Reports in the press indicate that the US is furnishing Tibuhaburwa with US $ 45 million in  military and monetary assistance to continue the assault on the Al-Shabaab in Somalia (“US offers Shs 120b to Amisom“, Daily Monitor of Tuesday June 28, 2011). The report goes on to say, and I quote, “News of the military aid comes six weeks after Gen. Carter Ham, the new commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), visited Uganda and held talks with President Museveni at his home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura District, on May 10 about Somalia’s hazardous situation.” This is on the backdrop of a trip to the US by Mr. Norbert Mao, the leader of the Opposition Democratic Party in which he held talks with several leaders including congressmen and women and camped outside the White House demanding that President Obama deals with the Ugandan tyrant. While this trip by Mr. Mao may be considered “successful” by himself and many other Ugandans, was it really a success? In the very same week, the US has shown that they will continue working with Tibuhaburwa as long as he remains their faithful “partner” in the “War On Terror” and several other interests e.g Iraq.

The lessons of Tunisia and Egypt should have been learn’t by now but I remain perplexed as to why Ugandans still look to the West for help in dealing with their own despots. Tunisia and Egypt were more significant partners for the US than Uganda. Egypt was the first Arab nation to sign a peace agreement with  the State of Israel. Mubarak visited every single president of the US since Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s and received aid in excess of US $ 1 Billion for his military. It was a beautiful marriage of convenience that was  “unfortunately” ruined by a People’s Revolution in February this year.

It was interesting watching the US as it was forced to “lecture” Mubarak on human rights. It made me wonder where the certain “concern” for the ordinary Egyptian was all along when Mubarak was wining and dinning with President after President in the White House, the so-called Headquarters of the free world.

While Ben Ali was a less significant partner, he was a partner nonetheless. The US turned a blind eye as his family plundered the nation. His wife’s relatives’ dramatic rise to prominence after her dream marriage to Ben Ali is the classic rags-to-riches story and the bullying and arrogance that comes with it! These people intimidated people into “partnerships” with them where they were guaranteed protection for their businesses from the long arm of the law.

Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak were constitutional dictators and that made them easier to manipulate because they could follow “orders” unquestioningly. Their people were subdued, poor, intimidated, living in a state of emergency. If they didn’t care to do anything about their own situations, why should the US care? Surely, they were insignificant people whose screams for freedom could be easily ignored, right?

Unfortunately for the US, the people had different ideas. The desperate act of Tareq al-Tayyib Muhammed Bouazizi  is something nobody in the Tunisian government would have ever dreamed possible but in just a space of weeks, the people brought down a 23 year-old dictatorship. Egypt quickly followed suit and the rest, as they say, is history.

The US having lost 2 “reliable” allies that did their every whim will desperately hold onto Tibuhaburwa for obvious reasons. One thing that is for sure is that Obama’s administration will not divorce Tibuhaburwa without some sort of pressure from the Ugandan people! Ultimately, the fight for democracy and the end of tyranny is  fight for the Ugandan people. We should not expect help. If it is offered, we should not refuse it. But to expect the US to suddenly “see the light” is naive and foolhardy.

Charles A. O. Makmot
Activists For Change (A4C)