[Marxism] Museveni clique involved in recruiting African mercenaries for US

Lajany Otum lajany_otum at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Feb 9 20:33:44 MST 2007

Since the invasion of Iraq by the US, there has been a trade in people from third world countries, including from Sub-Saharan Africa to provide cheap labour and a mercenary force. Presumably the occupation calculates that mercenaries and labourers recruited from non-Arabic speaking countries are less likely to develop political sympathies for the Iraqi resistance or other indigenous forces in Iraqi society.

Now, according to a report in a Kampala newspaper, the Monitor (28 Jan-3 Feb 2007), the family of the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, in particular, one Kellen Kayonga who is the sister in law of Museveni's half brother and long-time henchman General Salim Saleh (an individual who was also involved in the invasion of the Congo and the resource looting operations there), is involved, through a front company called Askar, in the supply of mercenaries and labourers to Iraq. What's more, Kayonga's company is being "investigated" by the officials for illegal deductions from the salaries of the unfortunate souls whom they have shipped to Iraq.  Of course this "investigation" is thoroughly toothless and will not be allowed to interfere with business in this neoliberal fief.

More recently, Museveni, in an address to army officers during the unveiling of a fibreglass statue of himself at Kabamba baracks, is reported, in his vulgar way, as "applauding Ugandans who have gone to act as guards in Iraq. He said if they are not killed, they will be able to help their families" (Monitor 7 Feb 2007).

Several other recent stories from Uganda that will have serious long term implications for the region as a whole:

The government recently gave away much of the remaining stands of native rainforest around lake Victoria and in its water catchment to a US-Malaysian consortium (BIDCO, which includes Archer Daniels Midlands of America, Wilmar Group of Malaysia and Josovina of Singapore) of investors for use as palm oil plantations.

The government has also given away much of the Mabira rainforest to returnee Indian "investors" for growing sugar cane and building hotel resorts.

According to the Monitor, the sites which have been given away for sugar cane and palm oil plantations:

<<These forest reserves are critical sites for biodiversity conservation because of their physical location within Lake Victoria, the second largest fresh water lake in the world.

Besides that, some of them have been designated as nature reserves where no human activity is allowed due to their rich biodiversity with species unique to Uganda. The reserves zoned for production have the potential for long term sustainable supply of hardwood and the reserves for recreation. They are vital for tourism. The forest reserves protect Lake Victoria from possibilities of silting up as a result of water and wind erosion.>> (Monitor Feb 4- 10 2007).

The government has also gone on a dam building frenzy, building a new dam parallel to the colonial era dam at Owen falls at the source of the Nile. This disastrous piece of engineering overseen by Museveni's government, being in parallel with the original colonial era dam, cannot generate electricity without lowering the water level of the lake Victoria which has fallen drastically since the opening of the new dam.

To compound the problems, a new dam is to be built at Bujagali,  downstream from Owen Falls. This dam is scheduled to produce electricity that is unaffordably expensive for Ugandans, will saddle the country with enormous debt and has gone through a tendering process that according to the World Bank, was corrupt, even by the questionable standards of the dam building industry.

The processes ongoing in Uganda at the moment provide a singular illustration of David Harvey's "accumulation by dispossession": rather than accumulation through the expansion of wage labour in industry and agriculture, it occurs through privatization, environmental degradation, financial crises and indebtedness. Indeed the current neo-liberal regime has overseen the privatization and dismantling for sale as parts and scraps of the industrial infrastructure that was established under the comparatively paternalistic British colonial regime and by the nationalist government in the 1960's with some Soviet aid. At the same time as it has overseen the destruction of the country's industrial and social and educational infrastructure, such as it was, through privatization and liberalisation, a class of nouveau riche has accumulated (relatively) large fortunes through practices such as deforestation of public lands, forcible dispossession of pastoralists of their livestock by
 government sanctioned rustling, buying public assets (for example banks) at nominal prices using political and kinship connections for resale to Asian or South African investors, and "giving away" public assets to "investors" such as BIDCO, presumably in return for substantial kickbacks. These scams which the Museveni regime has overseen since it came to power in 1986, parallel, on a much smaller scale, the processes through which the Russian and post-Soviet oligarchies built private fortunes from the stripping and destruction of the commons. And much as did the Yeltsin regime, the Museveni regime has carried out its destruction  and theft of its country's patrimony with the support and oversight of US dominated international institutions, and the direct support of the US and other Western governments.

Unfortunately, notwithstanding the raucous NGO fest  at the World Social Forum in Nairobi recently, there is little political resistance to the neo-liberal order in Uganda or elsewhere in East Africa. As illustrated by the movement which brought about the end of the Moi regime in Kenya, and by the rise of the Museveni regime in Uganda, political affairs remain largely internecine struggles carried out within the elites, generally framed in terms of personalities and in the coded language of ethnicity. 

Lajany Otum

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