Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror
By Helen C. Epstein
Columbia Global Reports, 2017, 262 pp.
Epstein joins a number of other critics of current U.S. policy in Africa in noting that the “war on terror” has led Washington to sharply increase military assistance to the region, emphasize stability over democracy, and tacitly or explicitly support dictators. Epstein focuses her criticism on Washington’s relationship with the regime of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power since the mid-1980s. For decades, Museveni has received massive amounts of U.S. support, all in the name of containing Islamist regimes in nearby Somalia and Sudan. In Epstein’s telling, Museveni has manipulated Washington to maintain his own rapacious rule and has exported instability throughout Uganda’s neighborhood. Epstein thus partly blames the United States for the civil wars in Somalia and South Sudan and for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and the long-running conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which she suggests would not have happened without U.S. support of Museveni. It is worth asking whether the Americans have given a blank check to their Ugandan ally, and Epstein has produced an often troubling indictment of U.S. policy. But her book tends to exaggerate the influence of both Uganda and the United States in shaping the area’s awful recent history.