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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
Cut Off Aid to Regime in Uganda

David Adams • 25 November 2005

The Irish Government gives more in development aid to Uganda than to any other country - almost €30.5 million last year, bringing the total over the past four years to more than €116 million.

All very laudable: if you ignore the fact that little or none of this aid will go towards helping the ordinary citizens who live there.

It is handed directly to the Ugandan government, which, according to the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, is one of the most corrupt regimes in the world.

Respected donors, including the European Union, accuse it of gross financial mismanagement and of using aid funding to supplement military spending. It also has a long history of human rights abuses. So it could be argued, with some justification, that gifting aid to such a regime actually goes against the best interests of the general population.

The public don't hear much about Uganda nowadays, but there was a time when it was seldom out of the news. From the time Idi Amin grabbed power in 1971 until eight years and close on 500,000 deaths later, when he took flight to Libya, everything that happened there was reported in great detail.

In the beginning, it was with an air of post-colonial superiority and amusement that we looked upon the over-sized, but affable, African buffoon who delighted in playing to his newly-acquired international audience.

Later, as Amin's true colours began to emerge with the forced expulsion of Uganda's 80,000 Indian and Pakistani residents, we were bewildered at the apparent change in attitude of our "harmless" jester. Eventually, when the full extent of Amin's depravities became clear, nobody was laughing anymore.

Naturally enough, in the absence of being told anything to the contrary, most people have assumed that, post-Amin, the country has been reasonably stable. They couldn't be more wrong.

To this day, Uganda continues to suffer terribly from government repression and brutality, electoral fraud and voter intimidation, violent upheaval, poverty, and rampant corruption at every administrative level.

After Amin, the man whom he had originally deposed, Milton Obote, returned to power.

Obote's second term in office proved to be every bit as bloody as the Amin era, with another 500,000 civilians losing their lives before he was deposed again in July 1985.

Since the present Ugandan president, Lieut Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, seized power in January 1986, the sad story of Uganda has continued to be one of murder, rape, pillage and state-sponsored violence (directed against political opponents and ordinary citizens alike) on a horrendous scale.

For the past 19 years, a civil war has raged in the north of the country that has led to 100,000 people losing their lives, the kidnapping of 20,000 children and 1.6 million people having to flee their homes.

Government forces are as culpable for this litany of death and violent intimidation as are any of the other rebels, armed gangs, militias and hostile ethnic groups that make up the motley collection of warring factions.

In 1999 the Ugandan government invaded the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and, though its troops officially withdrew in 2002, it has continued to foment strife there by covertly delivering large consignments of weapons to insurgents based in DRC.

Since the 1999 invasion, up to five million people have died in the Congo because of war or its direct consequences - half of these were children under the age of five.

It has become clear that international aid has been misappropriated to fund both the civil war in northern Uganda and military interventions in DRC.

The Irish Government is as aware of these facts as anyone else. Neither can it plead ignorance regarding the extent of corruption within the Ugandan administration.

An array of organisations and individual donors have all recently called for international aid to Uganda to be either stopped immediately; substantially reduced; or made dependent on large-scale political and social reform.

These include: the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the EU, the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Norwegian, Dutch and British governments.

Without exception, each cited levels of government corruption in Uganda, not least on the part of President Museveni and his immediate family, as one of the determining factors in their decision.

No one is suggesting that the Government is deliberately propping up tyrannical, corrupt regimes like Museveni's or, heaven forbid, that the international community should stop lending assistance to those in need.

However, while the lazy practice of delivering aid directly from government-to-government continues, corruption and misappropriation will remain, and those for whom the aid is intended will receive little or nothing.

This problem is easily solved: cut out middle-men like Museveni and his cohorts and deliver straight to the people.

Reprinted with permission from the author.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

25 November 2005

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