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So the World Bank is sitting at Kagame’s feet? How things change 0

As I trawled through a Rwandan newspaper, I landed on a group photo. A small crowd, in smart suits and so on, were staring straight at me. The accompanying story had a screaming title: “World Bank team on learning visit.” Really? What might they possibly be out to learn in or from Rwanda, I wondered?

Anyone who knows a thing or two about the Bank, as it is known, will tell you they fish in deep waters.

One just doesn’t go there from any school or university, or any place, for that matter.

A key requirement is a large brain.

You may or may not know this, but as the author of the story pointed out, traditionally World Bank types are known for “lecturing leaders in the developing world, particularly Africa, for their failures in corporate governance and for either abetting corruption or being corrupt themselves.”

If you have even the most rudimentary knowledge about the Bank, you couldn’t possibly accuse the man of lying.

I decided to read on.

The Bank had sent “a high-powered delegation from its subsidiary, the International Finance Corporation, to learn about leadership from President Paul Kagame as part of its prestigious corporate management programme.” Yes, 28 of them.

Shock, horror: The one-time purveyors of good governance prescriptions wanted “lessons in governance” and, as the leader of the delegation said later, their discussions with President Kagame had covered “state management, transparency, accountability, and development.”

This is a very long way from the days of structural adjustment programmes when people such as these were telling presidents how to run their countries and their economies and conduct public affairs generally, with the proviso that if they did not comply, there would be no money from the Bank and the International Monetary Fund, or even bilateral donors.

How times change.

But then again, it may not be time to celebrate, yet. Kagame’s Rwanda is probably a special case.

The question, one of the most debated on the continent and beyond, is whether it will stay the course. It had better.

But staying the course in Africa is tricky business, and here one hopes Rwanda will break the jinx that many have tried to break and failed. Museveni’s Uganda has been there and raised people’s hopes.

Today the most debated question is “What happened”? There are probably as many answers as people who may attempt to respond. One thing, though, is clear:

Gone are the days when Uganda used to be the centre of the universe, so to speak, when it came to seeking lessons in how to conduct public sector reform, craft new governance systems, and manage public finances.

For years, delegations flocked into the country from far and wide, to learn about its then unique no-party, participatory governance system.

And gone, of course, are the days when Yoweri Museveni was a fountain of fresh ideas about African politics or politics in Africa. Those who have watched him over the years will recall his book What is Africa’s Problem? in which he theorised about things such as overstaying in power and its consequences.

Today Rwanda is the rage, Paul Kagame the man of the moment.

As Museveni battles to preserve what is left of his “name,” Kagame traverses the globe telling this or that group of eminent persons about how Rwanda has pulled itself out of the abyss into which the genocide and bad leadership plunged it. As Kagame basks in the limelight of his and Rwanda’s stream of achievements, Museveni is busy welcoming foreign soldiers to hunt down rebels seeking to topple him, while his own troops are busy fighting someone else’s war in Somalia.

They say one of the greatest challenges for great men whatever sphere they operate in, whether political or any other, is choosing the right moment to quit. Kagame has been emphatic.

Come 2017 when his second mandate ends, he will be walking off into retirement, leaving Rwandans with a key lesson: Presidents must come and go when they ought to.

In Uganda, we are still asking: “When will he leave?”

It is a simple question that has been making the rounds ever since Museveni, for the second time, reneged on his undertaking to retire and decided to stay on.

Uganda watchers will recall his assurances in 1996 and 2001 that all he wanted to do with the extra term in office was to “professionalise the army” and ensure a peaceful transfer of power and then he would be off. Indeed, in 2001 he went around pleading for “a bonus term” to allow him “to complete unfinished tasks”.

And then, in 2006, as if he had succumbed to some kind of amnesia, he refused to retire. Since then, the answer to “What happened?” remains the subject of mass speculation.

Ask insiders and you’re bound to get the same speculative answers as any imaginative outsiders will give you. Perhaps the Bank can help unravel the mystery by sending a “high-powered delegation” of its clever men and women.

Indeed, those who went to Kigali should have passed through Kampala on the way. Looking at both ends would have made for a more rounded learning experience.

By Frederick Golooba-MutebiThe East African

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