top of page

Yearly 2 Billion for Museveni: "Despot, electoral forger, liar - and darling of Western donors"

The Neue Züricher Zeitung is one of the most respected and serious newspapers in Europe: on the West's support for Museveni and that this is not in the long-term interest of Europeans, they published the following article:


"Despot, electoral forger, liar - and darling of Western donors: Why development aid for autocratic regimes is an own goal

In Africa, even authoritarian states receive billions in aid from the West. In the long run, this works against the interests of both donor and recipient countries.

Uganda's president has the disturbing ability to tell terrible lies so stoically that one could easily ignore them. The "most fraud-free election since independence" had just taken place in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni said with soporific calm in mid-January after being elected for a sixth term. He will, the 76-year-old in the cowboy hat continued, devote himself to the tasks ahead with "total integrity".

Anyone who knows Uganda will swallow blankly at such talk. The fact is that when Museveni spoke, the East African country was looking back on yet another electoral farce. For months, the president's political opponents had been intimidated or imprisoned, several dozen demonstrators were killed. Foreign election observers were not welcome, the evidence of vote rigging is clear. Opposition leader Bobi Wine was arrested several times, probably tortured, and placed under house arrest after the election.

Museveni is an intransigent autocrat, a brazen liar. Actually, he should, one believes, have long since been sidelined internationally. But the brutal stoic, in power for 35 years, is a darling of Western development cooperation. Aid money amounting to around 2 billion dollars a year flows to Uganda from the OECD countries - ten times as much as when Museveni took office.

Security, stability, migration

Most Western countries have two faces when it comes to dealing with autocratic regimes in Africa. Publicly, they focus on human rights, democracy and good governance. These concerns shape the official strategies of their development organisations. And they occupy a prominent place in the speeches of their diplomats and foreign ministers.

In reality, however, other things are often more important. In many cases, development funds flow most generously where the donor state itself has tangible political or economic interests. If a local government stands up for these interests, the door to lucrative cooperation is open to it even if democratic elections and the rule of law remain a mere façade even after decades.

The example of Uganda provides ample illustrative material. President Museveni internalised the unofficial "rules of the game" of international cooperation years ago. He offers things for which many donor countries are willing to turn a blind eye to human rights and democracy.

What Uganda offers the West

First, Uganda's much-praised refugee regime. Over 1.4 million people, most of them from South Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa, have found refuge in Uganda in recent years. This is a global record - and an effective bargaining chip in negotiations with donor countries.

Secondly, there is Uganda's commitment to the international fight against terrorism. In Somalia, more than 6200 Ugandan soldiers are fighting the Islamist Shabab militia. No other country provides more men for the African Union peacekeeping mission. The US, in particular, thanks it generously: in 2019 alone, $750 million in American aid flowed to Uganda.

Third, Museveni scores points for something rare in a region where flashpoints are on the rise: stability. "Look how much better off you are than your neighbours in Eastern Congo, in South Sudan," Museveni used to say during the election campaign. The argument, as low as it sets the bar, apparently catches on not only with many voters, but also in Washington, Brussels and Berlin.

Security, stability, migration: one of Museveni's trump cards almost always works. After the recent electoral farce, it is no different. Admittedly, the EU has issued a statement expressing concern about state violence and the repression of opposition activists, NGO workers and journalists. However, the criticism has not had any noticeable consequences for Museveni. In 2021, billions in aid money will again flow to Uganda.

Short-term interest politics

Uganda is not an isolated case. It is a fairy tale that development funds flow primarily to where they are most urgently needed and most efficiently used. Only a quarter of the aid money of all EU states goes to the 46 poorest countries in the world. Moreover, studies indicate that authoritarian states in Africa do not receive less aid than democratic ones.

Of course, the money rarely goes directly to governments, but to health care, road building and education. Nevertheless, in many cases it supports those in power: those who take on tasks that should actually be done by the state enable it to invest elsewhere. In Uganda, Museveni has been able to build up a massive security apparatus over the last 35 years, also thanks to indirect Western support, which actually serves only one purpose: to make political change impossible. "The international donors are the biggest supporters of Museveni's authoritarianism," says Godber Tumushabe, a Ugandan lawyer and activist.

The consequences of this weigh heavily on the local people. Uganda has shown solid economic growth for years, but extreme poverty is hardly decreasing, youth unemployment is gigantic, and the country's untapped potential is sobering. Museveni's latest slogan - "Secure your future" - must sound like a misplaced joke to those 80 percent of the population who are younger than 30 and have never experienced another president.

For the donor countries, too, the policy of interests disguised as "development cooperation" is usually only worthwhile in the short term. Instead of supporting the urgently needed political and economic change on the ground, it prevents it. "Development aid makes autocracies more autocratic": this is the conclusion of political scientist Nabamita Dutta in a comprehensive study.

Repression is not a solid foundation for sustainable development and stability. It often leads to resentment among the population. At some point, this is unleashed. What follows can currently be observed in Ethiopia, for example: a dangerous political destabilisation, an outbreak of latent conflicts, displacement, economic stagnation - in short: the opposite of stability and security.

The son is waiting in the wings

So what would be the better way forward for the donor states? In Washington, the Biden administration is currently discussing sanctions against individual exponents of the Ugandan government. In addition, the USA wants to make its aid payments to Kampala more dependent on compliance with minimum standards of democracy and the rule of law. The European countries - together the largest donors of development aid in the world - should do the same as the Americans. If necessary, they should suspend aid payments to Kampala altogether. And in the medium term, Europe must fundamentally ask itself - also for the sake of its own credibility - to what extent it still wants to be the donor of despots in the future.

Is that any good? It is not certain, although Museveni can hardly afford a direct confrontation with his biggest donors and major trading partners.

What seems certain, however, in view of the long-term trend, is where an unconditional continuation of support for the Museveni regime would lead: to even more police state and violence, even more anger and lack of prospects for the young. Even the demise of the strong man in Kampala would hardly promise any improvement. Museveni's son, who reached the highest ranks in the army within a short time, has long been ready to take over his father's legacy. If this were to happen, it would mean cementing the dictatorship that the country has been heading towards for years - with generous help from outside."

source in German: Entwicklungshilfe für Autokraten in Afrika ist ein Eigentor (


With regard to Western interests, the NZZ did not mention one thing: After their military interventions in the resource-rich Eastern Congo, Uganda and Rwanda have built up networks with militias and soldiers through which many raw materials flow via the two countries for the electrical and metal industries to the international corporations: There, the people pay with even more suffering for the cooperation of the dictators and the Western governments and companies.

Medico: "Background to the conflict: The dark side of globalisation.

Congo's international relations reflect the creeping sell-out of this giant Central African state. Since Western countries first became aware of what is now the territory of the DRC, its leaders have always bought the sympathies of their foreign friends with the raw materials they have in surplus. To this day, the warlords of eastern Congo secure not only weapons in this way, but also support from neighbouring Uganda and Rwanda. Therefore, the conflict must also be seen and understood in the context of the arms trade and the extraction economy of natural resources.

Uganda and Rwanda are of particular importance in this context. Important transit routes run through both countries so that Congo's valuable raw materials can be shipped via East African ports. All of eastern Congo's export and import goods flow through them, keeping alive, among other things, the flourishing mineral smuggling business involving army officers and established businessmen of all ethnicities. At the same time, the nearby border area is a retreat for Rwandan and Ugandan rebel groups who want the neighbouring countries under control. Almost nothing is known about the exact business relations and political entanglements of the individual actors. The only thing that is clear is that all warring parties involved in the civil war profit considerably from the immense mineral resources in eastern Congo, Africa's immense resources are more coveted than ever and prices on the world market have recently risen rapidly.

Another important factor is the interests of the world's dominant economic and political powers, which are affected by the Congo war. Joseph Kabila has long been supported above all by France, which wants to regain its economic interests and its somewhat faltering influence in the Francophone states of Africa. French entrepreneurs in Congo were considered the most important donors to Kabila's election campaign, who had re-issued many mining licences after the end of the war in 2002 and privatised a large part of the state mines in the process, from which French companies in particular have profited.

At the same time, the Anglophone states of Uganda and Rwanda are considered the most important US outposts in sub-Saharan Africa. From there, the US government tries to protect its strategic interests in the region and secure access to the Congo's raw material deposits. The appearance of China, which has gained access to Congolese mineral resources in exchange for the construction of an extensive rail and road system from Kinshasa to the interior of the country, reinforces the already explosive constellation of interests of the world powers on the ground. The Congolese government's agreement with the Chinese also poses an acute threat to the existence of local warlords like Nkunda, as the infrastructural development of a nationwide transport system could be a first step towards a functioning Congolese state system."

DR Kongo: Die dunkle Seite der Globalisierung - medico international

12 Ansichten0 Kommentare