Another Fine Mess America, Uganda, and the War on Terror
Is the U.S. to blame for the agony of Uganda and its neighbors?
In this powerful account of Ugandan dictator Yoweri Museveni’s 30 year reign, Helen C. Epstein chronicles how Western leaders’ single-minded focus on the War on Terror and their naïve dealings with strongmen are at the root of much of the turmoil in eastern and central Africa.
Museveni’s involvement in the conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Congo, and Somalia has earned him substantial amounts of military and development assistance, as well as near-total impunity. It has also short-circuited the power the people of this region might otherwise have over their own destiny.
Epstein set out for Uganda more than 20 years ago to work as a public health consultant on an AIDS project. Since then, the roughly $20 billion worth of foreign aid poured into the country by donors has done little to improve the well-being of the Ugandan people, whose rates of illiteracy, mortality, and poverty surpass those of many neighboring countries. Money meant to pay for health care, education, and other public services has instead been used by Museveni to shore up his power through patronage, brutality, and terror. Another Fine Mess is a devastating indictment of the West’s Africa policy and an authoritative history of the crises that have ravaged Uganda and its neighbors since the end of the Cold War.
“Epstein’s absorbing book is a damning indictment of the American hypocrisy that has been on display across Africa since the Europeans packed up and left as colonialism collapsed after World War II. A public health consultant who has spent many years talking to and writing about many of the dissidents who have opposed strongman rule in East Africa, Epstein has compiled a catalog of almost every arrest, kidnapping, and execution engineered by Museveni and his goons—all while America looked the other way.” —Helene Cooper, New York Review of Books
“A stunning new book of reportage and analysis.... Helen Epstein lays out in appalling detail how Museveni, who seized power in 1986, has helped worsen every major conflict in eastern and central Africa since then.” —Pankaj Mishra, Bloomberg
“Very accessible and richly detailed.” —Africa is a Country
“A must read for anyone interested in the continent’s politics, or in American foreign policy in Africa. This is impressive and unsparingly detailed look at the way the Yoweri Museveni has ruled Uganda now for over three decades, and at the critical role played by the United States in supporting authoritarianism in Africa.” —Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants are Building a New Empire in Africa
“Epstein forcefully showcases the collateral damage of myopic American foreign policy that obsesses about terrorism everywhere—even in Uganda—to the detriment of all other considerations. Another Fine Mess chronicles how American foreign policy driven by short-term security concerns results in long-term crises and an entrenchment of authoritarian rule in the process. An important and prescient cautionary tale.” —Brian Klaas, author of The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy
“A sizzling indictment of Uganda’s current strongman and of the American policy in Africa that supports his corrupt regime with generous foreign aid.” —Kirkus Reviews
“As her new book reveals, Helen C. Epstein is an eloquent advocate of human rights and democracy for Africans, as well as a courageous critic of how U.S. aid supports oppressive dictators like Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.” —William Easterly, author of The Tyranny of Experts
“For decades, Western policy-makers have hailed Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni as a benign autocrat, a charming African Bismarck and trusted partner in the fight against Islamic fundamentalism. Another Fine Mess reveals a far darker side to this key African ally, while exposing the cynicism at the heart of American policy in Africa’s Great Lakes region. This gripping, iconoclastic, angry book raises a host of uncomfortable questions.” —Michela Wrong, author of Borderlines and It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle-Blower
“Epstein’s book is well written, well documented, and brief enough that it should be widely read. Essential for anyone interested in American foreign policy as it relates to Africa.” —Joel Neuberg, Library Journal
The Secret Meeting Where the Idea of America as a Global Power Was Born —LitHub
Op-Ed: What America gets for its dollars—and its culpability—in Africa —Los Angeles Times
Underreported with Nicholas Lemann
About the author
Helen C. Epstein is Visiting Professor of Global Public Health and Human Rights at Bard College in Annandale, New York. Her book The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight against AIDS in Africa was a New York Times Notable Book and Amazon.com’s best science book of 2007. Her articles have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine and other publications and she has worked as a consultant for such organizations as the World Bank, UNICEF, and Human Rights Watch.
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