re-election, Museveni delivered his address to a gathering of Cabinet ministers, Permanent Secretaries and top-level members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). He used the occasion to outline a 16-point plan aimed at “fast-tracking industrialization and socio-economic transformation”.

Despite the ambition of the title, the points themselves were familiar. They centred on the need for industrial expansion through foreign investment, which Museveni argued could be encouraged through special tax breaks, the installation of industrial parks, and the suppression of wages. It is a cocktail consistent with Museveni’s past embrace of IFI-backed policies. It is also a policy orientation that—perhaps contrary to the IFI’s own expectations—has helped sustain Museveni’s government in power.

Observer’s interested in the political economy of NRM rule have long noted the President’s cultivation of a pro-regime business constituency composed notably of foreign investors, who despite their wealth cannot themselves pose a political threat to the regime.[1] For Museveni, favouring foreign investors is thus both good politics and good economics.

The President’s characterization of corruption—its causes and would-be solutions—also speaks to this strategic interest. Of the myriad forms of corruption that have emerged in Uganda under his watch, Museveni chose to focus on a very narrow subset in his speech. He thus stressed the need to “banish corruption so that the parasites that increase the costs to our investors are eliminated.”

Fast-forward a few months and we see Museveni following through on his aim to flush out the “parasites.” But of more concern than the alleged efforts to solicit bribes is perhaps the ability of people like Hamid Mohammed to make a personal phone call to the President, and to get the assistance of the Special Forces Command by way of a response. Hamid is certainly not a struggling new investor just trying to make good. He was first introduced to Museveni in the mid-2000s, after which point the President allocated to the businessman 15 acres of prime land in Kampala to construct a grandiose Hilton hotel. The project is still unfinished despite being years overdu, but rather than distancing himself from Hamid, Museveni has issued warnings to media outlets following negative reporting of the businessman’s dealings.

Investors like Hamid are not the only regime-aligned individuals who are receiving renewed support during kisanja hakuna mchezo. The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kale Kayihura, is also among those whom the latest operations appear specially orchestrated to benefit. Kayihura has long served as one of Museveni’s closest lieutenants, yet he has come under increasing pressure amidst rising crime rates, allegations of police infiltration by organized gangs and, most recently, accusations of being complicit in the murder of the former police spokesman, Andrew Kaweesi. Museveni has nevertheless sought to shield Kayihura, tasking him with overseeing the arrest of the two Ministry of Finance officials and then praising him for the intervention. Earlier this week, the President reappointed Kayihura for another term as IGP.

For a President who has remained in power for over three decades, it is not surprising that Museveni should be doubling down, protecting the interests of his close allies. It is also not surprising to see the promise of renewal through “no joking around” come undone. What is perhaps new, though, is the somewhat more brazen effort to dress up as an anti-corruption crusade what is, in fact, the exact opposite, namely an attempt to protect insider interests.

In this business of “no joking around”, it may be that the joke is on us.

[1] See for instance Roger Tangri and Andrew Mwenda’s 2013 book, The Politics of elite corruption in Africa: Uganda in comparative African perspective.

South Africa – President Zuma triggers fresh outcry after cabinet reshuffle

Last Friday, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma kicked off a political firestorm after sacking his finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, along with nine other cabinet ministers. Gordhan was appointed following a similarly controversial reshuffle in December 2015 when Zuma was accused of appointing a relatively unknown backbencher Minister of Finance to clear the way for what many observers saw as his reckless and corrupt policy agenda. After markets sent the value of the South African rand plummeting, Zuma brought in the more experienced and well-respected Gordhan to restore confidence.

Gordhan went on to challenge the President, working to root out cronyism in state-owned companies, resisting Zuma’s calls for expensive new nuclear power plants and generally working to ensure fiscal discipline. He also intervened to curb the influence in government of the by now notorious Gupta business family, who are close friends and political allies of Zuma and are accused of meddling in political appointments, using their political ties to further their business interests.

Gordhan’s sudden removal shattered whatever confidence had been built, sending the rand into another tailspin and prompting the ratings agency Standard and Poor’s to downgrade South Africa’s credit to junk status. A political backlash also followed with criticism coming both from opposition parties and from within the ANC. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe, among other party heavyweights, were quick to condemn the President’s move while the ANC’s two coalition partners in the tripartite alliance, South Africa’s largest union Cosatu and the SA Communist Party, called for the President to step down.

The degree of dissent within the ANC is unprecedented, but it comes on the back of numerous corruption scandals, which dogged Zuma even before he became President. More generally, Zuma and the ANC now stand accused of facilitating a form of “state capture”, a term used notably in the wake of the 2015 cabinet reshuffle to denote the growing influence of the Gupta family and President Zuma’s reliance on cronyism and patronage to shore up his support. The Gupta’s engaged the London-based PR company, Bell Pottinger, to help drive a counter narrative that Zuma is in fact fighting “white monopoly capital”. But this diversion tactic mostly seems to have stirred up discontent amongst South Africa’s business elite—not to mention within Bell Pottinger—while fuelling a more radical, left-wing critique of business influence in South Africa. As one of the indefatigable MPs from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters recently argued, refering to the latest reshuffle: “This is not an anti-white monopoly capital move, rather it is a kleptocratic and corrupt agenda that is trying to co-exist with the equally corrupt white monopoly capitalism.”

In general, South Africans are not interested in having the wool pulled over their eyes. While Zuma’s support remains strong in many rural areas, particularly his home province of KwaZulu-Natal, the ANC is struggling to maintain its hold over many of South Africa’s cities, as demonstrated during the last local elections. What’s more, the country has seen a rise in the number of protests as people decry deteriorating services and poor economic prospects in context of ever more endemic corruption.

After the initial furore, the ANC itself appears to have opted for a strategy of damage control. Earlier this week, the party’s National Working Committee (NWC)—a body dominated by Zuma supporters—simply resolved to “discuss” with Cosatu and SACP calls for Zuma to leave while ignoring pressure to call an extraordinary meeting of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC), which could take action to remove Zuma. While there are still rumours of internal manoeuvring to convene the NEC, other observers argue that the likes of Deputy President Ramaphosa may be biding their time ahead of leadership elections at the next party conference in December. Ramaphosa is a top contender to go up against Zuma’s former wife and favoured candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The only other formal challenge to Zuma on the horizon is a no-confidence vote in Parliament scheduled for later this month. While a number of ANC MPs have resigned, presumably to avoid having to vote against Zuma and risk party disciplinary measures, the numerical strength of the ruling party in the legislature means the vote will almost surely fail.

Still, the dust is far from settled. It remains to be seen whether the SACP and Cosatu continue to support the ANC within the tripartite alliance, and what an eventual break would mean for the ANC electorally. Meanwhile, protests calling for Zuma to leave are scheduled to take place across South Africa today. These come amidst concerns that the ANC youth league plans to confront protesters while at least one Mayor has reportedly threatened to deploy “all security agencies including police” to arrest “anyone who marches against Zuma.”

As Zuma tries to ride out the storm, clouds are gathering around the ANC. This crisis may die down, but the economic damage has been done and the factional battle lines within the ruling party have been forged even deeper. As the cost of living rises drastically and the country’s poor are worst affected, it’s unclear if the ANC will be able to retain the majority’s electoral support in the rapidly approaching 2019 elections. Zuma has promised ‘radical economic transformation’ and a turn to ‘appropriation without compensation’ in land reform – populist moves which might just be enough to retain control of the state, but will push the economy even further into dangerous territory. As noted in much political commentary of late, a famous line from Yeats suddenly seems very timely: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”

Tanzania – Is parliament waking up?

It is now old news that, since taking office in November 2015, President Magufuli has sought to reign in political dissent in Tanzania, be it from his own ruling party, opposition parties, the legislature, the media or private citizens. While many have denounced this authoritarian turn, there has been little by way of effective pushback.

That is starting to change.

It began with a dramatic show of strength from one of Magufuli’s close lieutenants, the Regional Commissioner for Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda. Speaking at a televised press conference, Makonda brandished a list of 65 individuals who he claimed were in some way implicated in the drug trade. The list included everyone from prominent businessmen to religious leaders to pop music celebrities to the Chairman of Tanzania’s largest opposition party. All the individuals named were ordered to report for questioning at the Dar es Salaam Central Police Station.

The order, and the highhanded way it was enforced, prompted an immediate outcry from those whose names appeared on the list. The denunciation did not stop there, however. For the first time since Magufuli took office, parliamentarians from both CCM and the opposition parties united, unanimously resolving to summon Makonda to appear before Parliament.

It seems Makonda had crossed a red line. First, he overreached by targeting—en masse—a group of well-connected individuals from both sides of the political spectrum. While the opposition has had to contend with systematic repression, and individual politicians have also come under fire, Makonda’s smear affected a large and diverse group of prominent individuals, which made a coordinated backlash that much easier.

Second, Makonda’s actions fed into growing tensions between parliamentarians and Regional and District Commissioners. While there have always been disputes over the respective powers of MPs versus Commissioners, these have grown more acute under Magufuli. This is because the President has relied on his administrative appointees to implement the government’s local development agenda, which has led to the political marginalization of parliamentarians. Given the opportunity to shift the balance, MPs were quick to pounce.

It is unclear what comes next. On the one hand, Makonda is in a bad way. Amidst a sustained outcry, rumours of forged academic qualifications, and allegations of ill-begot wealth, the Commissioner has lost some of his nerve. After breaking down sobbing during a church service, he is now rumoured to have left on a two-month vacation to South Africa.

But whereas Makonda could fade into the background, the real concern here is Magufuli. Many were—implicitly or not—critical of the President for his role in nurturing a political environment where an official of Makonda’s rank could issue such a seemingly outrageous order. At the same time, Makonda’s intervention stoked divisions within government and CCM, divisions which Magufuli appears at increasing pains to contain. Take, for instance, his recent appointment of the former First Lady, Salma Kikwete, to a parliamentary seat. This unprecedented move has fuelled a wave of speculation as commentators mull whether the no-nonsense President is making concessions to appease potential detractors within his own party.

Whatever the realty of this situation, things continue to move fast on the ground. This coming weekend, an extraordinary meeting of the CCM National Congress is set to approve sweeping reforms to the party constitution. These will see the elimination of more than half of National Executive Committee positions as well as new rules barring CCM and government leaders from holding more than one official post. The response to these reforms, and Magufuli’s ability to manage a situation where party patronage has been vastly reduced, remains to be seen.

Presidential Profile – John Pombe Magufuli: An outsider with an ambitious (and controversial) agenda

Presidential Profile

John Pombe Magufuli

Only one year in office and Tanzania’s new president, John Pombe Magufuli, has thoroughly divided opinions. To some, he is mchapakazi (a workhorse), tingatinga (a bulldozer), an anti-corruption crusader with a vision of how to propel Tanzania to middle-income status. To others, he is a “petty dictator”, an uncompromising taskmaster bent on quashing opposition parties and curbing civil liberties in the interests of “peace” and “development”.

Whichever side you fall on, it is undeniable that Magufuli’s presidency has sent shockwaves through Tanzania’s political system. Whether he will achieve the ambitious change he desires, rooting out entrenched politico-business networks and setting a path towards industrial transformation, is another matter. But whatever the outcome, his disruptive politics are a story in their own right, which begins with his improbable rise to the top.

The candidate from nowhere  

In 1985, when Tanzania’s first President Julius Nyerere retired from office, the long-ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) instituted a two-term limit, ensuring a transfer of power from one president to the next every 10 years. Since then, CCM’s presidential nominations have become increasingly competitive. Ahead of the 2015 general elections, a record 42 presidential aspirants entered the race to become the official nominee.

This competition is largely the result of growing factionalism, which reached a new high in 2015. The main cleavage was between the outgoing President Jakaya Kikwete and his former Prime Minister turned rival, Edward Lowassa.

Kikwete threw his weight behind several candidates, his top preference being his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bernard Membe. Lowassa, meanwhile, mobilized a carefully cultivated network of supporters to rally behind his own bid for the nomination. Among the remaining presidential aspirants, many were rumoured to be “spoilers” fronted by one side or the other to split the vote in their favour.

The uncertainty surrounding the nominations fuelled a wave of intense speculation. But amidst the many lists of supposed top contenders, one name barely got a mention. Magufuli kept a low profile through the nominations process. Although a minister for 20 years, he never held an official position within CCM and steered clear of factional politics. He had a reputation as clean politician who kept his head down and got the job done. As Minister of Works under Kikwete, he attracted some attention due to his road-building zeal. But even so, he continued to be seen primarily as an effective technocrat.

In an ironic twist, the internal party divisions that Magufuli so scrupulously avoided ultimately helped catapult him to the top. President Kikwete manipulated the CCM nomination procedure, using the vetting powers of the party ethics committee to remove Lowassa’s name from the list of eligible aspirants. The CCM National Executive Committee, which contained a majority of Lowassa supporters, then retaliated by voting out Kikwete’s two preferred aspirants from a list of five pre-vetted candidates. The National Congress then voted overwhelmingly for Magufuli. The other two candidates, both women, were presumably seen to pose too great an electoral risk.

An unusual campaign

At the start of presidential campaigns, Magufuli faced several challenges.

The CCM brand had lost some of its lustre during the Kikwete years, in part due to repeated corruption scandals. At the same time, the opposition invested considerably in extending its organizational reach countrywide and, after uniting in a four-party coalition, seemed poised to make record electoral gains.

As a candidate, Magufuli was also weak. He had no support base of his own so relied on a campaign taskforce composed largely of close Kikwete allies. Moreover, he had to square off against Lowassa, who defected and became the candidate for the opposition coalition. Many Lowassa supporters left CCM with him while those who stayed were accused of backing his candidacy.

Magufuli responded by turning his reputation as a low-profile technocrat to his advantage. His stump speech promised an end to corruption and a renewed dedication to hard work. He contrasted his own integrity with Lowassa’s alleged history of backroom deals. In positioning himself as the anti-corruption candidate, he also distanced himself from business-as-usual under Kikwete, upon whose support he nevertheless continued to rely. He promised to serve the wananchi (ordinary citizens) and referred to former President Nyerere’s fiercely egalitarian politics as his guide.

The first 100 days

Magufuli won the 2015 election with 58 percent of the vote, the lowest ever for a CCM presidential candidate.

He immediately set about implementing a populist agenda. He declared his government would slash all wasteful expenditure and followed up by ordering an end to “unnecessary foreign travels” for government officials. He then announced that the $150m saved on air travel costs would be reinvested in road construction. A series of similar gestures then followed.

Weeding out corruption, or “bursting boils” to use Magufuli’s phrase, emerged as an equally important part of the campaign against waste. Weeks into his presidency, Magufuli launched a crackdown on “big businessmen”, directing Tanzania Revenue Authority Commissioner General, Rishad Bade, to target tax avoiders. His Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, later showed up at the TRA offices unexpected and suspended Bade while investigations were still pending into the disappearance of 349 shipping containers from TRA’s records. Again, these early moves were quickly followed by more suspensions, firings and threats from State House.

Magufli indicated his overriding aim was to eliminate corruption and ensure economic transformation through a soon to be revealed development plan. His shock-and-awe approach was also politically strategic, and this for two reasons.

First, it generated a wave of popular support. It also helped pre-empt any potential opposition from within CCM and government. Magufuli’s own political base was narrow at best, yet his actions threatened the entrenched patterns of rent-seeking that had come to define CCM politics. Amongst those allegedly opposed to the new President’s approach was his predecessor and erstwhile mentor, Kikwete. By acting swiftly, though, Magufuli could at least temporarily cow otherwise vocal opponents into silence. He was, arguably, further aided by the temporary confusion Lowassa’s defection caused within CCM. One of the party’s strongest factions was now in disarray and, without its leader, appeared suddenly powerless.

But those who had something to fear as a result of Magufuli anti-corruption crusade were not the only ones worried about the President’s new style.

The opposition and civil liberties

After taking office, Magufuli quickly imposed heavy restrictions on opposition parties.

The first, and most flagrant, breach of trust between President Magufuli and the opposition, particularly the Civic United Front (CUF) party, came after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the 2015 elections for the Zanzibari President and House of Representatives. While this initial decision had nothing to do with Magufuli, his subsequent unwillingness to intervene was heavily criticized by opposition actors. The elections were re-run in March 2016 amidst an opposition boycott, thus leading to an overwhelming victory for the long-time ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). What’s more, starting in September, the CCM government has exacerbated divisions within CUF after the Registrar of Political Parties repeatedly favoured one of two rival factions.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also grown between Magufuli and CHADEMA, Tanzania’s largest opposition party and the dominant player on the mainland. Through the Deputy Speaker, a lawyer appointed to Parliament by Magufuli, the President has seemingly tried to stifle opposition in Parliament. He has also effectively banned all opposition meetings outside of parliament, even internal party meetings. Individual politicians meanwhile, have repeatedly been drawn to court with some languishing for months in jail.

Opposition parties are not the only ones affected by the new strong-arm politics. Several Whatsapp users have been charged with insulting the President under the Cyber Crimes Act, a piece of legislation passed under Kikwete. A newly enacted Media Services Bill also promises a fresh set of restrictions on free expression while journalists have also found themselves under pressure.

The economy

Despite some impressive gains in revenue collection and cost cutting efforts, Magufuli’s economic management has raised serious concerns. His efforts to centralize control over wealth creation and to root out corruption and waste have, in many instances, had negative economic ramifications.

Some of these were perhaps unavoidable. Magufuli’s order that all government meetings be held in public offices, and not luxury hotels as was the norm, has hit the hospitality sector hard. But pouring government funds into rented conference space was, to begin with, perhaps not the best form of economic stimulus.

Other negative side-effects are, however, down to poorly conceived policy decisions. For instance, efforts to levy VAT and crack down on smuggling has led to a 800,000-tonne drop in cargo volumes going through Dar es Salaam port.

Whilst Magufuli’s push for rapid industrial expansion will depend on foreign investment, he has done little to boost investor confidence. In March, Magufuli declared he wanted a stop to the practice of ‘hiring generators’, admittedly a costly means of power generation. The Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) responded by denying having signed a contract with an American company, Symbion, responsible for managing a gas-fired power plant in Dar es Salaam. In January of this year, while addressing a crowd at a rally, Magufuli announced that he would cancel the operating license of a foreign mining company that had already invested $26m prospecting for nickel. This came after local officials had advised the President that the best location to develop a water project was within the area covered by the company’s license.

Perhaps most worrying, there is mounting concern of food shortages and possible famine due to drought. Magufuli has, however, refused to declare a famine, alleging that the supposed threat is a media and opposition fabrication.

 

Where to from here?

With the next elections due in 2020, it is still early days for the Magufuli presidency. And yet his time in office has already caused significant upheaval.

Given the severe restrictions on opposition parties, it is unclear whether they can bounce back and build on their 2015 electoral gains. Recent by-election results suggest they are in a weak position, as is to be expected.

Regarding Magufuli’s economic legacy, it is still too early to tell. Data on Tanzania’s macro-economic performance is mixed. Signs of a significant dip in growth rates may be attributable to the negative effects of drought on agricultural production while other sectors, like construction, are expanding, possibly thanks to the President’s commitment to infrastructural development. The success of Magufuli’s ambitious industrialization agenda will, nevertheless, require more than a fiscal stimulus.

Finally, there is the crucial question of Magufuli’s support within CCM. There are persistent rumours of tensions between Kikwete and Magufuli. At the same time, some argue that Magufuli has curbed his anti-corruption zeal, treading carefully around issues that may implicate leading CCM figures, including his predecessor.

An outsider at the start, Magufuli is still walking a political tightrope. While his desire to re-engineer a corrupt political settlement in Tanzania is laudable, success is far from assured. His methods too—a mix of repression and intimidation—leave much to be desired. As with much else in the world of 2017, these remain interesting times.

Tanzania – The long arm of the law in Magufuli’s Tanzania

Last March, after appointing a fresh cohort of 26 Regional Commissioners, President Magufuli offered some sobering advice to his new appointees: “You have the authority to jail people for up to 48 hours. Lock them up so that they learn how to respect you.” He then added, “Don’t be afraid to make decisions. It’s better you take decisions. Even if they are bad, they can be adjusted later.”

Six months on, the President’s instructions have not gone unheeded. Reports of apparent abuses perpetrated by both Regional and District Commissions keep multiplying. While not necessarily breaking the law, Commissions are making the most of the 48-hour rule, which Magufuli referenced. Enshrined in clause 15(2) of the 1997 Regional Administration Act, it stipulates that a Commissioner can order that any individual be put in custody without a charge for as long as two days if deemed likely to “disturb the public tranquillity.”

Commissioners are using these powers to “discipline” public servants and politicians, primarily local councillors. In one district, the Commissioner jailed two high ranking district officials for 12 hours, accusing them of failing to find funds to pay city street cleaners, as per the Commissioner’s orders. In another district, the Commissioner ordered the arrest of four local councillors from Tanzania’s leading opposition party, CHADEMA. The district council chairman—among those arrested—spent the night in jail. The Commissioner’s explanation: “Those [councillors] were messing up my visits to see the wananchi [people] and undermining government development efforts.”

These heavy-handed interventions—and the reasons invoked to justify them—raise questions about the precise responsibilities of a Regional or District Commissioner, beyond presumably preserving “public tranquillity.” According to the above-mentioned Regional Administration Act, District Commissioners are the “principal representatives of the government” within their area and, as such, “all the executive functions of Government […] shall be exercised by or through” them. They are responsible for maintaining “law and order,” for overseeing the implementation of government policies and, crucially, for “assisting” local government authorities, including by “ensuring compliance by all persons and authorities with appropriate Government decisions […].”

Whatever the circumstances, Commissioners clearly enjoy wide-ranging authority. Under President Magufuli, however, they are increasingly using the full breadth of their (loosely defined) legal powers. They are emerging as the local exponents of the President’s “Hapa kazi tu” agenda, justifying apparent excesses by invoking the developmental value of their work. Hence their actions against allegedly non-performing public servants and, most especially, their efforts to clip the wings of local councils and their elected members.

Councillors from the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party have not been spared, also facing sanctions and arrests. But the bulk of the Commissioners’ interventions target opposition politicians and opposition-controlled councils. The most flagrant case is in Tanzania’s third largest city, Arusha, where the city council is under CHADEMA control. The District Commissioner, later promoted to Regional Commissioner, has been embroiled in an ongoing dispute with councillors for months after first announcing a drastic cut in their allowances and subsequently interfering with decisions made by the council. Tensions have also escalated between the Commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, and the Arusha city MP, Godbless Lema, also from CHADEMA. Lema has repeatedly accused Gambo of taking credit for development projects.

Top opposition leaders predictably condemn the Commissioners’ actions, and the apparent encouragement coming from the President. What is less clear is how leaders within Magufuli’s own party view Commissioners’ actions, and their growing prominence. On the one hand, many of Magufuli’s Commissioners are CCM politicians who lost out in the most recent elections. As such, they are themselves close to—or else part and parcel of—the ruling party. On the other hand, though, the Commissioners’ actions seem to pre-empt or substitute a development campaign led by the party itself, through its various structures. Under Magufuli’s predecessor—Jakaya Kikwete—, the CCM Secretary General undertook an energetic national tour aimed at restoring people’s faith in the party and its poverty-fighting agenda. That focus and vitality is currently absent from CCM, which if anything, appears temporarily paralyzed.

Magufuli, now party chairman, continues to warn fellow CCM leaders of a coming anti-corruption drive whilst promising a “new CCM” at public events. In the meantime, the President appears much more comfortable working with his appointees. As Commissioner Gambo faced increasingly sharp criticism in Arusha, it was Magufuli who called him personally on the phone to express his continued support.

Uganda – Done with one election, on to the next

After allegations of vote rigging in the February polls, Uganda’s President of 30 years—Yoweri Museveni—has adopted a placating tone, promising that this term “hakuna michezo” (no games, no playing around).

The rhetoric is certainly ambitious. Three years ago, Uganda launched Vision 2040, which projects that the country will reach lower middle income status by 2032 and upper middle income status by 2040. Now that timeframe has shrunk remarkably; President Museveni’s new wish is for Uganda to reach middle income status by 2020.

But despite the promises, politics is once again getting in the way. With the presidential elections only just concluded, attention has already shifted to the next round. The main preoccupation is how to ensure Museveni’s name stays on the ballot.

Vision 2021

In 2005, Uganda’s Parliament amended the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, thereby freeing President Museveni to contest for a third term. Museveni is now set to run up against a second constitutional hurdle. By the 2021 general elections, he will have exceeded the age limit of 75 years.

The leadership of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) now appear to be testing the waters, gauging the response to a fresh constitutional amendment. In July, the NRM District Conference in Kywankwanzi passed a resolution urging Members of Parliament to move a motion lifting presidential age limits. Museveni later met with a group of MPs supportive of the reforms during an NRM party retreat before convening another meeting with district leaders shortly thereafter.

In late August, an NRM MPs went ahead and tabled a private member’s bill in Parliament, calling for, among other issues, the removal of constitutional age limits for judges. However, observers judged that the real focus of the bill had little to do with age limits for judges. Once parliament initiates a debate on a particular constitutional amendment, members are free to recommend additional change, for instance to eliminate presidential age limits. The MP responsible for tabling the bill, Kafeero Ssekitoleko, is seen as close to the First Family. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how else he might come to benefit from a new security detail apparently linked to the Special Forces Command, a military unit headed by Museveni’s son.

If the bill was in fact introduced to test the waters, it revealed that the time is not yet ripe for an amendment. It divided ministers when discussed in Cabinet and was opposed by both NRM and opposition MPs in Parliament. On 14 September, the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, threw it out, declaring it was not for MPs to start playing with the constitution.

While many believe Parliament will eventually pass an amendment, more political spade work is still needed.

Priming Parliament

Above all else, elimination presidential age limits will be expensive. While the NRM may seem hegemonic and Museveni like the linchpin of the party, this should not distract from the often tense bargaining needed to retain the status quo. And Museveni’s number one tool for maintaining loyalty is money.

A key strategic focus for Museveni’s largesse is Parliament, whose members are ultimately responsible for waving through any constitutional amendments. Whereas MPs received Shs5m to remove presidential term limits in 2005, the price will be considerably higher this time around.

Already he has acquiesced to rising levels of parliamentary patronage. Over the past several parliamentary sessions, the legislature’s budget has more than quadrupled. The cost seems increasingly difficult to justify, not least when key sectors such as agriculture—which employs an estimated 40 percent of Uganda’s workforce—are only barely keeping pace (see Fig 1).[1]

screen-shot-2016-09-29-at-21-23-22

Public opinion is certainly at odds with this increase in spending. Earlier this month, activists from a group going by the name Jobless Youth released piglets outside of Parliament, painted with party colours and labelled with the names of MPs singled out as amongst the worst offenders. This action was spurred notably by news of MPs using public funds to finance seemingly unnecessary trips as well as luxuries such as iPads (Shs 2bn/USD 590k) and cars (Shs 84bn/USD 24m).

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, continues to defend Parliament’s spending, returning to what is becoming a recurring theme, namely that Parliament should get the same perks as the President: “If the public wants MPs to buy vehicles for themselves, let us first see President Museveni driving his personal vehicle […].” Kadaga has displayed an independent streak in the past—opposing measures backed by Museveni—and is believed to harbour presidential ambitions of her own. Given her latest move to scrap Ssekitoleko’s private member’s bill, she is an important figure for the President to win over.

In addition to Parliament’s more routine spending, rumours abound that the President—notably through his brother Salim Saleh—is distributing money to certain MPs in Parliament responsible for mobilising cliques to back government measures. These include Ssekitoleko as well as Muhammed Nsereko and Barnabas Tinkasiimire, both ‘rebel’ MPS previously expelled from the NRM but now seemingly back in the government’s good books.

Earlier this week, Museveni cast the net a bit wider. He invited all surviving Members of Parliament—past and present—to an awards ceremony where each was given a medal and a generous “transport refund.” Museveni also issued a vague promise to the 1,162 legislators present, indicating that, “On the issue of the welfare of former MPs, we have been thinking about how to solve this issue. […] We are going to sit down and discuss.”

What about “hakuna michezo”?

Despite Museveni’s promises to knuckle down, Uganda’s economy is moving at a lacklustre pace.

The latest blow came with the World Bank’s decision to suspend new lending due to “outstanding performance issues in the portfolio, including delays in project effectiveness, weaknesses in safeguards monitoring and enforcement, and low disbursement.”

The lending freeze is stoking fears of more domestic borrowing, which would drive up already high interest rates and lower credit growth.

Sadly, Uganda’s middle income dream is looking very distant indeed. Meanwhile in the political arena, the games never stopped.

Notes

[1] Data sourced from Approved Budget Estimates for FY 2009/10 through 2016/17, available at: http://www.budget.go.ug/

Tanzania – Stalemate between President Magufuli and the opposition coalition deepens

After he first took office last November, President John Magufuli’s relations with Tanzania’s opposition coalition quickly deteriorated. In the past month, they have reached new lows, with many in the Tanzanian commentariat recalling the one-party era by way of comparison.

From bad to worse

The first, and most flagrant, breach of trust between President Magufuli and the opposition, particularly the Civic United Front (CUF) party, came after the chairman of the Zanzibar Electoral Commission annulled the elections for the Zanzibari President and House of Representatives. While this initial decision had nothing to do with Magufuli, his subsequent unwillingness to intervene was heavily criticized by opposition actors. The elections were re-run in March of this year amidst an opposition boycott, thus leading to an overwhelming victory for the long-time ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). The Secretary General of CUF most recently called for Magufuli to be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity, referring to alleged police brutality following the 2015 elections.

Tensions, meanwhile, have also set in between Magufuli and CHADEMA, Tanzania’s largest opposition party and the dominant player on the mainland. Many in the opposition accused CCM of stealing the presidential election, asserting that CHADEMA candidate Edward Lowassa won against CCM’s Magufuli.  The opposition—united in a coalition known by the acronym UKAWA—went on to boycott Magufuli’s swearing in. Magufuli in turn ruffled feathers with a succession of interventions, which many interpreted as aimed at preventing the opposition in parliament—and parliament as an institution—from effectively challenging the executive. These included imposing his preferred candidate—a lawyer who had never served in parliament—as Deputy Speaker, halting highly popular live broadcasts of parliamentary debates, and intervening in the selection of parliamentary committee members. The opposition responded to this last move by refusing to elect chairs for the opposition-headed oversight committees, including the Public Accounts Committee. Opposition MPs also staged a series of noisy protests during House debates, which led to their forcible removal by the parliamentary guards as well as voluntary walkouts.

After the first parliamentary sitting finished in early February, a series of smaller scale confrontations occurred. Temperatures again rose sharply, however, with the beginning of the parliamentary sitting in late May. Opposition MPs quickly resolved to boycott sessions chaired by the Deputy Speaker, Tulia Ackson, whom they accuse of serving as Magafuli’s puppet, quashing parliamentary debate and contravening the House rules of procedure. With the Speaker away for medical treatment, Ackson has chaired the majority of recent debates. Opposition MPs have thus abandoned the House for much of the past month, during which time parliament debated the government’s annual budget. In addition to the MPs’ protest, CHADEMA also announced a countrywide tour to protest Magufuli’s leadership style. The party leaders accused the president of dictatorial tendency, citing the firing of civil servants without following due procedure and the abrupt expulsion of over 7,000 students from one of Tanzania’s public universities. The police responded to this plan by imposing an indefinite ban on political rallies for “security reasons.” On June 22, Magufuli issued a statement of his own, declaring a ban on all political activity (rallies, public meetings, etc.) until 2020, when the next elections are scheduled to take place. He justified this move in the name of “development,” declaring, “We can’t allow people to politicize each and everything, every day. When will the people work and build the nation?”

Magufuli has since reaffirmed his stand, adding that he was elected to fulfill certain electoral promises, and he cannot tolerate any political obstacles to achieving this aim. In addition to targeting opposition activities generally, individuals have also been singled out for “insulting” Magufuli. One Arusha resident was found guilty of insulting the President on his facebook page and sentenced to three years in jail. A second man has since been charged with insulting Magufuli via Whatsapp. Meanwhile, an opposition MP spent a night in jail after he was arrested, seeming because he referred to Magufuli as a “petty dictator.”

Why the democratic backsliding?

President Magufuli’s “style of leadership” certainly differs from his predecessor’s. While in office, Jakaya Kikwete positioned himself as a democrat. Often his commitment seemed largely rhetorical, but even so, parliament became more assertive under his watch while opposition parties were left to conduct their activities in relative freedom. This raises the question, why the abrupt authoritarian reversion under Magufuli?

One possible reason is the unprecedented level of inter-party competition during the last general elections. Following the 1992 reintroduction of multiparty politics, CCM has won presidential and parliamentary elections by very comfortable margins. In 2015, however, the leading opposition presidential candidate managed to win 40% of the vote. While this official result was still a long way from Magufuli’s 58%, it came after a particularly bruising campaign. It was also a distinct improvement over the opposition’s previous peak performance at 27% in 1995 and 2010 and a far cry from the opposition lows in 2000 and 2005 when the leading presidential candidates garnering only 16% and 11% respectively.

While observers have associated rising inter-party competition with increased political tensions in other dominant party states, this factor alone does not explain the current situation in Tanzania. A second reason could be the opposition’s growing predilection for showmanship and stonewalling. Its boycott of much of this year’s budget session in parliament has certainly left some observers unimpressed. Reports that opposition MPs are now refusing to speak to or socialize with CCM MPs also suggest a particularly pernicious partisan polarization. Yet it is hard to blame the opposition when many of their actions are in fact reactions to executive interference.

This brings us to Magufuli. Since taking office, he has pursued an aggressive anti-corruption campaign, firing high ranking bureaucrats suspected of corrupt activities, slashing excess government expenditure and pushing for improved revenue collection. The flip side of this singular focus has been an apparent unwillingness to tolerate political opposition or, indeed, institutional checks-and-balances. Parliament as a whole, not just opposition MPs, has suffered the consequences. Indeed, CCM legislators also echo opposition concerns, accusing the Deputy Speaker in particular of bending House rules and limiting time for debate so as to render it meaningless. Under the circumstances, some argue that their time is better spent watching football in the parliamentary canteen rather than attending sessions.

Finally, we may ask, where is CCM—the ruling party—in all of this? To date, measures taken against the opposition have originated with the executive, coming directly from the President, his ministers, or the security forces. Magufuli, meanwhile, has yet to take over from Jakaya Kikwete as party chairman. His relations with many party stalwarts, moreover, remain ill defined. There was much speculation that CCM insiders were trying to manoeuvre to postpone the transfer. A recent extraordinary Central Committee meeting convened to put an end to this uncertainty, setting a date for the transfer to take place later this month. Magufuli did not attend the meeting, however, something which surprised many.

Development over democracy?

Ultimately, Tanzania’s new President is showing the power of his office by rewriting the rules of the game, seemingly single-handedly. His vision is one of development first, which in this case seems to imply sacrificing democracy. Incidentally, Magufuli and Kagame have repeatedly expressed their admiration for each other. But Tanzania under Magufuli is no Rwanda. Despite some notably early successes, not least his cost cutting efforts, Magufuli has also overseen some costly blunders. For instance, the snap decision to ban all sugar imports while simultaneously attempting to impose a price ceiling on sugar produced domestically had the bizarre effect of undercutting Tanzanian traders, producers and consumers alike. Although a parliamentary committee warned of a looming sugar scarcity, it went unheard.

Magufuli has ambitions to oversee a transformative industrialization process in Tanzania. But rather than there being some trade-off between these developmental aspirations and the country’s democratic growth, the evidence so far suggests the executive would benefit from a more consultative approach that allowed for opposition critique and parliamentary oversight. Yes, this tolerance comes with certain costs, but so does authoritarian intransigence.