Zaire, the name Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngwendo Wa Za Banga, had given to the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1971 and 1997, symbolized corruption and chaos. Usually the term Kleptocracy is used to illustrate the unique kind of corruption and chaos in Mobutu’s Zaire.
A kleptocracy is a government with unashamedly corrupt leaders who use their power to exploit the people; they take the natural resources of their countries for territory to accumulate personal wealth and political power.
For 32 years Mobutu reigned over the vast Central African country like it was a personal property. It reached record levels of bad governance that it surprised no one when it was categorized as a failed state. The failure of the state saw it become an ideal hideout for drug traffickers and a haven for illegal armed groups, the infamous militias.
With nine neighboring countries, Zaire’s state of affairs became a regional concern; chaos, corruption, and insecurity posed major regional security concerns.
Similarly, Uganda has been ruled by President Museveni for 34 years who is on course to achieve a full Kleptocracy that rivals that of Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire.
During Mobutu’s rule, his close relatives and fellow members of the Ngbandi tribe were awarded high positions in the military and government. They also won big government tenders.
Almost all Mobutu’s children were official advisors or members of the elite presidential division (DSP). Mobutu actively groomed his eldest son, Nyiwa, who rose to be State Secretary in Charge of foreign affairs and cooperation, to succeed him as President.
Nyiwa died of AIDS in 1994, three years before the fall of his father’s regime. The manner in which the Mobutu family ruled Congo is tragic. They robbed it in broad daylight, carelessly, and seemingly unhindered by what anyone could say about it. They didn’t give a damn. It’s how a kleptocracy is run, after all.
Mobutu was so powerful that he had renamed Congo “Zaire”, the name of a river in his home town. Is there any doubt that he thought the country was his personal property.
As he misruled Zaire, it became the poorest country in the world, although among the richest in minerals. Mobutu became one of the richest men on the planet.
Mobutu’s legacy is such that the chaos and corruption made Congo the most fertile ground for armed groups when he left power: terrorist groups, militias, and mercenaries.
At 34 years in power, two more than Mobutu, it is hard to differentiate between Museveni and Mobutu. During Museveni’s rule, his clansmen and family members run Uganda in a fashion similar to Mobutu’s. Museveni’s wife is a cabinet minister; his brother, son and daughter are his advisors. Like Mobutu’s son Nyiwa, Museveni is also grooming the son Muhoozi Kainerugaba to take over the presidency.
Meanwhile, corruption has infested Museveni’s regime such that he carries with him sacs and brown envelops of cash; bribes to opposition members, youth, and others who are available for hire.
Unlike Mobutu, Museveni has been caught red handed taking bribes. A Chinese businessman by the names of Patrick Ho, admittedly to US authorities that he gave a $1 million bribe to Museveni and that his minister of foreign affairs (who also happens to be the father in law to his son) delivered the cash, after taking his cut, of course.
Economy in shambles; insecurity reigns
Uganda’s economy is in bad shape. Donors are not willing to disburse money for budget support due to the rampant corruption; the Bank of Uganda is grappling with lack of foreign reserves to service external debt. It has turned to fraudulently printing billions of shillings. In short, things do not look rosy for Museveni and his cabal.
Equally alarming is that in Uganda’s Museveni is littered with all sorts of insecurity. Chaos is the order of the day, like in the days leading to Mobutu’s fall. Like Mobutu’s Zaire, Uganda has become a breeding ground for armed militias and terrorist groups.
Uganda is hosting, recruiting, and actively supporting violent armed groups with a declared intent to destabilize Rwanda. Member of the RNC, FDLR, FNL and recently RUD armed outfits who have been captured have testified to the support Uganda provides these terror groups.
The personalization of the state in Uganda is complete. Museveni’s clan considers Uganda their personal property. It exists for them to loot it. Museveni calls national assets like oil, “my oil” and pejoratively refers to citizens of Uganda “my Bazukulu.” These are things that even Mobutu didn’t achieve in during his 32 years rule! Neither did Mobutu name his wife to cabinet.
Mobutu didn’t know that his regime was a kleptocracy until he had left power. Museveni probably also doesn’t know yet that he has made Uganda a kleptocracy.
One thing is assured in kleptocracies: they have a way of always ending as abruptly as they began, usually after 30 years or so.