Uganda's 'no-party' leader

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From Mr Colin Legum

Sir: David Orr's article about President Yoweri Museveni (" 'Such man of Africa' is very much on the mend", 31 July) fails to mention a number of important facts which cast a somewhat different light on the policies and achievements of the Ugandan leader.

First, the country's economic recovery is largely due to the amazing amount of foreign aid poured into the country - the highest, proportionately, of any African country. Bilateral and multilateral agencies have committed nearly $2.5bn since 1987. So enthusiastic have foreign aid donors been to bolster Museveni that the World Bank-sponsored Paris Group voted $825m in 1994, although Uganda had itself requested only $525m.

Second, Museveni insists that his elected Constituent Assembly had voted to adopt a "no party" system - a euphemism for a single-party regime. This was hardly surprising since the members of the assembly were elected on a "best man" basis, the majority of candidates being supporters of Museveni's National Revolutionary Movement. Even so, when it came to the vote, a substantial number voted in favour of a multi-party political system.

Third, Museveni claims that multi-party democracy - which he chooses to call a foreign liberal system - only promotes tribalism and religious conflict in Africa. If that were so, why is it that one of his neighbouring countries, Tanzania - which has 156 tribes and a much larger proportion of Muslims than Uganda - has not suffered this fate since its independence almost 40 years ago. Even the recent appearance of Islamic fundamentalism in Zanzibar has not made much progress.

Why, if Britain and the other European countries have made their aid to Uganda's other neighbour, Kenya, conditional on President Moi abandoning his single-party state has not the same policy been followed in Uganda? And if, inspired by Museveni's example, President Moi should decide to revert to single-party rule (as he is threatening to do), what grounds will there then be for Britain and the rest to treat Kenya differently from Uganda?

Yours etc,

Colin Legum


Third World Reports

Plaw Hatch, West Sussex

31 July