Resist Authoritarian Networks in Africa-Winnie Kiiza


African democrats, at least for Uganda, continuously face a growing, complicit and dangerous web of internal and external conditions and actors that aggressively seek to thwart our democratic aspirations in favour of authoritarian opportunism.

Internal conditions.
Let me affirm that majority of Ugandans do believe in democracy as the best form of government, even as we disapprove of the performance of our leaders. The dictators of today, including Gen. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, never stand for elections on the platform of dictatorship, they always present themselves as democrats, when they are not-they pay lip service to democracy without necessarily backing up their verbal utterances with democratic performance.
These pseudo-democrats, though elected democratically, proceed, once in office, to revise the disciplines of democracy and maintain themselves in power. Today, a self-proclaimed 76-year-old Gen. Museveni hangs on to power and can seek re-election for the rest of his life while the country burns and risks falling apart. This is unacceptable!

The Ugandan government has frankly undermined the tenets of democracy, particularly the abuse of separation of powers, removal of presidential term and age limits, and disregarded instruments of governance such as laws on elections, civic space and political party activities.

External conditions and actors.
In addition, forces from outside the continent seek to undermine and further weaken the already fragile situation. Foreign powers like China and Russia, in pursuit of their own political and economic interests in Africa, through China and Africa Cooperation, and Russia-Africa Summit, present democracy blind foreign policies. They carry an apparent “no-strings-attached” approach in their bilateral relations with African countries, with an emphasis on infrastructural development, financial aid and loans, and access to raw materials, in total disregard of democratic values and processes-which has made them a safe haven for authoritarian regimes.

  • Way forward.
    Resisting the growing spread of authoritarian networks requires a combined effort among all democracy advocates, practitioners, and champions. With that being stated, I recommend the following;
    We must free ourselves from fear, because dictatorship thrives on fear.
  • It is necessary to take advantage of new technologies to communicate, organise and mobilise protest movements resisting dictatorship, and demanding for change, and good governance.

To the friends of Africa,

  • Amplify public diplomacy on measures that strengthen democracy and good governance.
  • Use global platforms including the United Nations Security Council, to substantively discuss the state of democracy in Africa.
    Avoid double standards which hamper democratization efforts across Africa.
  • Punitive measures such as targeted sanctions should be imposed against regime leaders and political elites that perpetuate gross human rights violations, and cloud tenets or disciplines of democracy.

    We are intentional and deliberate on raising our voices, claiming civic and political space, and holding leaders accountable in an effort to reinstate sanity in the governance system of our continent.

Thank you for inviting me to testify before you today.

For God and my Country.

Rt. Hon. Winnie Kiiza,
Former Leader of Opposition,
Parliament of Uganda.