The Observer of London calls President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda "the new Mugabe."
Museveni is the longtime leader of East Africa's wealthiest country, running for reelection in a nationwide vote on Thursday. Throughout the African and British online media's coverage of Musuveni's campaign to extend his 20-year rule runs a broader story about Western-style democracy's failure to spread in Africa.
The "old Mugabe" -- a strongman who presides over the potentially prosperous but now crumbling nation of Zimbabwe -- is seen as the prototype. As a guerrilla leader in the 1970s, Robert Mugabe defeated a white-minority colonial government in the country then known as Rhodesia. He took power in 1980 and has never relinquished it.
American expat Ken Mufuka speaks for many in the country's independent media when he writes in the Financial Gazette that "the crony government ... is beyond redemption." Yet Mugabe is secure in power for the time being.
Europe fears Museveni is following Mugabe's example, according to the United Nations Regional Information Network via Allafrica.com. Several nations are now "withholding millions of dollars in direct aid to Museveni's administration over concerns that the former darling of Western governments has grown increasingly autocratic."
Musuveni's response: "You can keep your money."
In Kenya, three cabinet ministers have been forced to "step aside" after revelations that multimillion-dollar government contracts have been paid to nonexistent companies based in Europe. The vice president now faces questioning.
One optimist says "Kenya is coming of age ... public officials can yield to public opinion on matters of public concern." Ababu Namwamba, a fellow at American University here in Washington is a pessimist. Writing in the Kenya Times, he says an "incompetent and larcenous regime" has "reversed the promise of a bright new dawn into the disillusionment of a misty dusk."
As Uganda votes, democracy vies with disillusionment among African opinionmakers.
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