Uganda serves as the case study of hybrid regimes in this book written by Aili Mari Tripp, a US-based academic and published in 2010 by LynneRienner Publishers.
Tripp, a professor of political science and gender and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison, argues that hybrid regimes are semiauthoritarian governments which find themselves fraught with contradictions. While their leaders adopt trappings of democracy, they at the same time pervert it through patronage and largesse, use of violence and repression for the sole purpose of remaining in power. And so, hybrid regimes embody two divergent impulses: they promote civil rights and yet unpredictably curtail those same rights and liberties.
Tripp makes her case by analyzing Museveni’s Uganda. After decades of misrule, Uganda seemed to have turned the corner after current president Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986. For many years, Museveni was widely acclaimed by foreign correspondents, donors, diplomats and some academics as a new style of African leader to be emulated. But though the conception was that Uganda was an oasis of stability, economic progress and democracy, many Ugandans felt that this was a frustrating mirage and grossly deceptive image.
In reality, Museveni’s NRM government has been characterized by tensions between contradictory needs of maintaining control and pressure for greater openness and democracy. While the party has clumped heavily on internal dissent within its own ranks, for example by expelling members who opposed the lifting of presidential term limits, it has opened the space for multiparty politics.
Under Museveni’s watch, Uganda has encouraged foreign investment and promoted free-market policies – by liberalizing trade, lifting price controls and promoting private sector development. In part, these liberal policies have legitimized some of his more undemocratic tendencies – even among donors and foreign governments that traditionally have spoken against such practices and human rights violations in other countries.
In Museveni’s Uganda: Paradoxes of Power in a Hybrid Regime (Challange and Change in African Politics), Tripp draws parallels with similar regimes elsewhere in Africa and reflects on the implications for institution building. In particular, she raises concern about the impact that hybrid regimes have on the judiciary, opposition and civil society. How can western governments and donors keep from entrenching such systems? What can citizenry do to resist hybrid regimes? While Tripp does the right thing to bring to the fore the issues and dangers underlying hybrid regimes, more questions must be confronted to heal the wound the writer opens.
Moses Kibe Kihiko holds a Master’s degree in Leadership Studies. He recently published his book “Public Leadership: The Ten Defining Moments How Leaders Acquire & Handle Fame, Power & Glory “with Miraclaire Publishing, Website: www.miraclairebooks.com). Moses is the CEO of Practicum Leadership, a training, consultancy, writing and research firm. He can be reached at email@example.com.