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Africa Must Have a Centre of Gravity

Thursday, 13th May 2021

President Yoweri Museveni has been launched into his sixth term as the democratically elected President in a colourful ceremony witnessed by 32 visiting foreign delegations, and millions of Ugandans. From east to west and north to south, African heads of state travelled to Kampala to show solidarity with their Ugandan colleague and to affirm the spirit the spirit of African unity. Within eastern Africa came the Presidents of Somalia, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo  and Burundi; while President Nana Akufo-Addo and President Alfa Comte came from the western part of the Continent.  President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia came from the north to be joined in the celebrations by President Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe and President Gottfried Geingob of Namibia coming from the southern part of the Continent. President Buhari delegated the Vice President of Nigeria to represent him at this Ugandan ceremony.  Ten African Heads of State were represented by senior minister including Ministers of foreign affairs in a ceremony attended by the African Union Chairperson, the Executive Secretary Intergovernmental Agency for Development and the Secretary General of the East African Community. 

Of the guests from countries outside the African continent, the Russian leader was represented by the deputy minister of foreign affairs. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates heads of state invited for the ceremony were each represented by a minister. With this distinguished blend of African and foreign guests, Kololo grounds, and indeed Kampala, were animated by picturesque performances by the armed forces. Held on 12th May, the swearing-in and inauguration ceremony was relayed live to a global audience by the oldest media house in the country, the Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.

Among the key points which the newly inaugurated President made was the issue of democracy and democratic processes in Uganda. The President extolled Ugandan democracy and democratic processes pointing out the wide representation base of all political interests in the country. Uganda he said, had designed a most elaborate pro-people democratic system whose structures contained 96,860elective positions in the whole country. Of these positions Parliament featured 353 directly elective constituencies, 146 women affirmative action constituencies; in addition to youth, persons-with-disability, the Army and other stakeholder constituencies. Museveni emphasised that this system of representation was home-grown, developed with the people of Uganda against the backdrop of Ugandan realities. He therefore needed no lectures on democracy from any source; but would be willing to share Ugandan experiences of democracy on the basis of mutual respect.

Welcoming his guests, the President outlined the four principles of his party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), which got over the bottlenecks of religion, tribe and gender chauvinism bedeviling previous Ugandan governments. The NRM had steered clear of these bottlenecks by deliberately adopting the principles of patriotism, pan-Africanism, pursuit of a common African market and the pursuit of democracy. It is these principles which had enabled the NRM-led government to pursue and realise high rates of economic growth, universal primary and secondary education as well as infrastructural development in the country. With the newly discovered oil factored into the growth of the economy in the near future, he expected the economy to grow at the rate of between 9- 10 per cent in the initial years of oil production. This rate of growth, although reasonable, is not what I want, he said, adding that he would see to much faster rates of economic growth now that Uganda has an educated potential pool of labour.

The third point of the inaugural Presidential address is here combined and summarised as pertaining to matters of African economies growth and socio-cultural transformation; with her search for  economic and strategic centre of gravity. Using Uganda as an example, Museveni said that the newly awakened enterprise in Uganda was likely to create huge surpluses in all its production areas; resulting in the need for a much bigger market than Uganda or indeed the region can provide. In this respect, while saluting the formation of an Africa-wide market recently, he exhorted the formation of a United African States, after the fashion of the cobbling of British units in past centuries to form what is now a powerful United States of America. American power and strength, the President argued, was buttressed by a strong economy whose dynamo was a big domestic market.  He conceded however, that there were some small and apparently fragmented countries in the world but maintained that, these had clear centres of gravity. Centres of gravity were important for people all over the world Museveni insisted, pointing out different centres of gravity for the people of Europe, of the Balkans, of southern Asia and of Asia. Unlike the people of such countries, the people of poor balkanised African countries with underdeveloped economies and small markets have no economic or strategic centre of gravity.

 We must, where we can, build a centre of gravity for the African race, Museveni emphasised. Lamenting the absence of an economic and strategic centre of gravity for the African race, he pointed at  black people suffering almost everywhere in Europe, the USA, Brazil, etc; saying this in part was on account of lack of this centre of gravity.