Andrew Mwenda launches independent newspaper

This week, journalist Andrew Mwenda launched a weekly newspaper, The Independent, in Uganda, in spite of some apparent initimidation by the government.

Andrew is one of the smartest and most provocative voices I have heard out of the developing world, and is worth watching and listening to even if you haven’t much relationship to Uganda.

I’ve blogged about my conversations with Andrew before. From today’s TED blog, who has hosted Andrew for a talk on aid to Africa, a tale of state intimidation:

His journalism has been critical of the Ugandan government, and he writes in an
email that the president warned off his first printer. From his email:

“We have been through a lot of hell. our launch was supposed to be friday last week with the maiden issue of the newspaper. then, president’s office called our printers and asked them not to print us on thursday morning for our launch issue of friday morning. we ran desperately to other printers all of whom told us that they had been warned against printing us.

…however, we finally managed to get someone beyond state control and the paper is out. the lesson is that we need our own printer to be independent. the other, is that the road to freedom and liberty is a tough one. however, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. and we are marching on that road with greater confidence now.”

Reporter Tim Cocks, writing for Reuters, confirms this report, speaking to the printer in question; a spokesperson for the Ugandan president said he knew of no such order.

This suppression story is pretty plausible, although I suppose it could just as easily be a lower-down decision as one from Museveni. Attributing all acts of a state to its head is common, but optimistic. If you think any leader, from Bush to Museveni, controls all the organs and arms of the bureaucracy, I think you would be naive.

The leader does, however, bear ultimate responsibility and accountability for any such blatantly authoritarian actions. If it is not Museveni at the helm of the suppression and intimidation campaign against Mwenda’s paper, then he ought to be at the helm of the campaign to encourage the freedom of expression and reign in his more totalitarian underlings, of whom there are many.

In my heart, I still hope that Museveni is a Democrat (in the larger, not the American, sense of the term). Day by day, I begin to fear otherwise.

3 thoughts on “Andrew Mwenda launches independent newspaper

  1. You still hope that Museveni is a “democrat..” …by what definition?
    You see the problem is that we somehow feel it’s fine for us to have two standards of “democracy” (and the attendant attributes..the rule of law; human rights; freedom from arbitrary arrests, torture and imprisonment; the right to criticize those that govern; the right to elect those that govern; security of life and property; etc.)..one measure for Africans and another for those of us here in the “civilized” industrialized countries. This is the kind of attitude, sadly, that conditions how the powers that be in the industrial countries deal with African countries…i.e., oh, he’s not as bad as Idi Amin so let’s give him a break. One wonders whether the more than 1 million Ugandans confined in concentration camps in Acholi region shares this outlook…camps where the World Health Organization reported that there were 1,000 excess deaths per week from hunger and diseases…something Museveni’s government is wel aware of since it set up the camps 20 years ago (meaning more than 1 million Acholis may have died in these camps…which kind of numbers even the Lord’s Resistance Army must envy since their own kill-rates pale miserably in comparison). Or you may want to talk with Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s former doctor, who was thrown in jail in 2005 when he had the temerity to contest the presidential elections; and who may well have still won anyway, regardless of the wide spread rigging. Or you may want to ask Andrew himself. Democrat? Hardly.

  2. Since the Ugandan constitution was changed to allow him rule until he drops dead he is spending more time entreching himself in power and fighting his presumed enemies than doing anything to develop the country. He has gone on to import pple from a neighbouring country (Tanzania) in order to increase is electral base. He is grabbing natives land and giving it to these herds men from Rwanda and Burundi. This is a big problem and the international community should watch closely in order to prevent a likely genocide that might arise as a result of this.

  3. Its better for all of us to agree the 1986 museven has totally lost truck,the 1 who came claiming to fight against brutal arrests of Obotte &Amin,dictatorial governance,poor service delivery etc ,now it has become his goal and objective.Now if some one stand and say that museven is still a democrat i will have failed to know how he understand democracy by definition.But we should pray had that our Uganda goes back where it was.