From Volume 38, Issue 18 of EIR Online, Published May 6, 2011
Africa News Digest

Uganda Sparks Opposition Protests for Seeking IMF Support

May 2 (EIRNS)—Demonstrations led by defeated opposition Presidential candidates, Kizza Besigye and Norbert Mao, political opponents of Uganda President Yoweri Museveni, over the rising the costs of food and fuel, which began April 12, have flared up dramatically as the result of the brutal response by Ugandan security forces. Museveni said he will crack down on the demonstrations. Security forces have used live ammunition and tear gas. The demonstrations of hundreds of people, and the government response, are being characterized as a potential beginning the mass-strike process that earlier hit the North African nations of Tunisia and Egypt.

On April 29, the demonstrations have for the first time spread to the center of Kampala, which was brought to a standstill. Police and military fired teargas and live bullets to contain increasingly militant crowds in Kampala and most of the surrounding area. "Kampala under military siege" was the headline the Ugandan Independent that day. The walk-to-work demonstrations, protesting the price increases, have been lead by Besigye and Mao. Ugandan media report that since the election, food prices have doubled. After they were arrested, the demonstrations turned violent on April 28. Museveni responded with overwhelming force to the anti-government demonstrators.

Museveni is refusing to intervene to alleviate the impact of the rising prices because he is attempting to gain the approval for the IMF review that is coming up in June. On Feb. 11, one week before the Feb. 18 election won by Museveni (he has been in power for 25 years), the IMF executive board announced that it had not completed its first review of the three-year Policy Support Instrument for Uganda. Without this IMF support, Uganda is not able to borrow from multilateral development bodies, such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank, and other international development organizations.

Ugandan observers cited in the Ugandan press indicated that the IMF was concerned that the government was out of money, and had thus to pass a supplementary budget for some of the government's departments, a move that upset donor governments and institutions. The Ugandan press cited observers who alleged that the money went into election campaigns.

The big question in Kampala is, will the government be able to bring the budget back into accordance with IMF demands. Museveni's brutal response is meant to demonstrate to the IMF that he will not cave in to popular demands.

On April 4, before the protests erupted, the IMF had issued a statement that outlined what Museveni needs to do, which included:

* rebuild international reserves;

* increase domestic revenues through taxation;

* handle oil revenues transparently, subject to parliamentary approval as part of the formal budget process;

* reduce government expenditure arrears;

* bring down inflation by tight control over government expenditure and revenue.

After his Feb. 18 election defeat, Besigye had cited fraud, and tried to get the public to protest, but failed. The police's brutal response to the protests "threw Besigye a political lifeline," in the words of the Ugandan press, and made the protests an international issue.

Egyptian Delegation Mending Relations with Ethiopia

April 30 (EIRNS)—House Speaker Abadula Gemeda told a 48-member Egyptian delegation that arrived in Ethiopia yesterday for a five-day visit, that the problems Ethiopia had with Egypt over the use of the Nile's water were the responsibility of the previous, now overthrown, government of Egypt. He stated that relations between the two countries have improved since the downfall of the Mubarak government.

He called for cooperation between Egypt and Ethiopia in use of the Nile. He pointed out that Egypt could benefit from electricity generated by the mega-dam that Ethiopia is now building. He said that Egypt would also benefit from a regulated water flow, less loss by desalination, and decreased siltation.

The Egyptian delegation included three Presidential candidates, party leaders, and other prominent political figures, such as Abdel Hakim Abdel Nasser, the son of former President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and representatives from the 25 January Revolution Youth.

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