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INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: What America fetches for its dollars in Africa

By Timothy Sibasi,

KAMPALA – I investigate and write about public health in Africa. For years, something about Uganda stumped me.

Since 2000, health services have improved in most African countries, but Uganda’s progress lags. Yet Uganda has a remarkable medical history. Well before colonial times, the Baganda, Uganda’s largest tribe, could distinguish plague from smallpox; Baganda traditional surgeons performed caesarean sections in the 19th century, when Europeans considered them too difficult and dangerous. During the 1950s and ’60s, Ugandans helped pioneer treatment for childhood cancers and malnutrition. When Singapore was looking to reform its health system in the 1960s, it sent a delegation to Uganda.

Patient in comma being pushed on a wheel barrow to the hospital serving as a sick bay stretcher.

Today Uganda’s health system is a shambles, even though American taxpayers plow hundreds of millions of dollars annually into medical projects there. Bats, snakes and other wildlife have taken up residence in once-functioning rural clinics. Uganda’s children die at twice the rate of those in neighboring Rwanda and Kenya, and those who survive are among the least likely in the world to complete elementary school. The main referral hospital is so dysfunctional that women giving birth there are seven times more likely to die than when Idi Amin was Uganda’s president in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Uganda’s government spends $150 million a year flying the president and other elites out of the country when they need medical treatment.

It’s become clear to me that corruption, combined with the government’s callous indifference to the plight of ordinary people, explains these problems. But why are the U.S., the World Bank and other donors still pouring people’s tax dollars into this terrible government?

After seizing power in 1986, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni formed a security relationship with the U.S. that has lasted through five administrations and seems to be holding strong under President Trump. In exchange for billions of dollars in economic and military aid, as well as powerful diplomatic support, Museveni has served as an American proxy warrior, sending his troops around the region to weaken or topple other governments, particularly Islamic ones.

Horror at Mulago hospital, doctors struggle to save lives of accident victim bleeding on the ground.

In return for a handful of military favors, America has tolerated not only Museveni’s craven rule in Uganda, but also the chaos he has sown throughout the fragile region of eastern and central Africa.

In 1990, Museveni backed the rebel invasion in Rwanda that triggered the genocide there four years later. He wasn’t following American orders, but the George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations did nothing to stop him.

America has tolerated not only Museveni’s craven rule in Uganda, but also the chaos he has sown throughout the fragile region of eastern and central Africa.

Around the same time, Museveni obliged Washington by funneling weapons to Sudanese rebels fighting their hard-line Islamist government. The war was brutal, its outcome disastrous. Breakaway South Sudan is now mired in civil war, with Museveni propping up its leader, whose army has been accused of genocidal acts against minorities.

Mothers with their new born babies lying on the ground due to inadequate seating facilities at the National referral hospital.

In 1996, Uganda with Rwanda (now led by Museveni’s allies) moved to oust Zaire’s Mobuto SeseSeko, installing a new dictator and precipitating two wars that killed millions. The Clinton administration not only green lighted this march of folly; it also supplied equipment and training to brutal invading commandos. It turns out Mobutu had been making overtures to the Islamists in Sudan, and the U.S. likely wanted to ensure Zaire’s (renamed Congo in 1997) wealth of minerals — diamonds, gold, uranium, cobalt and coltan used to make cellphones — wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands.

After the disastrous 2006 U.S.-Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Museveni alone among African leaders sent peacekeepers to the ravaged nation. Instead of wiping out Islamic militants, the U.S. had undermined a moderate government and radicalized the youth militia Al Shabab, which went on to join the Al Qaeda network. America still relies on Ugandan troops to fight Shabab terrorists, which explains why we turn a blind eye to Museveni’s abuses to this day.

The situation in Uganda answer my question about Uganda and the donors, and why Ugandans cannot free themselves from Museveni’s alleged corruption and warmongering on their own.

They’ve tried mightily: Just last month, exasperated Ugandans launched a campaign to thwart Museveni’s latest plan to extend his 31-year grip on power. Called Togikwatako, meaning “Don’t dare touch it!” (a well-known parental warning in the vernacular), it refers to a clause in Uganda’s Constitution limiting the age of the president to 75. Museveni claims to be 73, and he has no intention of leaving office in two years. After one of his henchmen presented a bill in Uganda’s Parliament to scrap the age limit, Togikwatako demonstrations erupted across the country. Security forces responded with bullets, batons, tear gas and whips fashioned from the strips of car tires.

Courageous opposition members of parliament, and even members of Museveni’s party, tried to filibuster the debate on the age-limit amendment by singing the national anthem over and over. Eventually a chair-throwing brawl broke out, and Museveni’s plainclothes hit squad forcibly arrested nearly 30 Togikwatako MPs. Two of Lawrence’s friends were injured: Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago, whose testicles were tempered with by police as they arrested him, and lawmaker Betty Nambooze, now on crutches.

To many Americans, Africa’s conflagrations must seem like distant bonfires having nothing to do with us. When we care at all, we throw up our hands at “ethnic conflicts” and send humanitarian aid.

As we examine America’s commitment to democracy and human rights, its military actions, and the racism that has haunted it since its founding, Americans should also reckon with their treatment of Africa. The lives of its people matter too.

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rezen Oct 17, 2017 at 12:50 am

Subject: “INVESTIGATIVE REPORT: What America fetches for its dollars in Africa”
By Timothy Sibasi,Oct 16, 2017

Commentary,16 Oct. 2017
Kudos! To the Author of the Article. The Investigative Report is relatively short but admirably loaded with a VOLUME of insightful information on the elegantly phrased title, which is worth repeating>>> ‘What America fetches for its dollar in Africa’. Wow!

Commenting on the Paper is really superfluous. But I can’t resist, at least, admitting that it is ALL OUR FAULT!!! Specifically, it is the so-called ‘Modern’ educated Elites who betrayed (and still betray) AFRICA. A famous African writer put it in down-to-earth expression about the so-called African Intellectuals. It is worth repeating it here rather than as a footnote:
QUOTE: “African intellectuals continue to prostitute themselves, selling off their principles and integrity to partake of the plunder, misrule, and repression of the African people” George B.N. Ayittey, “AFRICA UNCHAINED: The Blueprint for Africa’s Future 2005, Page 428” UNQUOTE

Take the case of a Professor of Makerere University’, Ms. Stella Nyanzi, who was harassed, poisoned and denied from travel abroad to an international meeting. The Big Figures of the University did not blip a single word of meaningful defense on her behalf—for the sake of principle. In short, they didn’t defend the Right of an Ugandan for Freedom of Expression and, as necessary, to be judged in the Court of Law. They did not defend the sanctity of the Law of the Land. In layman’s language, they were scared to death of the self-appointed ruthless Dictator of the Land. It is an irony that the Dictator of the land is a graduate of, none other than, Makerere University of Uganda, Africa!!! It then follows, the Dictator has his own way on HIS ‘PROPERTY ’ and upon HIS ‘SLAVES’ thereon.

Back to the subject matter: As an ordinary citizen of Africa, I am of heart-felt opinion that the fundamental cause for our demeaning image, in the world stage, rests upon ourselves. If a graduate of Makerere University turn out to be the ‘Enemy No1’ of his own Ugandan people, then there is DEEP psychological/Psychiatric reason for the unusual behavour. Practically, all of the African Dictators are ‘Enemy of Thy-Self’ thus transforming their internal hatred on their Brethren without mercy. What does it all boils down? Answer: We are our own worst enemy. There is an African saying: ‘in frustration one hits his own door’. It is a very clumsy translation >>> forgive me, please.

Going back to the Article, it is appropriate and worthy to quote (in full) the last paragraph thereof:
QUOTE “As we examine America’s commitment to democracy and human rights, its military actions, and the racism that has haunted it since its founding, Americans should also reckon with their treatment of Africa. The lives of its people matter too. “

THANK YOU, Timothy Sibasi

Steven Smith Oct 19, 2017 at 1:47 pm

As a descendant of African slaves my heart goes out to my brothers and sisters in Uganda and many other African countries suffering at the distant racist, greedy, disruptive, deadly hand of Amerikkka. Amerikkka is the Land of the Thief & The Home of the Slave. I have absolutely no love, allegiance or commitment to this cesspool of white supremacy and lies. My DNA shows my African heritage is aligned with Nigeria, Togo & Benin. I would love nothing more than to pledge allegiance to my heritage and return home where I truly belong. My heart yearns for the Motherland yet I don’t even know where to begin to relocate. I want to lose my american/european name and be given my true African identity. Being black in amerikkka is a horrific daily nightmare unless you deny who you are and assimilate to European ideals and principles that require I be cast as a second class citizen subject to white supremacy at will. My heart and soul yearn to be “Home” and learn of my ancestors, traditions and lifestyle…my true identity. I Love my African brothers and sisters and hope to be able to return home one day soon. Any ideas, suggestions or organizations that can help make this happen will be forever appreciated and never forgotten.

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