Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem:

The former Pop Star, of Boomtown Rats fame, Bob Geldof
(also known as Sir Bob or Saint Bob) is not a very
popular man in some very powerful quarters in Uganda
these days. Nothing new in that because even in the
Irish republic where he was born and in Britain where
he made his Pop name and was later Knighted by the
British Queen, not for his Pop Music, but for inspiring
the Band Aid appeal that caught global attention in
1984 in response to the Ethiopian famine, he is not
universally popular. He has earned a well- deserved
reputation for being a loud-mouth (and here I should
declare a potential personal conflict of interest
because my mouth does not often have a stopper too),
rubbing people the wrong way and ruffling all
available feathers in his crusade against
hunger, debt and poverty in Africa. I have had
occasion to observe that he sometimes appears to be crying more than the bereaved. But which champion of
lost will not recognise that combination of
zealotry and singular determination to use every
opportunity to advance one's cause?. It is easy to be taken over by the cause and sometimes that may lead to the precipitate road of the end justifying the means.  If there is a
Guinness book of records entry for using expletives
without caring whether it is president or prisoner,
diplomat or peasants, that are listening Bob Geldof
should be a runaway winner. It is part of his stock in
trade. Sometimes this theatrics stand in the
way of the message he has which makes many to accuse
him of either insatiable individualism or petulant
exhibitionism. I have had one or two run-in with him
where it was bullâ*¦. for bullâ*¦.  But  his publicity
tactics have worked well for him because whatever he
says often gets global attention.

And so it was typical of him to fly off the handle, go
against the grain, throw away the script at the
launching of the Blair Commission for Africa two weeks
ago and send verbal missile in an aside about
President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and his worst kept
secret attempt to tinker with the constitution of
Uganda and lift the restriction on fixed two terms for
the presidency so that he could stand again. Ekisanja (as the self succession bid is known in Luganda)
has now reached global media. Thanks to Geldof asking
Museveni to move off the state lodge!

Not unexpectedly the Ekisanja supporters have been up
in arms decrying his impertinence: how dare he,
interferes in our sovereign affairs?   What does this
foreigner, a musician for that matter (some say with
angry disbelief, as if Musicians should have no political views), know about Uganda to be asking Mzee
to step aside?

The uproar culminated in an obviously orchestrated
demonstration by supporters of the President last
Monday condemning Geldof's brash pronouncement. While
they were at it they also had non-diplomatic words for
the British government for meddling in Uganda's
affairs. The UK High Commissioner to Uganda has been
grumbling rather too loudly of recent and also a
recent statement by a British Foreign Office Junior
Minster voiced concerns about Uganda's transition to a
genuine multi party democracy.

According to Newspaper reports there were many
placards and slogans on display. They were broadly
nationalistic, anti imperialist, very Pan Africanist,
anti neo-colonialism, etc. But one in particular
caught my attention: it said yes to Aid but No to
foreign intervention!

While Bob Geldof may not be surprised  (and would have
been disappointed if people were indifferent to his
`remarks) at attacks on him, I am not sure how he
would react to a planned demonstration today by
anti-Museveni, anti-Third term and opposition
supporters or activists in his support. They must be
hoping they can enlist his support as veteran Global
publicist for their local cause of preventing Museveni
from succeeding himself. In addition to Bob's crusade to feed
starving Africans the Ugandan opposition is adding
delivery of democracy too! The bad news is that only
recently Geldof  in yet another choreographed outburst
openly said he was tired of being regarded as 'Mr
Bloody Africa'.  However maybe he can downsize to
become Mr Uganda democrat or Terminator of 'Sad Term'!

The banner that said Yes to Aid but no to intervention
exposes the self-inflicted humiliating contradiction
confronting many African leaders. They expect
foreigners to build their roads, feed their people,
construct their stadium, hospitals and other
development investment but at the same time they want
to assert their independence. Uganda under Museveni is typical of this disease. The country is talked up as a success story, one of the periodic 'miracles' of Africa throughout the 1990s though it is
fast losing its shine to new 'miracles' like
Mozambique. Yet its budget and development plans are
more than 50% dependent on foreigners. How sustainable
is this in the long run? No doubt the country has seen some economic growth  under Museveni's Laissez fair economics but real development is still very much elusive. But it is a country that has now become Aid junkie.

It will be ridiculous for those who are paying the
piper not to want to dictate the tune. After all those
who attended the Ekisanja demonstration must report
back to those who provided them with the logistics,
facilitation and the sodas that followed their
successful mission to Parliament Avenue. As it is with
individuals so it is with states and between states
where the stakes are much higher.
But African governments would like to eat their cake and keep same. They want to serve imperialism and serve their people even when the logic of the relationship is one of cat and mouse.
Many of them have signed away the national economy, without referendum or even perfunctory consultation yet when it comes to some
very narrowly defined convenient political issues like
our obligation to continue to choose them (or vote without choosing as some has described it) they suddenly declare the people are sovereign. What kind of sovereignty and selective empowerment is this that does not allow you to decide the way your national
resources are managed or mismanaged.  They go to
IMF/World Bank without consultation. They fight wars
without consultation but when they have problems with
their Donor-masters then they remember sovereignty,
self-determination and Pan Africanism. Otherwise they
are proud to be seen with their powerful friends from
Europe and America. It is like wannabe African
-Americans who only remember they are Black when they
are in big trouble. Remember OJ Simpson? Now look at
the pathetic Michael Jackson and his trial for paedophilia. Suddenly Rev Jesse Jackson is his spiritual counsellor.

This Ekisanja militia of Uganda of today or their cousins across the continent in similar battles to sustain ruling regimes are mere pawns in a cynical manipulation of the population to perpetuate personal rule. Where were those now carrying the banner of
non-interference when Uganda and Rwanda tragically
fought against each other, three times, in the DRC and
both Presidents and their Executive entourage travel
to Auntie Clare in London to settle their differences! They did not
listen to their own peoples, even their own cabinets let alone
neighbours or other Africans but as soon as London called they were
off like Good boys. Why? Because Clare Short was in charge of DFID
and was dishing out Millions of British Tax payers money to Uganda
and Rwanda. They even claimed that Clare was a mutual friend of theirs. But the same was said of Lynda Chalker before Clare and I am sure now both governments have ingratiated themselves to the DFID boss, Hilary Benn!
But the dependence on outsiders (and external leverage in our affairs)is not just on the part of governments but is fast corroding our civil society at all levels especially in these days of Donor-driven professional NGOs, MONGOs (my own NGO), NGI (Non Governmental Individuals), etc.

Yet we proclaim independence and demand sovereignty.
Like Wole Soyinka challenged Late Sedar Senghor of
Senegal, the apostle of Negritude: 'A tiger needs not
proclaim its Tigeritude'. You do not claim
independence and self-determination but earn it by
self-reliant actions and trusting your own people to
decide the economic, social, cultural and political
direction of their polity. It cannot be a tactical
tool used when it is convenient.