Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Thursday, February 23, 2006

African Optimism, and African Realism
Yesterday at Wits, US ambassador to Tanzania Charles Stith released the African LeadersÂ? State of Africa Report 2005, highlighting the great optimism felt by many African governments with the state of the continent. Whilst I'm not so sure that just taking the results from the various State of the Union addresses is always the best bell-weather, given that Presidents will always talk their country up at the state of the union address, I do think that politically and socially, Africa is in better shape than it has ever been.

There are undoubtedly still a plethora of challenges though, and another one rears its head with the commencement of the Ugandan elections today. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is seeking his third term in office. Watching an interview with him on Sky News this morning, I noted with apprehension that he relies heavily on rhetoric extolling his virtues as a "struggle leader" who needs to sort out many more issues before the "youngsters" can lead the country. This is classic despot material, and although the elections are democratic, there are already many allegations of interference and abuse of political players in the lead-up to the elections. Jemera Rone, of U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, says "In essence these are multi-party elections in a one-party state."

Life-term Presidents are the bain of Africa's past, and the biggest danger to its future. One hopes that these Ugandan elections don't create another African dictator, by name or by action.