Scandal clouds visit to Museveni

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The Independent Online
President Bill Clinton yesterday met the crown prince of the "new generation" of African leaders. Second only to President Nelson Mandela to an admiring West, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, who took power by force in 1986, likes to think of himself as the Bismarck of Africa. He hopes Mr Clinton's Africa tour will make the international community take Uganda, showing one of the highest rates of growth in Africa, more seriously.

He must have been dismayed then by yesterday's press conference with Mr Clinton in Kampala, as US correspondents focused on the sex and perjury claims swamping Mr Clinton. Not as much as a polite inquiry was made about Uganda's problems or aspirations. Like Ghana's president, Jerry Rawlings, the first African leader to welcome Mr Clinton, Mr Museveni is a darling of the World Bank and IMF. He brought peace and economic growth to Uganda, left in ruins by the excesses of former presidents Idi Amin and Milton Obote. But he has taken fewer steps towards democracy than Mr Rawlings, former coup leader turned elected president. Uganda espouses a "no-party democracy": there are opposition parties and a free press but they cannot contest elections. Mr Museveni says Uganda would degenerate into tribal conflict in a multi-party system. After the violence of previous regimes and the return of stability, the international community seems prepared to buy Mr Museveni's case. Uganda's opposition newspapers yesterday accused Mr Clinton of backing the authoritarian regime.

Concerns about democracy extend to many of the leaders attending today's regional conference with the US president in Kampala. That helps make the visit to Uganda and Rwanda the trickiest part of the presidential tour, which will also take in South Africa, Botswana and Senegal. They may have become stable, but few operate Western-style democracies. But these days that appears to matter less to the West than good governance, stability and economic reform.