Tiptoe in The Tulips

Tiptoe in The Tulips

usugandaCollusion? Vengeance? Contrariness? Or just stupidity?

These four questions, which hover over practically every action by high American officials today, are perfectly illustrated with an example in Uganda. Following citings for massive bribery issued by New York prosecutors against Uganda’s foreign minister, the Trump administration holds high-level meetings with the accused to praise him.

Collusion? Vengeance? Contrariness? Or just stupidity?

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Better Not Pout!

Better Not Pout!

betterwatchoutAfrica’s a bit unsettled. Europe’s more unsettled than ever.

The world is connected by a million strings. They’re best seen from afar, because up close they’re indistinguishable from the humdrum of everyday life. The ones I watch are in Africa:

Growing protests turn really violent in the DR-Congo. The Gambian president who conceded defeat in an election now says only God can tell him to step down. The Ugandan military is flexing its arms like it did under Amin.

What’s happening and is it coming to America?

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A Thousand Words

A Thousand Words

ugandapicturewordsAnyone taking a picture is arrested or shot. Then, Facebook takes down the pictures of the courageous who manage to post the massacre. A Kenyan TV journalist is charged with “abetting terrorism” for taking … TV video.

And most noteworthy of all, the organizer of the massacre, self-imposed Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni poses for a “government picture” in sunny South Africa with its despised leader, Jacob Zuma. You can truly wonder in Trumpian vernacular, “What the f*#! is happening in the world today!”

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Genocide in Uganda?

Genocide in Uganda?

ugandaviolenceMajor violence erupted in Uganda over the weekend. This morning the U.S. embassy warned travelers intending to visit the west of the country which includes its major tourist attractions.

The country’s major opposition leader, Kifefe Besigye, tweeted the photo shown above with the caption, “Genocide in Kasese.” News media have not confirmed it.

The worst violence in Uganda’s modern history follows the dictator’s self-installation Thursday for a fifth term as president, and then his implementation of several draconian laws including an anti-gay measure that some believe was withheld until Trump seemed securely in power.

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When More is Too Much

When More is Too Much

MoreGorillaHelpWhat do Mother Jones and the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) share in common? They’re always broke?

Yesterday, tens of thousands of persons on Mother Jones’ mailing list received an appeal from AWF to add their signature to a petition against oil drilling in the Virunga mountains. Virunga is home to the endangered mountain gorilla and a host of other lowland rainforest species.

Ostensibly the one-click link within the email adds your signature to a petition telling the Ugandan government not to issue oil licenses in the area, but in fact the page looks remarkably like a signup sheet for the AWF newsletter.

Like the “Stop the Serengeti Highway” which continues nearly five years after the Serengeti highway was stopped, aggressive development of Virunga for oil was stopped three years ago after Leonardo di Caprio’s remarkable documentary, “Virunga” was nominated for an Oscar.

Di Caprio was incensed when a British oil company began exploitation of the Virungas in 2013. Together with an aggressive campaign by the World Wildlife Fund which collaborated slightly on the film the original oil companies developing the area pulled out.

That was more than a year ago.

There were probably many reasons major oil companies pulled out of the area. We were on the brink of the decline in the oil price, so if anyone was aware of the upcoming glut, these companies were.

The new peace that came to the Virunga right about that time remained fragile, and it was and remains actually Uganda, not the DRC where most of the reserves have been located, that is trying so aggressively to sell its rights. Without clear collaboration with the DRC, development would be incomplete and probably too costly.

Without the major oil companies’ interest, the Ugandan government’s possible imminent assignments of exploration blocks in the area isn’t quite as serious as it seems.

This kind of global pandering is typical of the Museveni government as he thumbs his nose at an increasingly critical foreign community. Last week western ambassadors walked out of his umpteenth inauguration ceremony when he deviated from published remarks into a tirade about the west and the World Court.

AWF is not alone in the current campaign. It’s joined by Greenpeace. Both organizations have had a long history of positive work in the Virungas but this current campaign rings a bit hollow.

Not because it lacks merit, but because it carries a very obvious ulterior motive: fund raising. Fund raising for all not-for-profits is a never-ending struggle and there’s nothing negative about it per se.

But there are thresholds of “urgency” when asking for money. AWF in particular has recently initiated a number of crisis campaigns, from elephants to lions, with increasingly short intervals.

It’s hard to get attention in these days of Trumped-up reality. But the right way to do it isn’t just by increasing the volume.

Conservation vs. Development

Conservation vs. Development

Mom.gorillaIs conservation just? Not always, according to a study in Uganda’s Bwindi National Park.

“Conservation [needs] to get serious about environmental justice,” a September study from the University of East Anglia claims, one of the world’s top universities for developmental studies.

This is just one of lots of recent intellectual fistfights between sociologists and conservationists. Conservationists, on the one hand, are presumed to want to protect the earth at nearly any cost. Sociologists, on the other hand, put people first and claim that contemporary conservationists don’t.

The argument surfaced at the beginning of this decade but by 2014 the New Yorker called the debate “vitriolic.”

Finally at the end of 2014 the highly respected scientific publication, Nature, allowed two scientists to publish an article about the fight: “We believe that this situation is stifling productive discourse, inhibiting funding and halting progress,” they wrote.

Stop whining. This is an important debate and nothing that I’ve seen is offensive or immature. Quite to the contrary: The East Anglia study continues this debate on the side of sociologists, and I believe appropriately so.

I know Bwindi pretty well. It is the Ugandan section of the volcanoes national park in which the mountain gorillas live. Like the other sections in Rwanda and the DRC-Congo, mountain gorillas have enjoyed a wonderful rebound from near extinction at the end of the 1970s.

The main reason is tourism. It will cost you a hefty $750 for one permit to be with the mountain gorillas in Rwanda for one hour, and one of the 56 daily permits are often hard to get.

It’s less expensive in Bwindi, but that reflects the unsettled political situation in Uganda. But even in Uganda’s untroubled days, Bwindi’s operations were never on the up-and-up.

Bwindi was terribly corrupt. If you had trouble getting a permit, the right bribe to the right ranger would get you one, and if in fact the day was truly booked up, someone would find a way to take you to a gorilla research group which was technically off-limits to tourists.

The East Anglian study touches on this but in fact sticks mostly to the non-corrupt, stated policy issues. Their main criticism is that the original peoples of the area, the Batwa, have been intentionally excluded from the benefits of Bwindi’s growing gorilla population.

The main benefit to the growing gorilla population is tourism: revenues from the permit tax which supposedly go directly to the government; and jobs created in the tourist industry: staff for lodges and transport and guides.

The Batwa do not benefit from any of these. The Ugandan government has always been openly hostile to these progeny of “pygmies,” their land was never properly deeded to them so they were unable to participate in the leasing arrangements for the tourist lodges, and few if any tour companies hire them at any level.

Prior to the interest in conserving the gorillas, the Batwa’s lifeway was bush meat hunting in the forest – not gorillas, but mostly monkeys, and also duikers and other small forest creatures. This is now prohibited in the interests of gorilla and ecological conservation.

So without benefitting from the growth of tourism and conservation while being restricted from the forest which was their traditional lifeway, the Batwa have grown more poor and more estranged from modern society. Implicitly, of course, it’s presumed they become poachers.

“Successful” conservation policies lead directly to poaching.

The East Anglia study suggests that scientists should adopt certain principals of manifest justice that could delimit conservation goals, but which in all cases would ensure justice for the local peoples like the Batwa.

This no-brainer is often neglected, the authors claim, because conservation goals appear “to be driven by faith in a particular (utilitarian) model of justice that holds that conservation consequences justify their means.”

I’m glad to have this “vitriolic” debate: I’ve always believed in Africa that people must come first, that conservation is not anathema to that at all, but that stitching the two together is imperative.

Imperative to conservation, not to the peoples’ will and that’s the key. The people have the sovereignty. Conservationists do not. It’s clear who must sew the seam.

Where Has All the Power Gone?

Where Has All the Power Gone?

UgandaPresidentialElectionAre you tired of political debates? Join presidential front-runners Donald Trump and self-appointed president-for-life in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni.

Trump and Museveni have a lot in common: similar policies (e.g., none) and style (dismissive, offensive, threatening).

And … they’re both way ahead in the polls.

Museveni’s spokesman told reporters yesterday that he can’t make the last debate (he’s not made any of them) because of a “tight campaign schedule” and because “people he hasn’t addressed are yearning to hear from him and he can’t disappoint them.”

The spokesman added that “most of the questions have [already] been asked” and that answering the same questions “would be a repetition.”

In two weeks Museveni will win another “election” and become Africa’s longest serving dictator after Robert Mugabe.

He has some very Trump-like brownshirt strategies this time around:

(1) Over the last year his government funded 30,000 “volunteers” from around the country that local police have trained in “crime prevention, ideology and patriotism.” I’m not sure if they give out their names, but there might be a Cliven Bundy or two among them.

(2) In past elections Museveni simply sent thugs beat to a pulp his perennial rival, Kizza Besigye, but this year by sanctioning more candidates than he’s ever allowed before, the other candidates are doing the beating!

(3) Museveni is leading in the polls. According to pollsters the overwhelming reason is that the electorate fears Museveni will kill them if they don’t vote for him.

Last night in America we had our first valid presidential debate. Front-runners duked it out while masterfully remaining polite despite media taunts, defining clear differences that could result in meaningful voting.

That was one of how many? A dozen debates so far?

Even in America, like Uganda, like Zimbabwe, like for numerous school board elections or union chapters or government cells in China or Greenland, democracy is horribly corrupted.

Power has shifted from each individual citizen’s one-man vote that reflected her own studied self-interest to manipulators and tricksters. Power today rests solely with collectives of elite.

In some places like China they may, indeed, be intellectuals. In America, it’s corporations. In Uganda it’s a single man: If the guy’s good, things will be OK. If the guy’s bad, tough story. Hard to say whether flipping the coin on a personality or choosing a complex social collective is better. Talk about lesser of the evils…

Is democracy dead?

Undeniably Ugandan

Undeniably Ugandan

bestbrideshereMarriage is now … ‘nonrefundable’ in Uganda. This brings a whole new perspective to trophy wives.

The irony here is that Ugandan womens’ rights groups celebrated this Ugandan Supreme Court Decision, once again proving that Uganda is a mirror universe of the modern day.

Mifumi is a much needed Ugandan NGO that works principally against domestic violence. SALVE international reports that 68% of Ugandan women 15-49 years old suffer serious domestic violence.

This is roughly twice the continent’s average.

The litigation Mifumi brought to the Ugandan Supreme Court was actually to make bride price illegal, essentially ending it. Instead the Supreme Court made the practice nonrefundable. In Uganda and other similar socially transitional societies, if the woman divorces her husband the bride price is refunded.

It’s hard for me to understand how Mifumi thinks this ruling is a victory, as it is anything but. It further institutionalizes a primitive custom in modern garb.

Paying the women’s parents a certain sum in order to marry their daughter is rooted in the folkways of almost all traditional peoples. But the foundation of these folkways is the institutionalized inferiority of women to men. Bride price is simply a component of this larger perception.

Now the court is telling its citizens to look twice before acting, because the act is so important it can’t be undone.

In more modern cultures like ours the man proposing, the man giving the ring, the man standing by the religious leader waiting for his bride to be presented to him … all are vestiges of these early discriminations against women, and Uganda has begun canonizing them in modern terms.

Uganda is one of the saddest stories in Africa, a once vibrant and intelligent nation that was in large part shepherded into a land of super conservatism by American republican leaders.

Click here to begin reading that lengthy story which among other bad outcomes led to the “Kill the Gay” laws that have made the country so infamous.

But like Donald Trump playing to his constituencies’ fears and immoralities, the Ugandan president has navigated his stay in power by playing to the primitive side of his countrymen.

The Ugandan Supreme Court, like all institutions in the country, is a sham controlled by the president. Its August decision on bride price reflects Museveni’s beliefs exactly.

Museveni’s victory is greater than he expected. Now even the primary womens advocacy NGO is in his camp.

And Crackerjack

And Crackerjack

ugandalittleleagueUgandan little leaguers are representing Africa better than expected in the Little League World Series.

Francis Alemo is the star pitcher, pitching faster and harder than virtually any other pitcher on the playoff roster. “Francis Alemo [is] virtually unhittable,” a sports broadcaster was quoted today on NPR.

The African little leaguers are here thanks mostly to a New Yorker engineer who has diligently worked for more than a decade to bring them up to speed, including raising the funds to educate and train young kids at a sports academy outside Kampala.

Not just boys, either. The Ugandan girls’ softball team played in the world series of softball a few weeks ago in Portland.

It’s been rough, though, getting through U.S. bureaucracy. I wrote several years ago how the U.S. embassy in Kampala refused visas to a 2011 team that qualified for the world series back then.

To a certain extent it’s understandable. Uganda’s political and social situation today is terrible, so terrible EWT will not broker trips there. Many younger Ugandans who get visas to leave the country … never return.

Not all the reporting, though, is as on target as Alemo’s pitching.

My wife and I lived for two years on the border of Uganda in an area of Kenya filled with Uganda’s second largest tribe, the same ethnic group from which Francis Alemo comes.

We lived at a boys boarding school. Among the joys I remember there more than 40 years ago was introducing softball to the school.

I managed to round up bats – most of them broken – from departing Peace Corpers. We had no duct tape back then, but lots of rubber chords, so we strapped most of them together with rubber. Even some of the balls were wrapped with twine.

According to the sports outlet Boston.com writing about the Ugandans competing this week in South Williamsport New Jersey, “Baseball was first brought to Uganda by missionaries in the early 90s.”

Below is my much prized letter of commendation from the Headmaster of the St. Paul’s Amukura Boys Boarding School. The most important paragraph is towards the end, commending me for introducing the boys to softball!

Shelter in Place

Shelter in Place

index“The War on Terror,” Version 163 announced by Obama last week, is taking a significant toll on American tourism and business in East Africa.

This weekend the U.S. embassy in Kampala issued the most serious warning in their lexicon of warnings, “shelter in place,” one step before evacuation:

“All U.S. citizens are advised to stay at home or proceed to a safe location. Shelter-in-place and await further guidance. Follow U.S. Embassy Kampala on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates.”

The warning was issued Saturday and rescinded Sunday, after Ugandan authorities claimed to have foiled a terrorist attack Saturday night.

Then all day Sunday Ugandan military and police went through Kampala ransacking houses and shooting people. This, by the way, is how the Ugandan military works: shoot first, ask later.

It is the same philosophy that gave rise to terrorism in the first place.

It doesn’t work.

Uganda is neither a place to visit or live, right now, and it hasn’t been for some time. That isn’t because of an increased threat of terrorism, but because of the government’s increased militarism.

That seems to be in fashion with U.S. authorities right now.

Kenya is doing a much better job. Security outside the border region is improving, although security along the coast and Somali border is not.

Beheading, by the way, has been a modis homocide among terrorist groups for the last several decades. Recently another Kenyan border village experienced one.

What’s new, of course, is the beheading of westerners. The roughly thousand beheadings of Africans and Arabs didn’t draw any serious attention. But my goodness, we’ve now had three innocent westerners brutally beheaded! Time for action.

Until now terrorists felt that the potential ransom for a westerner was more valuable than the potential public reaction.

They’ve realized now that the PR value of a few beheadings is worth zillions more than a couple hundred million dollars.

We’re now playing into their game exactly as they wish us to.

That’s why they’re winning.

Provocative Rachel

Provocative Rachel

dontbeprovokedRachel Maddow’s misleading account of East Africa’s recent terrorist attacks contributes to America’s rearming against the War on Terror, despite her better intentions.

On her show Tuesday night, Rachel sort of concluded as I hope many others do that we should not overreact to the recent beheadings of two American journalists.

Her analysis that terror succeeds when it provokes is spot on. And the relatively simple act of murdering two people, however gruesome it was albeit they were journalists and Americans, is about as provocative as you can get.

But in elaborating on the “gruesome” and “provocative” Rachel fell down that slippery slope so American of defining a situation worse than it really is, of exaggeration. Fear does this. It moves you to overreact.

In describing the abject brutality of al-Shabaab, she recounted incompletely the bar bombing in Kampala in July, 2010, and followed that with a similarly misleading recounting of the Westgate Mall attack in September, 2013.

(Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for both attacks, although to this day it’s not completely clear the militant group held complete authority regarding Westgate. That tight knit group of terrorists who carried out the attack were mostly foreign and may have included the “White Widow”, no underling to Somali warlords who might aspire to be her boss.)

Rachel implied that both were indiscriminate if not random killings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It doesn’t in any way justify them, but it does help to explain why they happened.

The first motivation for both is that the Ugandan and Kenyan armies viciously fought al-Shabaab. The Ugandans were the lead army in the UN so-called peace-keeping force that had been battling al-Shabaab for years in Somalia.

The Kenyan Army staged a much, much greater assault in October, 2011, a virtual invasion supplied, organized and probably managed from start to finish by America. The Kenya Army remains a significant occupier of Somalia.

The second specific motivation for the Kampala bombing was that it was in a bar of people watching the World Cup: recreation and alcohol. A bombing of that magnitude would have been far more devastating had it occurred in the central bus station or airport.

More to the point, however, it would have been far easier at the bus station or a dozen other places than in a security patrolled, modern sports bar.

The second specific motivation for the Westgate bombing was the decadence of a mall which on the Muslim holy day had something like a mini rock concert, and as with all the malls in Kenya, sold everything from liquor to ladies panties. Why Westgate in particular? Because it is the only mall of Kenya’s giant three owned by a Jew.

So it is not completely random, and as I said, that hardly makes it better or more justified. Rather I’m saying there’s method in this madness.

Rachel then described the failed Navy Seals operation two weeks after the Westgate Mall attack which attempted to take out one of the leaders of al-Shabaab. We got him with a later drone attack, and Rachel then pointed out how easily he was replaced.

I’ve written a lot about Westgate and terrorism. It’s hard to exaggerate the brutality of ISIS, yet we do. We do by failing to compare it with all the other homicides and murders and unnatural deaths and lack of simple human rights right in our own backyard.

We all exaggerate, as Rachel did, by considering the most horrible of acts random. They are, in fact, rarely random. If subtle, the world’s terrorists are very methodical. Their horrific acts, including suicide bombings, are cleverly and carefully designed to entrap us.

Exaggeration is knee-jerk. It leads us into wars. We take the bait of provocation.

Unfortunately, we’ve learned to if not forget, to file distantly away in an instant afterwards the senseless murder of a kid in Ferguson or the senseless murder of an employee in a gun range in Nevada.

Perhaps we nurture such forgetfulness so that we can retrieve the events later on, in calmer moments, when we are fitter to analyze them better, to determine less emotionally if new actions are called for.

So we should now do with the senseless murders of two journalists.

Israeli Fauxpolitik

Israeli Fauxpolitik

NotABowIsrael’s steamy response to Obama’s acceptance of the new Palestinian government reveals a massive hypocrisy in Israel’s dealings with Africa.

Yesterday Palestine sort of came together, as Fatah (that recognizes Israel) formed a coalition with Hamas (that doesn’t).

The attempted amalgam was further complicated by the fact that Fatah is considered a wholesome government by the U.S. and much of the western world, and Hamas is considered a terrorist organization.

Complications hardly end there: mixtures of oil and water neither lubricate engines or quench thirst. It’s not clear to me the new coalition will be able to do anything but split up, again.

Be that as it may, Israel exploded diplomatically.

Israel spent 24×7 explaining to the media how hypocritical the U.S. was. On today’s Morning Edition, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. fumed.

I applaud Obama’s action because governments rarely mean what they say, only what they do, and it made me think of Israel’s long and “hypocritical” relationship with Africa.

Apartheid was prolonged, the war in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe was prolonged, the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe is currently prolonged, the development of Ethiopia was inhibited and horrible men from today’s Kagame in Rwanda and Amin in Uganda were sustained … because of Israeli diplomacy, often secret, often not.

Israel’s justification in these and other similar African initiatives was basically two-fold: enhance their national security and protect and recover African Jews. And the dedication to these two missions was uncompromisable, even if it created a conflict with other established credos.

When I was guiding in a once peaceful eastern Congo (now the DRC) in the mid 1980s, I flew my clients south from Beni to Goma on DC3s that came from Israel carrying weapons to the then Rhodesia. I’ve never been clear which side they were destined for, but wherever they were headed it was illegal… and that didn’t matter to the Israelis.

The current dictatorship of the weirdo despot Robert Mugabe is legitimized by an Israeli firm, Nikuv, which “manages” the farce called national elections which keeps Mugabe in power. Many Israelis are themselves furious, calling Nikuv Mugabe’s “fixers.”

The arms shipments to Rhodesia in the 1980s were likely more political than commercial, but it seems Nikuv might be more commercial than political.

In the runup to his mass slaughters, Idi Amin was supported heavily by Israel when the rest of the world had abandoned him. Shortly after staging his coup, Amin visited Israel, since no one else would have him.

Today in neighboring Rwanda, another despot is supported heavily by Israel, president Paul Kagame. Apparently there are some in Israel who believe that Tutsis are ancient Jews.

That seems like a stretch, but it’s no stretch that many Ethiopians were ancient Jews. I’ve seen myself primitive huts 3 or 4 decades ago with Torahs in Hebrew the only book around, and totems of ancient Israeli personalities like the Queen of Sheebah. I’ve seen entire villages that speak only a local dialect and Hebrew.

The belief that these “Falasha” were the Lost Tribe of Dan resulted in 30 years of Israeli involvement in Ethiopia so that it could repatriate 40,000 of the Falasha. The mammoth undertaking ended last year.

In order to facilitate this undertaking, the government of Israel was the only government except the Soviet Union that supported the barbarism of ruthless Ethiopian leaders in the 1980s.

My point has nothing to do with whether these Israeli efforts were right or wrong, but that they were practical to an extreme.

Obama’s search for peace in The Mideast is not practical to an extreme, it’s just practical. Israel’s condemnation? The pot calling the kettle black.

Soldiers At Bay

Soldiers At Bay

Commie or DespotRevolutionaries make lousy politicians, and that’s why South Sudan is so unstable.

Five theoretically democratic countries in sub-Saharan Africa were born of revolution: Uganda, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, South Africa and South Sudan.

(Modern Rwanda, which rose from the pyre of the 1994 genocide, never pretended to be democratic. Kenya’s election violence was too short-lived and geographically contained to be considered revolution. And The Congo and Somalia aren’t finished, yet.)

Of the five, South Africa is doing just fine if awkwardly so. Ethiopia is a far, far distant second, and Uganda and Zimbabwe are now lost causes. South Sudan, the newest, is still figuring out its peace land legs and right now, doesn’t look too good.

These five countries provide an excellent study of modern day transition from revolution and suggest what South Sudan must do to succeed.

All five countries sustained a revolution against their previous regime for a generation or more:

South Africa’s ANC was the revolutionary, fighting arm against the Nationalist government that blew up the factories and staged a couple fire bombs while figuring out ways from time to time to close the mines. The ANC is now in control of South Africa’s politics and has been since Independence twenty years ago.

The Ethiopian regime is composed of a segments of rebel groups pursued by the Terror Triumvirate, which assassinated Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974.

The current Ugandan and Zimbabwean regimes consolidated power after violent ousters of repressive regimes (Idi Amin in Uganda and Ian Smith’s UDI in Rhodesia).

The South Sudan is the newest, created from a 2005 peace deal with (north) The Sudan that led to independence in 2011.

All five countries pretend to be democratic and are founded on constitutions based on democracy. Only South Africa is.

Uganda and Zimbabwe are iron-clad dictatorships. Ethiopia is more communist than dictatorship albeit with a pretty wide net of political involvement across various segments of Ethiopian society.

We can predict what might happen to South Sudan based on what happened to the other four.

In all cases, the men (and it’s exclusively men) who shot guns and murdered adversaries of the ancien regime are now the political leaders. As George Washington summed it up when leaving a single term in office, soldiers do not make good democratic leaders.

Foreigners are eager to cast these country’s difficulties as ethnic, and to be sure the internal adversaries are clearly ethnically different. But I think as suggested by Hilary Matfess in an article in Think Africa Press, today, there are other more important reasons.

Once fault lines occur in a society, ethnic groups tend to congeal on one side or the other, and that’s certainly what’s happened in South Sudan. But that doesn’t mean the ethnicity or racism is the actual cause.

Ms. Matfess argues that it’s the constitutional makeup, but I argue that the constitution was made up by soldiers, and that’s the problem.

In a country as diverse, successful and developed as South Africa, soldiering onto the political stage worked well for the ANC, but soldiering into governance is not working so well. Nevertheless in South Africa, autocratic moves by politicians have been checked.

South Africa will do just fine as soon as these old soldiers go, and they are slowly but surely dying or being forced out.

Uganda and Zimbabwe, however, weren’t able to make the transition that I’m sure South Africa has, and both have devolved into despotic regimes.

I see Ethiopia as trying very hard not to slip into a despotic character, and the way it’s trying to do so is by a very restrictive, highly controlled mostly communist system that is forcing the old soldiers to stay at bay. Certainly without this very powerful central authority in Addis, the country would start fighting, again, and one or other of the soldiers would come to power as the despot exactly as Museveni and Mugabe have in Uganda and Zimbabwe.

This is South Sudan’s option, I’m afraid. Lacking the development and diversity that South Africa had historically, South Sudan must figure out “how to keep the old soldiers at bay.”

The only way is by a centrally restrictive “communist” government. All that democracy will do is facilitate war.

This is exactly the opposite of what Ms. Matfess believes, even though I’m using her argument to suggest it. But democracy cannot work until the population is educated enough to engage its mechanisms.

So if The West wants peace in South Sudan, it’s going to have to accept communism.

Now there’s a twist.

Karibu Kidepo

Karibu Kidepo

kidepovalleyIt is dangerous, now, to visit Uganda. Dangerous for the tourist, and dangerous for those Ugandans who would have to serve the tourist.

A groundswell of travel professionals, media publications and not-for-profits is moving in the direction of an all-out boycott of Uganda tourism. It’s happening so fast that even nimble dictator Yoweri Museveni has been caught off guard.

Yesterday he visited one of Uganda’s national parks, decimated recently by elephant poaching. Typical of a man under increasing siege, he lashed out at the “Turkanas of Kenya” and the “Toposas of South Sudan” for exterminating the reasons that tourists come to his country.

“Anybody who enters Uganda with a gun must be shot,” Museveni shouted. Later he issued a directive to the parks service and the military authorizing shoot-to-kill anyone suspected of poaching.

Obviously the elephant poaching problem is not confined to one country’s nationals or another. There are just as many reasons Ugandans would poach as Kenyans or South Sudanese. Museveni is feeling the diplomatic and traveler pinch beginning that could destroy his economy, but foreigners really have no choice, now, but not to visit Uganda.

Under Uganda’s new laws a casual reference to “gay” can technically put you behind bars.

Moreover if uttered in the presence of Ugandans, wittingly or not, those Ugandans are suddenly in a dangerously compromised situation: The law requires that they snitch on you, and if they don’t and it’s later presumed they could have, they too can be jailed.

Of course it remains to be seen how seriously these laws will be enforced, but based on the horrible rhetoric exchanged between Uganda and the west over the weekend, there’s every reason to fear the worst.

Simply put, vacation travelers don’t need the worry that they might say something that would put them or their Ugandan help staff in jail.

A safari is an exciting and intense experience, and rarely are tourists not in the presence of local Ugandans. The driver/guide is an Ugandan. The staff in the lodges is Ugandan, and that means meal service and bellhops among many others.

Rangers and other park authorities are Ugandan.

Shop owners, roadside hawkers, other local tourists are all Ugandans.

Under the law if your conversation mentions LGBT, homosexuality or gayness in any form or in any context, you are to be reported to authorities, the authorities are supposed to arrest you and interrogate you.

I remember well the Cold War days when we instructed all of our travelers visiting places then as controversial as South Africa or Burma, never to mention politics. That was hard.

But this goes further. Ugandans supporting the dictator Museveni are loaded for bear. Their pride has been damaged, their integrity challenged by Obama. Museveni as I said Friday is setting up a David & Goliath situation and casting himself as the moral David.

The anti-gay law was not the only axe to fall. Other laws, including an so-called anti-pornography law have now created what amounts to a dress code in Uganda.

The confusing legislation has led to multiple incidents of women in particular being beaten on the streets of Kampala.

So must the tourist conform as well?

Travel Weekly, an industry standard for travel agents for nearly last half century, dared to suggest yesterday that it would call for the first boycott of travel ever against a specific country:

Travel Weekly executive Arnie Weissman recounted his own interview last year with the Ugandan president who told him “he would not sign legislation that carried stiff penalties.’”

Weissman emphasized that Travel Weekly has never called for a travel boycott anywhere.

Now, however, the journal will call for a boycott if gays in Uganda ask it to.

It’s not at all clear, though, they would dare. That alone could get them jail for life.