Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has advised the African Union (AU) to adopt the Monroe Doctrine in order to ward off Western imperialism on the continent. In an article posted on his official blog on November 18th, President Museveni also encouraged African countries to unify and solve their own problems, curbing imperialism and re-igniting the late-Kwame Nkrumah‘s Pan-Africanist ideology:
The AU should put out a “Monroe doctrine” of sorts to all and sundry. Otherwise the present leaders will have let down Africa like the pre-colonial chiefs did between 1400 and 1900 when the European imperialists slowly penetrated Africa while these chiefs could not unite to defend us against the slave trade and colonialism. The adventures of Western countries into North Africa and Middle East have caused human disasters in those target areas but also political casualties in the countries of the aggressors, not to mention the nationalist backlash against “Western liberalism.”
The result, Museveni said, is the immigration problem present in North Africa and the Middle East caused by Western countries, which under the guise of democratization, supported the Arab Spring.
The 2011 uprisings occurred in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and spread to Middle Eastern countries, such as Syria. The Spring resulted in one the biggest refugee and immigration crises to date. The latter is the key reason that Britain exited the European Union this year.
Africa and Middle Eastern countries are currently hosting the majority of refugees. According to a 2016 report by Amnesty International, the world’s 21 million refugees live in 10 countries worldwide. Among these global countries, five are African nations, including Uganda.
In June, Face2Face Africa reported on how African refugees, including those from Libya, put themselves at risk trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to enter Europe. The latter is a top destination for illegal immigrants either seeking greener pastures or running away from conflict in their home countries.
Monroe Doctrine in Africa
It is against this immigration context that President Museveni is advising the AU to adopt the Monroe Doctrine.
Named after the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, the doctrine is a 19th century foreign policy that warned Europe that America would no longer tolerate colonization. In turn, the United States said it would mind its own affairs. Ultimately, the policy discouraged imperialism, which is defined as the extension of a country’s power to another nation through diplomatic or military force.
The 2016 Afrobarometer Survey states that a few African countries agree that their former colonial powers do have an external influence on their countries, confirming the existence of imperialism.
Consequently, President Museveni argues that the AU and Africa as a whole should curb imperialism using the Monroe Doctrine. He cites cases of how countries, such as Tanzania and Mozambique, were able to attain their freedom from colonial rule in 1961 and 1975, respectively, based on the aforementioned Pan-Africanism Movement led by such proponents as the late-Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
The movement stressed the importance of African nations uniting together in the face of oppression and adversity to ultimately accomplish self-rule and economic autonomy. This movement is what led to the present day AU.
Museveni’s track record can provide a clue of whether he adheres to Pan-Africanism and the Monroe Doctrine.
Uganda Under Museveni
According to the World Bank, under President Museveni’s three decade rule, Uganda recorded high economic growth between 1987 and 2010, only slightly declining in recent times. In addition, the East African country is among the few that was able to attain the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on halfing poverty by 2016.
Museveni’ s gains are, however, offset by his autocratic tendencies to cling to power and curb media freedom.
Yet, his sentiments were backed by the fourth African-Arab Summit held last week.
While it is too early to judge whether the AU will heed his advice, it may base its decision on the choices of some of its member states, such as South Africa and Burundi, to leave the International Criminal Court, which they consider to be an imperialist institution.