Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/5/2011 (4020 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As the Arab spring struggles to take hold in North Africa and the Middle East, most of sub-Saharan Africa remains frozen in its endless political winter. The progress of democracy, however slow and faltering it may have been, only a decade ago was at least noticeable. Democracy was something that optimists thought was perhaps warming up, a concept with which the continent was becoming more comfortable.
Today, much of the sub-Sahara seems frozen in the one-party politics that have been black Africa's tradition since independence. Earlier this month in Uganda, Yoweri Museveni was sworn into office for a fourth successive term, a presidency that is now beginning its 26th year.
The election that returned him to power has been strongly challenged by his opponent, Kizza Besigye, and many other Ugandans, as well as international observers. Mr. Museveni claims he won 68 per cent of the vote, but others think that neither he nor his opponent got the required 50 per cent, which would have forced a runoff.
In any case, Mr. Museveni is back in office and Mr. Besigye is apparently under house arrest after having been violently attacked by pro-government forces during a demonstration -- he was very nearly blinded when police sprayed him at close range with either tear gas or pepper spray.
This election in Uganda followed several other fiascoes in east and southern Africa -- in Zimbabwe, of course, elections have blatantly been fixed for years and even in Kenya, long one of East Africa's brightest hopes, the last election saw fraud on such a massive scale the usually and deliberately blind African Union felt compelled to comment.
The African Union, in fact, has proved itself both unwilling and, when it does attempt to act, incompetent to deal with sub-Saharan Africa's chronic crisis.
From East Africa, where an astonishing 5.3 million people have been left homeless by war and natural disasters, to West Africa, home to some of the world's nastiest dictatorships, to South Africa, where racialism is once again rising as a factor in political life, the region is an almost unrelieved catastrophe.
If the AU can or will do nothing, the international community could. It can follow Canada's example of targeting aid to Africa. Africa needs more help than the world has yet been willing to provide.
If that limited assistance were to be concentrated on nations that are making an effort toward democratic reform, it could lend some support to the forces of change while making at least a small dent in the purses of the political despots.