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Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Comprative Perspective from Uganda

Our book has a regular boxed feature comparing the United States and other nations. In this vein, Ugandan journalist Rodney Muhumuza has some thoughtful reflections after a lengthy American stay:

Asked to say something about politics in Uganda — and it happened often — my typical response would be something close to this: “I was born in 1981, five years before Yoweri Museveni came to power after a guerrilla war. He is the only president I have known, and I am a grown man.” Probed further, I might add: “I love my country very much. But I am still waiting for the day we will have a peaceful transfer of power.”

It was the kind of routine that was delivered with devastating steadiness. Four days before I left America, an American economist named Duncan Chaplin interviewed me for a radio station that broadcasts online for a Kenyan audience. Everything seemed to go well until he asked me to compare the Ugandan and American political situations. I did not know what to say. “There is nothing to compare,” I said, by which time he had realised that it was not a particularly good question. My point had been made.

The United States settled this issue in 1801. John Adams had lost a tough, nasty presidential election to Thomas Jefferson. He was bitter about his defeat, but when the hour came, he packed his bags and went home. It never occurred to him to do otherwise.