Behind 'Counter-Revolution' In East Africa

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Uganda President Museveni By Horace Campbell*
IDN-InDepth NewsEssay – Part 2 of 3

The government of Yoweri Museveni in Uganda is seeking external support from the conservative factions in the United States as the region of the Great Lakes becomes a major target for increased oil exploration and production. In what is now being called the largest onshore oil discovery in sub-Saharan Africa in 20 years, UK-based oil exploration and production company Tullow Oil discovered reserves of nearly two billion barrels of oil in rural western Uganda, with the largest finds in the Lake Albert Basin.

BEIJING (IDN) - Yoweri Museveni was part of the Dar es Salaam School. He associated himself with the ideals of liberation in order to gain support from (late Tanzanian president) Julius Nyerere. Soon after coming to power in 1986, Museveni ingratiated himself with the Washington decision-makers in the military and financial institutions. This service became manifest over the years from the alliance with western mining companies in the plunder of the resources of the Congo and the derailment of full liberation in Kenya.

This derailment has continued from the period of Mwakenya up to the recent struggles over elections in Kenya in 2008. Museveni was ready to do everything to keep the Kibaki group in power. Probably, one of the areas that the Uganda leadership has to answer for is the circumstances surrounding the helicopter crash that took the life of John Garang of the Sudan People's Liberation Front (SPLM).

Opposition to Museveni has been growing inside the society and in the military. After changing the constitution to become eligible to run for president beyond a mandatory two terms, there has been heightened opposition to the Museveni administration. The opposition has devised numerous means to oppose this government with the latest being the 'Walk to Work' campaign.

Opposition has also grown inside the military with senior commanders calling for a complete withdrawal from Somalia. These calls inside the military came after the massive bombing in Kampala in July 2010 that took over 74 lives. The Somalia group Al-Shabbab claimed responsibility for this bombing.

Intervening to Thwart

It was long ago in Tanzania when Walter Rodney said to me that of the three countries of the then East African Federation, the radical forces in Kenya were the ones with the deepest roots in their society. Walter Rodney had written a short article on Mau Mau in East Africa where he explored the influence of the war of liberation in Kenya on the rest of East Africa.

The British understood these radical traditions in Kenya and for over 50 years have been working to destabilise the progressive sections of Kenyan society. Working in alliance with other European imperial experts and the United States, the British worked assiduously to diminish the influence of radical ideas in the Kenyan body politics.

This included targeted assassinations and the politicisation of ethnicity and regionalism. Yet, this effort never completely succeeded and the call for the exposure of the crimes of the British in Kenya has recently been through the British legal system with a ruling on the criminal actions that require reparative justice.

The second wave of counter-revolution in Kenya came from the period of the nationalistic government of Daniel Arap Moi. Western military and counter-insurgency forces used military and non-military means to isolate those Kenyans who opposed dictatorship. Up to today, the full history of Mwakenya has not been written and it is a requirement for the healing and truth telling inside Kenya. One of the tools deployed by imperial forces was the massive non-governmental funding which gave Kenya notoriety as the headquarters for many international non-governmental agencies in Africa.

John Le Carré has written one fictional account of the criminal world of some of these organisations in the book, 'The Constant Gardener'. In interviews Le Carré has said that the truth was even more bizarre than the fiction.

Non-governmental organisations and imperial forces could not hold back the tide of opposition to exploitation and the impulse for democracy burned inside the people of Kenya. The cabal that held on to political power turned Kenya into a regional base for international capital with surpluses gleaned from Southern Sudan, Eastern DRC, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia and from Kenya itself.

Every major scheme for plunder and money laundering in this region passed through the financial institutions that exploded in Nairobi in the past two decades. So lucrative was this position as regional power brokers that the cabal could not countenance leaving power after the elections in December 2007.

These barons of finance in East Africa conjured complicated fraud and theft schemes. Scandals of corruption became so numerous that the populace became immune to the barrage of information of innovative methods of theft that were being practiced. Back issues of the Kenya Law Review have complete information of the level of fraud and theft in the banking sector.

When the elections were stolen in January 2008, the western forces organised a 'government of national unity' to keep the cabal in power. Corruption in Kenya had gone beyond the question of law enforcement and became interwoven with the struggles for democratic rights.

Since the establishment of the government of National Unity with the victors suborned as junior partners, the conditions of the people of Kenya have deteriorated with the increases in prices, shortages of food and groups calling for an Unga Revolution.

Novel forms of organising were being fashioned at the grassroots and these new techniques came to the fore in the effort to write a new constitution for Kenya. The grassroots organising is also calling for those responsible for the killings in 2008 to be brought to justice. However much Kenyans oppose the International Criminal Court (ICC), there is a call for an end to the levels of impunity enjoyed by the ruling plutocrats in Kenya since 1963.

Kenya and the War on Terror

From the period of the launch of the War on Terror, the people of Kenya have been used as political football. Every document relating to the war on terror starts off with the experience of the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Mombasa in 1998. Yet, the U.S. never fully took on the interconnections of the bombings and a wider world of extremists until the events of September 11, 2011 in the USA. From that period the state apparatus of Kenya became more deeply integrated with the US military deployment in the Horn and the Indian Ocean.

It is now well documented how there was collusion between the U.S. government and the government of Kenya to arrest and illegally ‘render’ Kenyan citizens. These issues of kidnapping and 'rendering' Kenyan citizens remain one of the issues of the vibrant human rights lobby in Kenya. But, the War on Terror served to destabilise one of the most vibrant communities in Nairobi, the Eastleigh constituency. This is an area of Nairobi where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Somalis reside.

This constituency was the scene of electoral manipulation and for three years there was no real representative in this constituency. Less than three months after the election brought a representative that vowed to bring the people of this area of Nairobi together, we have this deployment into Somalia to track down ‘terrorists.’ Kenyan citizens of Somali extraction are being criminalised as the escalation of war and repression take root in Kenya. [END OF PART 2 of 3. Read PART 1.]

* Horace Campbell is professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. See He is the author of ‘Barack Obama and 21st Century Politics: A Revolutionary Moment in the USA’ and a contributing author to ‘African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions’. He is currently a visiting professor in the Department of International Relations at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. A version of this article appeared on Pambazuka News. [IDN-InDepthNews - November 17, 2011]

Picture: Uganda President Museveni | Credit:

2011 IDN-InDepthNews | Analysis That Matters

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