Saturday, December 17, 2011

Robert Mugabe..what happened?

Today I attended the Amakula Kampala film festival. This was the very first film festival there ever was in Kampala and I have faithfully attended all their annual outings since their inaugural in 2004.

There was an intriguing film on the programme with an intriguing title and I thought... I should make time for this one. And I was no disappointed,

'Robert Mugabe...what happened?' was the title of the film by Robert Wright,a Zimbabwean film director. Boy! is that such a legitimate question indeed!

Robert Mugabe was considered an independence hero of Zimbabwe for leading a popular struggle for independence from Britain and subsequently against Ian Smith's white supremacist rule in the then Rhodesia. He was imprisoned for eleven years for his efforts and was only released at the height of natives struggle for self-governance with Zimbabwe gaining independence on 1980.

Robert Mugabe was supremely articulate,eloquent and spoke the finest queen's English and he duped many who accepted him as an exceptionally educated leader for Zimbabwe and this persona helped him eclipse other erstwhile contenders such as Joshua Nkomo from a rival ethnic group.

But the Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe's independence struggles wouldn't recognize today's Mugabe.

As his people lost confidence in his leadership, he resorted to desperate measures to keep on his grip on power which became an all- consuming occupation.

With the passage of time and failure to live up to the expectations of his people he lost his legitimacy to lead Zimbabwe and resorted to the most repulsive approaches imaginable to desperately keep state power including rigging elections,seizing white farms,fermenting tribal rivalries, tribal genocide,relying on the military for survival (and not his own people) and a shameless and naked drive to keep power at all costs including human lives.

Robert Mugabe is clearly past is sell-by date (he is shooting 90!)and watching him now gives one a strong impression that his mental faculties have suffered natural waste-the passage of time.

His Zanu-PF party doesnt have any more faith in his leadership but only see him as their assurance of a meal ticket and their continued partake of state largesse such as handouts of white farms to party extremists. In Morgan Tsvingrai's MDC (who actually won the last presidential polls) they have a formidable foe and Robert Mugabe is the only one who can guarantee that they will win an election even when they lose one.

Zimbabwe embodied lots of promise for Africa and could have been a success story if Mugabe hadn't screwed it all up.

To be fair, the question of land tenure justice was one borne out of the colonial history of Zimbabwe and the failure of Britain to come good on its promise to aid efforts for a fairer land re-distribution arrangement in Zimbabwe where black Zimbabweans had a fair stake in owning a piece of the arable land of their homeland is part of the problem of the tragedy of Zimbabwe.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tanzanians: The reluctant East Africans

In November 2009, I penned an article in 'The Monitor' inspired by a road trip I took from Kampala, through Nairobi, to Arusha in Tanzania.

The article, 'The dream of one East Africa is a distant one', decried the delay in attitudinal change by East Africans in shifting to a 'one East Africa' mentality.

I argued that the idea of one East Africa is clearly one we ought to nurture and realize given the global blocks of the EU,USA, China whose combined populations, market and GDP give them a competitive edge in the global race in which we find ourselves.

I also mentioned that the dream of one East Africa is currently a top-down vision held largely by heads of state which needs to trickle down to the regular East African in Kikuubo, Kariakoo or Kibera.

The doubts on the pace of East African integration in 2009 don’t seem to have gotten any much better despite the numerous announcements of milestones. Only that Tanzanians now seem even more reluctant East Africans. And there is plenty of evidence.

Only two weeks ago, It was reported in our dailies that Tanzania has slapped a 25% tax on Ugandan imports contrary to the recently signed customs union among all East African states that bars taxes on member countries' exports .

Tanzania has declined to sign a defense protocol of all East African countries-a project of the East African community. Tanzania says it doesn't want to be mired in the conflicts common to other East African countries. The defense protocol provides that an attack on one makes it a duty for all the rest to rise up in a mutual defense pact akin to NATO.

The High Court in Tanzania recently ruled against the East African Development bank in favour of a Tanzanian businessman-borrower to the tune of over USD$ 163 million which threatens to effectively bankrupt the bank, a survivor of the earlier East African community of the 1970s. You may say that the Tanzanian executive has no control over the courts but then East African community treaty (which Tanzania signed) says member countries should not allow litigation against East African community assets.

Observers who attended a meeting in Bujumbura at the end of last month at which East African community ministers were supposed to sign an agreement for the establishment of the East African Community Political Federation reported that Tanzania declined to sign the agreement and dramatically left its seat at the meeting.

It was only after hand-wringing that Tanzania finally singed the agreement- days after the rest of the countries had signed on.

Despite an agreement(common market) earlier this year that goods and services should freely move across all borders within East Africa(including human resources),Tanzania still bars other East Africans from getting jobs in Tanzania.

Ugandans in Northern Tanzania tell me once they get a job in Tanzania they are swiftly reported to the authorities under a community whistle-blowing arrangement.

I arrived in Tanzania again earlier this year and the 'visa' stamped in my Ugandan passport showed that I was given 14 days in Tanzania. Even the Americans and British have granted me alot more days in their realms.

At the root of all this is Tanzanian mistrust and suspicion of other East African countries. There is a widespread belief in Tanzania that in an integrated East Africa, Kenyans will take their jobs and Ugandans are a chaotic lot given their turbulent history and lifting of presidential term limits.

And it is not only Tanzania which has fallen short. The East African community recently mooted the idea of a common foreign policy protocol by June 2011 but, to date, not one East African country has come good on that milestone. And the East African common currency? Don't get me started. The Greek tragedy in the EU is a cautionary tale.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

'Priceless': A delightfully priceless french movie

Today I watched a delightful french movie. Priceless is a french gem of a romantic comedy.
Being accustomed to Hollywood movies, 'Priceless' is a breadth of fresh air. Its not a recent release at all having come out in 2006. But I chanced on it by sheer chance.

I strolled by Alliance Francaise of Kampala (I did a french beginners course with them) at their Nakasero home in Kampala and a quick scan on their noticeboard showed Thursday was movie nite.
I had planned on jogging around the adjacent soccer field and had stopped to have a quick coffee before a 40 minute work out but abandoned the plans instantly. 'Priceless' was showing and a quick perusal through the plot,I was sold. So, work out was out and movie was in!

The plot is actually a simple but brilliant one. It tells the story of a meeting between a gold digger attractive young woman (AudreyTautou) and an accidental 'rich 'eligible young bachelor (Gad Elemlah) who meet at high-end hotel bar and mistaken identity on the part of the gold digger young woman. It's a comedy of mistaken identities that blooms into an unlikely love story.

Audrey Tautou reminded me of Julia Roberts in 'Pretty Woman'. They are both convincing as women who sale their wares.

Audrey Tautou plays a woman who is about to marry a rich but elderly man for his money and one late evening on her birthday (after a frustrating slumber from her elderly companion) she strolls into a hotel bar and is smitten by a dashing young man sleeping on a couch( the bartender) who she mistakes for a rich patron.

The bartender allows Audrey to continue in her mistaken belief and pass off as a rich young man. From then on, the laughs come fast and furious as the mistaken identity begins to unravel in the most hilarious of ways.

I have watched several french movies and their attraction , for me, was their being the anti-hollywood, not being formulaic not forcing a 'hollywood ending' but Priceless manages to be french and still attain the success of a hollywood formulaic movie- having a clear plot,an intelligent ending and keeping tabs on the clock. It is a delight