Measure 110 was misguided liberal activism posing as philanthropy

Measure 110 was a seriously flawed ballot measure written and bankrolled by outsiders that deserved to be defeated. Instead, Oregon voters approved the measure 58.5% – 41.5%. 

Now come the problems.

The measure, which will go into effect on Feb. 1, 2021, removes criminal penalties for individuals caught in unauthorized possession of controlled substances in amounts reflecting personal use and instead will impose a maximum fine of $100 or completion of a health assessment. That alone raises a lot of red flags. 

One likelihood is that the implementation of Measure 110 will eliminate a major deterrent to trying and using drugs, likely fueling more, not less, drug use and addiction.

“If you don’t pay the hundred-dollar fine, what are the consequences for that?” David Sanders, a Portland Police Bureau officer, told the Journal. “There are no consequences. That will not act as a deterrent and is essentially worthless. Every cop will tell you that.”

Of equal concern is the measure’s requirement that the state establish new addiction recovery centers. 

Easier said than done.

“Oregon, like so many states, has suffered from high numbers of drug overdoses, and people who want to get treatment but can’t find it or can’t afford it,” said one Measure 10 supporter during the campaign. “This measure would start to address treatment and interventions in a sustainable and systematic way in order to get people the help they need and deserve.”

A laudable thought, but treatment won’t happen if it’s not available.

 “…people experienced in dealing with drug addiction say Oregon isn’t prepared to offer treatment to anyone caught in possession of an illegal drug, especially in the midst of a pandemic that makes in-person treatment harder at the same time that overdoses are rising,” the Wall Street Journal reported today.

Rebeka Gipson-King, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Health Authority, told the Journal the process of starting a new treatment center would usually take at least 12 to 15 months, more time than the state has to create a network of treatment centers. “There’s a dearth of qualified service providers in Oregon,” she said.

Oregon is going to have to deal with these problems, not the national advocacy groups and wealthy out-of-staters who picked up much of the tab for the Measure 110 campaign on the 2020 ballot. 

In a classic case of misguided liberal activism posing as philanthropy,  the key backer of Measure 110 was  Drug Policy Action, a New York City-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy group. The organization supports marijuana legalization and more lenient punishments for drug possession, use, and sale. 

The group is the advocacy and political arm of the Drug Policy Alliance, a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit that was also behind Oregon’s 2014 measure legalizing recreational cannabis.

The Drug Policy Alliance has received major funding from billionaire investor George Soros, who has long been involved in pushing for an end the legal war on drugs. 

Drug Policy Action contributed $1,574,788.00 to the Measure 110 campaign, making it by far the largest single contributor to the group in Oregon fighting for the measure’s passage, “More Treatment for a Better Oregon: Yes on 110”. 

The next largest contributor was the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) of Palo Alto, CA, which donated $500,0000.   The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is a charity established and owned by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is chanzuckerberg.jpg
Mark Zuckerberg (L) with Priscilla Chan.

“This issue-based advocacy work is led by teams on CZI’s Justice and Opportunity Initiative , which tackles systemic barriers in society that hold people back from reaching their full potential,” the initiative explains on its website.

The website had no suggestions on how Oregon should deal with the budget issues raised by Measure 110.

The Sheriffs of Oregon pointed out in the 2020 Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet that Measure 110 would shift millions of dollars of marijuana tax revenue from schools, mental health and addiction services, state police, cities, counties, and drug prevention programs. Instead, these funds would be redirected into a Measure 110 fund.

“The funding promised by Measure 110 is not ‘free’ money that is unallocated and sitting in state coffers waiting to be spent,” Crook County District Attorney Wade Whiting wrote in the Central Oregonian. “Marijuana tax revenue is currently being used to fund schools, police, mental health programs and existing addiction treatment and prevention programs. Measure 110 will divert dollars from these essential services.”

Coming to a screen near you: The Georgia Star News, a new conservative digital newspaper

The Georgia Star News

Georgians are about to get a new online news site aggressively pushing a conservative agenda.

With all eyes on the January 5, 2021 elections in Georgia that could decide which party controls the U.S. Senate, Star News Digital Media, a right-leaning collection of five digital newspapers, obviously sees an opportunity to grab some eyeballs, revenue and influence with a new product, The Georgia Star News.

“…we are working hard to get The Georgia Star ready for launch later this week!,” Christina Botteri, Executive Editor of the online news sites, told me in an email today (Nov. 16, 2020).

Star News, based in Nashville, TN, launched its first title, The Tennessee Star, in February 2017. Its current digital news outlets include: The Virginia StarThe Ohio Star |The Michigan StarThe Tennessee Star and The Minnesota Sun.

A look at the Nov. 16, 2020 Virginia Star conveys the tone of all the Star News titles, with headlines such as:

·       The Empire Struck Back, but MAGA Will Strike Harder

·       Voting Software Was ‘Designed to Rig Elections,’ Trump Attorney Sidney Powell Tells Maria Bartiromo

·       Antifa/BLM Terrorists Viciously Attack Women, Children, and Elderly Following Saturday’s #MillionMAGAMarch

Further reflecting Star News’ leanings is a comment made in a Nov. 18, 2020 Virginia Star commentary by Conrad Black, a former media mogul who was jailed after being found guilty of conspiring with fellow executives to siphon off funds from the sale of media businesses. President Trump pardoned Black in May 2019 after he wrote a book praising the president.

“The Trump campaign to overthrow the political establishment may have stalled, but even if it is narrowly evicted from the White House, and even if the election result is not evidently based on fraudulent dumps of invalid ballots, Trump is not going away,” Black wrote in his commentary. “His following is unlikely to defect to anyone else, and so non-galvanizing a leader as Biden at the head of so fissiparous a coalition will not easily deflect the 73 million Trump voters or their formidable convener-in-chief from continuing the battle after no more of a hiatus than Trump’s enemies gave him four years ago.”

The CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Star News is Michael Patrick Leahy, an early tea party activist, Breitbart contributor and talk radio broadcaster.

In a 2018 Politico story, one of the company’s founders, Steve Gill, a conservative commentator and radio host, agreed that “Breitbart of Tennessee” would be a fair description of The Tennessee Star site.  Breitbart is a far-right syndicated news, opinion and commentary website. Gill left Star News in August 2019.

Steve Bannon – an outspoken rabble-rouser and one of the driving forces behind Breitbart – became Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor to the President following Donald Trump’s election. He left the White House in August 2017, succumbing to power struggles with senior advisors to Trump.

Star News’ news sites are just one segment of a slew of rapidly expanding partisan outlets endeavoring to infiltrate our lives.

The Portland Courant, for example, looks like a legitimate news site serving Oregon. If you slide down to the bottom of the home page and click on “About,” you’ll discover it is put out by Metric Media LLC. 

New York Times investigation published on Oct. 18, 2020 found that Metric Media is “a fast-growing network of nearly 1,300 websites that aim to fill a void left by vanishing local newspapers across the country…The network, now in all 50 states, is built not on traditional journalism but on propaganda ordered up by dozens of conservative think tanks, political operatives, corporate executives and public-relations professionals.”

While Metric Media’s network is conservative, liberals are financing other “news” outlets such as Courier. This is a network of eight sites started by Acronym, a liberal political group that began covering local news in several states in 2019. Those sites, and others focused on North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Arizona, are part of the Courier Newsroom network

So get ready Georgians. You’re next. Star News has you squarely in its sights.

Addendum, Nov. 19, 2020

The Georgia Star News debuted on Nov. 19, 2020. The digital newspaper has no connection with The Georgia Star, which bills itself as “Northeast Florida’s, Oldest, Largest, Most Read African American Owned Newspaper” or with The Star-News, which serves McCall, Idaho and the mountain communities of West Central Idaho. 

Media Matters, a left-leaning media watchdog, has already criticized the site: “The organization’s explicit aim is to deliver pro-Trump propaganda to residents of battleground states, coating local news in the same grievance- and conspiracy-filled vernacular as is used by outlets like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.

The media’s next challenge: Ignoring Trump’s Post-Presidency Tweets

You have to know Trump’s not going away when his presidency ends. With his outsized ego and craving for attention, he will continue his Twitter barrage. And why not? President Trump has already sent out 55,901 tweets, according to the tracking site Factbase, he has almost 90 million Twitter followers and the media are attracted to his tweets like iron fragments drawn to a magnet. 

As CQ Roll Call’s Jim Saksa said in a “Political Theater”podcast,  “If people were hoping for there to be a reprieve from the craziness of the last four years, I think they might be sorely mistaken.”

Actor Alec Baldwin doing an impression of President Trump tweeting on Saturday Night Live

But the media have a choice. They don’t have to give in to the temptation to continue salivating over every Trump tweet after he leaves office. He may stay on as the titular head of the Republican Party for a while, but he shouldn’t be able to command attention the way a president does. The media will not be obligated to report on his every utterance as though it’s of paramount interest to the nation.

(Addendum: Jan. 23, 2021 – With the end of Trump’s presidency, the issue is not just the media not paying attention to most Trump tweets. It’s discouraging President Biden and other government officials from blasting out tweets at all. As Kenneth S. Baer wrote in Washington Monthly, “Now that the @realDonaldTrump experience is over, it’s time to recognize that the President of the United States — or any government official — should not have his or her finger on the Tweet button. It’s not good for them, and it’s not good for democracy. If there is a lesson for the incoming Biden team, it’s that when it comes to 280-character missives, just say no.)

Bill Grueskin, a faculty member at the Columbia Journalism School, argues that the media needs to kick its addiction to reporting on the train wreck Trump represents. “Trump, who craves the spotlight the way a kitten craves the sunny corner of a rug, will demand to be seen and heard,” Grueskin wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review. “It will take every ounce of self-control that journalists can muster to resist his insistence on getting attention and air time.”

Yes, Trump will continue his caterwauling and will still have a large audience of acolytes after leaving office. That there are still a lot of Trump True Believers is evident from the fact that, as of Nov. 11, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. which “you could expect… to stand all but empty on Inauguration Day, like some political version of The Shining,”  was still booked solid on the days surrounding the Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony, according to the Daily Beast

Jennifer Horn, a co-founder of the anti-trump effort, The Lincoln Project, said right after the Nov. 4 election she was worried about Trump’s malign influence when he’s out of office. “I, frankly, think that Donald Trump has the potential to be more destructive out of the White House than he was in the White House,” she said in a conversation with Anne McElvoy on “The Economist Asks.”

Trump has already formed a political action committee, Save America, as a “leadership PAC” and is soliciting contributions. There’s also speculation that he may try to start a digital media channel to rival Fox News. The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 15 that allies of President Trump have recently zeroed in on acquiring the fledgling pro-Trump cable channel Newsmax TV, part of a larger effort that could also include creating a subscription streaming service

 “Whatever our Biden coverage comes to look like, the notion that we can all just move on from Trump now is fanciful,” Jon Allsop wrote in “The Media Today,” sent out by the Columbia Journalism Review on Nov. 9, 2020. “Trump is sure to continue to command an outsized portion of our attention. He could take a monastic vow of silence and still would own the future of the Republican Party—and he’s not going to take a monastic view of silence.”

Lawrence Douglas, a professor of law at Amherst College, has predicted that Trump will “continue to be a source of chaos and division in the nation,” as well as “a heroic figure” to tens of millions of Americans, Jane Mayer noted in a New Yorker essay. 

In the face of all this, it will take sound editorial judgement and hard-headed discipline, but it is critical that media reporters and editors not allow themselves to be dragged into reporting on and amplifying what are likely to be Trump’s never-ending cascade of tweets, or, for that matter, every Facebook post, text, press release or off-the-cuff comment.

Facilitating efforts by Trump to continue to sow confusion and discord would be a disservice to all Americans, and others on the global stage as well.

The Nov. 14 “March for Trump”: who’s behind it?

A “Stop the Steal” protest at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta last week.Credit…Dustin Chambers/Reuters

Saturday’s March for Trump in Washington, D.C. and concomitant events in states around the country, including in Salem, OR, are being promoted as an effort “to ensure the integrity of this election for the good of the nation.” 

Trump tweeted today he might even show up.

“Heartwarming to see all of the tremendous support out there, especially the organic Rallies that are springing up all over the Country, including a big one on Saturday in D.C. I may even try to stop by and say hello,” he wrote.

 It’s part of the whole denialism movement determined to undermine determinations that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election.  

Who’s behind this campaign, which is also seeking donations of $25 – $5000 and up from supporters?

The group organizing and promoting the events is Women for America First. It describes itself as “a not for profit social welfare organization formed under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donations to Women for America First are not tax-deductible as charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes.” 

Women for America First just registered an a non-profit this year, so it hasn’t filed with the Internal Revenue Service a required annual Form 990 that spells out non-profits’ income, expenditures and officers. That means the organization is pretty opaque at this point. In other words, contributors don’t know where their money is going, who’s making decisions on its distribution and how it is expected to be used. 

The group’s website says:

“There are millions of women who support the America First Agenda and we’re not standing in the shadows anymore! We won’t be pushed around by bullies who tell us who we are “supposed” to like. And we’re not going to keep quiet just because the Washington, D.C. power elites and mainstream media want us to!

One of the reasons we started Women for America First was because liberal feminists and their cohorts have spent BILLIONS of dollars to defeat conservative principles and values. We continue to produce video, ads and social media that support the America First agenda to fight their continuing attacks and lies.”

Research reveals that Women for America First was formed in 2019 by Amy Kremer, a political activist associated with the Tea Party movement since 2009, and her daughter. She is now the group’s Executive Director.  The organization has an Alexandria, VA address, which is the same as, a campaign finance and political law firm providing legal guidance to PACs, campaigns, and political organizations.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Kremer co-founded two political action committees supporting Donald Trump. In 2017, she ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives in a special election in Georgia’s 6th congressional district, which earlier had produced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Kremer won just 351 of 192,569 votes.

Women for America First opposed Trump’s impeachment and has organized protests against stay-at-home orders implemented in response to Covid-19. In July 2020, the group sought permission from New York City to paint “Engaging, Inspiring and Empowering Women to Make a Difference!” on the street outside Gracie Mansion or in Times Square, citing the “Black Lives Matter” painted in yellow by Trump Tower.

According to Mother Jones, a progressive magazine, a “Stop the Steal” Facebook group promoting the Nov. 14 March for Trump, appeared to be linked to Women for America First. Facebook displayed a header on the “Stop the Steal” Facebook page showing that it was created by the “Women for America First” Facebook page. 

The Stop the Steal domain was registered to a firm that works on Republican projects. The Facebook page prompted new users to its page to navigate to a website off of Facebook to sign up for email updates.  That website,, is registered to the Liberty Lab, a firm that offers digital services to conservative clients.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, Facebook shut down the page, which had more than 348,000 members, on the grounds that it was spreading misinformation about voter fraud. 

Then, in a Nov. 13 interview on OAN, the  conservative One America News Network, Kremer said “MailChimp (an email marketing service) went in and disabled our account for Women for America First that we’ve had for years and they won’t allow us access to the data.”

It’s hard to tell precisely what’s motivating the protesters. Perhaps, as author Charles Baxter has written, they are simply “tired of realism and its wanton monotony” and embracing Trump’s cause jolts their lives.

Despite reputable news organizations disputing allegations by Trump supporters that the presidential election was manipulated against him, his refusal to concede is likely to continue spurring protests unless the Republican Party challenges him and declares his claims baseless.

Don’t hold your breath.

Democrats were big money winners from Oregonians in 2020 elections

If you have any doubts about Oregon’s political leanings, contributions in elections should clear things up. In the 2020 elections, political contributors in Oregon overwhelmingly supported Democrats.

That’s according to federal election data collected by, a website from the nonpartisan nonprofit, the Center for Responsive Politics, a research group that tracks money in U.S. politics.

As the table below shows, about three-quarters of all contributions went to Democrats; just 22% to Republicans, based on Federal Election Commission data released electronically on October 22, 2020..

Total Itemized Contributions **$79,294,02224
Total to Candidates and Parties$77,290,392N/A
Total to Democrats$58,142,17818
Percent to Democrats75.2%9
Total to Republicans$17,004,66432
Percent to Republicans22.0%43
Individual donations ($200+)*$91,112,33722
Soft money donations$4,128,81731
PAC donations$2,145,80527

The “rank” column above shows how Oregon compares to all 50 states. A rank of 9 in the “Percent to Democrats” category, for example, means that state’s percentage of contributions to Democrats was the 9th highest in the nation.

** This figure includes PAC contributions to candidates, individual contributions ($200+) to candidates and parties, and Levin fund contributions to parties. To avoid double-counting, it does not include individual (hard money) contributions to PACs, but does include individual (soft money) contributions to outside spending groups, including super PACs.

* This figure includes individual contributions to candidates, PACs, outside spending groups (including super PACs) and party committees.

† Percents to Democrats and Republicans calculated out of Total to Parties and Candidates only.

The chart below shows how much individual donors from Oregon gave in the 2019-2020 election cycle. Only itemized contributions of more than $200 are included.

Individual Donation TypeTotalDemsRepubsDem %Repub %
To Candidates$24,676,479$18,853,986$5,430,22776.4%22.0%
To PACs$7,401
To Political Parties$2,030,350$22,950$2,007,4001.1%98.9%
To Outside Spending Groups$2,520

The total cost of the 2020 election nearly reached an unprecedented $14 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, making it the most expensive election in history and twice as expensive as the 2016 presidential election cycle. 

Small donors giving $200 or less — and self-funding from wealthy individuals — accounted for a larger share of fundraising than in the 2016 election. The Center theorized that the pandemic forced candidates to forgo in-person fundraisers with wealthy donors. pushing campaigns to increasingly rely on virtual fundraising using texts and emails, a strategy that works better when Americans are more engaged in politics. They first had to build lists of supporters to solicit donations from, an area where online ads on Facebook and Google proved to be immensely successful.

You’re making me cry, Uganda

The world is, after all, a coarse and brutal and cruel place. It’s only a matter of how long you can live with it – Elizabeth Wurtzel, writer and journalist

A reminder that with a tainted presidential election coming on Jan. 14, 2021, Uganda’s history of authoritarian leaders is expected to continue. Yoweri Museveni’s security forces are likely to ensure his victory.

People in the streets of Uganda’s capital, Kampala, were ecstatic, celebrating and dancing in the streets.

It was October 1962 and Uganda, adjacent to Kenya in East Africa, had finally gained its independence from the United Kingdom.

There was so much hope. 

“I consider the aspirations of the peoples of Africa for self-rule to be the most important development in the postwar period,” Prof. George W. Shepherd at the University of Denver  wrote that same year. “I…see the fulfillment of the African nationalist revolution as the major challenge of the second half of the twentieth century.”

Bobi Wine and Patrick Amuriat are just the latest Ugandans to see how the challenge continues in the 21st century and how calamitous it can be.

Both are opposition candidates challenging Yoweri Museveni, Uganda’s president since 1986. Wine was dragged from his car after turning in nomination papers in Kampala. Amuriat was detained at the headquarters of his party, the Forum for Democratic Change, but later allowed to turn in his papers as well. 

“Today I came to this nomination a prisoner,” he told the press. “While trying to access my documents, I was kidnapped, forced into a saloon vehicle, brutalized and I feel body pain.”

I despair that Uganda’s history since independence has been a trail of ebullience and then anguish, unbridled joy and then savage death.

Uganda’s first leader after independence, Milton Obote, like so many other African leaders, was initially hailed as a man of conscience and dedication. In October 1962, Obote visited Washington, D.C. where he met with President John F. Kennedy. “The tide of freedom now sweeping through Africa is a victory for free peoples everywhere,” Kennedy was reported to have said.

Obote meets with JFK, Oct. 1962

Over time, however, Obote’s commitment to democratic rule eroded and he became increasingly autocratic and repressive. In February 1966, he suspended the constitution, assumed all government powers, and removed the ceremonial president and vice president.

In September 1967, a new constitution proclaimed Uganda a republic and gave the president even greater powers. That same year Obote promoted an ally, Idi Amin Dada, to brigadier general and in 1968 to major general. By 1969 Uganda was effectively an oppressive one-party state.

On January 25, 1971, Idi Amin turned on Obote, ousting his government in a military coup. Amin declared himself president, dissolved the parliament, and amended the constitution to give himself absolute power.

Idi Amin Dada

People in the streets of Kampala were ecstatic, celebrating and dancing in the streets.

But it didn’t take long for euphoria to turn to horror as Amin turned to savagery against his own countrymen, initiating what the New York Times called “an 8-year reign of terror”. The Amin cabal quickly morphed into a despotic regime, wreaking havoc on Uganda’s economy and its people.

“If one historical figure could be said to embody the continent as it is stereotypically imagined — dark, dangerous, atavistic and charged with sexual magnetism — it would be Idi Amin Dada,” said Andrew Rice, author of “The Teeth May Smile But the Heart Does Not Forget. Murder and Memory in Uganda.”

Idi Amin’s rule produced economic decline, social disintegration, and massive human rights violations.  A 1971 decree gave the military the power to detain anyone who they thought was culpable for sedition.

In 1978, the International Commission of Jurists estimated that at least 80,000 – 90,000 Ugandans were murdered during Amin’s reign of terror. Later that same year, Amnesty International presented a report to the Foreign Relations sub-committee of the U.S. Senate that said 300,000 people had died under Idi Amin’s rule. In 1999, the New York City Bar Association’s Committee on International Human rights that put the number of deaths between 100,000 and 500,000. 

In October 1978, Tanzanian armed forces repulsed an incursion of Amin’s troops into Tanzanian territory. The Tanzanian force, backed by Ugandan exiles, waged a war of liberation against Amin’s troops and Libyan soldiers sent to help him. On April 11, 1979, Kampala was captured, and Amin fled, eventually finding sanctuary in Saudi Arabia.

Continuing disputes led to two successive presidents and a military commission running the country until Obote returned as president for a five-year term on December 15, 1980, promising a government of national conciliation.

Setting the tone for his return, Obote made a memorable speech in western Uganda to a massive audience.

“The liberation of Uganda last year gave us a new lease of life and opportunity to bury our past differences and build a new nation based on unity, peace and prosperity and erect democratic institutions,” Obote said. “Fellow countrymen, let us therefore take a vow here and now that never again shall we allow a situation to develop in our country which through disunity would enable any individual or, for that matter a group of people to wrest control of our country, destroy our democratic institutions, plunder our natural resources or tamper with the freedom and personal liberty of our citizens.”

But Obote quickly showed himself to be no democratic peacemaker. This time, his five years of rule were again marked with sustained violence, bloody conflicts, repression and corruption. 

Obote resumed Idi Amin’s habits of restricting all media, ordering the arrest and torture of opponents, and pushing thousands of refugees into bordering Sudan. During Obote’s second term, thousands died from starvation, massacre or warfare.

Under Obote, his security forces had one of the world’s worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA), they laid waste to a substantial section of the country. 

A 1985 Amnesty International report, the organization cited an estimate made by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs that between 100,000 and 200,000 people had been killed by the Ugandan army or deliberately starved to death during Obote’s second term of office. A 1992 Library of Congress Country Study on Uganda said estimates for how many people died between 1981 and 1985 were as high as 500,000.

So much for “unity, peace and prosperity”.

Obote ruled until July 27, 1985, when an army brigade took control of Kampala and proclaimed a military government. Obote fled to exile in Zambia.

People in the streets of Kampala were ecstatic, celebrating and dancing in the streets.

But under the new regime, headed by former defense force commander Gen. Tito Okello, massive human rights violations continued as the government murdered civilians and ravaged the countryside. His successor, Yoweri Museveni, became president of Uganda in January 1986.

“This is not a mere change of guard, it is a fundamental change,” said Museveni.”The people of Africa, the people of Uganda, are entitled to a democratic government. It is not a favour of any regime. The sovereign people must be the public, not the government.”

People in the streets of Kampala were ecstatic, celebrating and dancing in the streets.

Thirty-four years later Museveni is still president.

Museveni was initially celebrated by the West as part of a new generation of African leaders.

“To hear some diplomats and African experts tell it, President Yoweri K. Museveni has started an ideological movement that is reshaping much of Africa, spelling the end of the corrupt, strong-man governments that characterized the cold-war era, “ wrote the New York Times in an adulatory 1997 article. “These days, political pundits across the continent are calling Mr. Museveni an African Bismarck. Some people now refer to him as Africa’s ‘other statesman,’ second only to the venerated South African President, Nelson Mandela.”

At his May 2016 inauguration for a fifth term, however, Ugandan opposition leaders said Museveni’s re-election campaign was marred by fraud and intimidation and the U.S. said the election was “deeply inconsistent with international standards and expectations for any democratic process,” noting in particular the arrest of the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni attends his swearing-in ceremony at the Independance grounds in Uganda’s capital Kampala, May 12, 2016. REUTERS/Edward Echwalu

Now the New York Times is offering a different perspective on Museveni.

“When he came to power, Mr. Museveni was seen by Ugandans and the West as a source of stability in a nation that had undergone years of war and political strife,” the paper wrote on Nov. 3, 2020.” But his government has been dogged by controversies over his involvement in wars in neighboring countries, the passage of anti-gay laws, his expansion of digital surveillance, and rising food and fuel prices.”

A Nov. 21, 2017 report titled “Uganda’s Slow Slide Into Crisis” by the International Crisis Group, a Brussels, Belgium-based organization, was not optimistic about what will happen when Museveni leaves (or dies).

“The public appears to have little confidence that Museveni’s departure will be followed by a constitutional transfer of power,” said the International Crisis Group’s report. “Many expect that groups left out of power will confront the government. In response, the military might step in…”

“Major violence is unlikely for now, but Uganda nonetheless faces the gradual fraying of order, security and governance. Discontent is growing, particularly among youth…,” the group said.

In March 2020, the U.S. Department of State issued a report on Uganda’s Human Rights Practices which was exceptionally harsh in its depiction of the situation in the country:

“Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings; forced disappearance; torture; and arbitrary detention by government agencies. The government was also responsible for harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; detainment of political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; lack of independence of the judiciary; the worst forms of restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including violence, threats of violence, and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists, censorship, and site blocking; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of association; restrictions on political participation; significant acts of corruption; crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex persons (LGBTI); and the existence of laws criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults.”

How long will it be before the long-suffering people of Uganda are again ecstatic, celebrating and dancing in the streets of Kampala? And when it happens, what are the chances it will usher in an era of progress and peace?

I fear I’ll be crying for Uganda for a long time.


A SIDENOTE: My interest in Uganda is based on a long connection. I graduated from the University of Denver in 1967 with a B.A. in International Relations focusing on Africa and was accepted into a graduate program in African development at Makerere University, part of the University of East Africa in Kampala.

Uganda landscape

I was thrilled, but my draft board was not. This was, after all, during the increasingly bloody Vietnam War and the United States was heading toward instituting a draft. My draft board strongly cautioned me against leaving the country, dashing my Africa plans, but not diminishing my interest in the continent. Since then, I have often found myself wondering whether I would have survived Uganda’s turmoil under Obote and Idi Amin if I’d gone there.