Kenya, Uganda and US plan Guantanamo-style prison on Migingo.

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A military prison may be built on the “contested” Migingo Island full with Court Martial akin to the infamous Camp Delta in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The plan, this writer has established, dates as far back as 2004 and involves Kenya, Uganda and the US.

Even as it seemed to the wider public that the spat over Migingo was a genuine boarder disagreement between Kenya and Uganda, the controversy surrounding Migingo is part of a meticulous plan by the three countries to transform the strategic Island into a prison to be used in the so-called fight against terror.

Apparently the countries have an interest in keeping the true location of Migingo ambiguous, giving them room to manouvre the anticipated legal challenges regarding detention and Jurisdiction.

According to the plan, building blocks habouring 1000 solitary confinement cells, 5 by 8 feet in measure are to be set up with an unnamed Halliburton (Halliburton has oil contracts in Western Uganda) subsidiary being the lead contractor. The works would involve reclaiming more land from the lake to cater for various security installations while advanced water security systems would be deployed.

American power at stake.

As the George W. Bush presidency eyed a second term, US officials were keen on ending the worldwide backlash caused by Guantanamo Bay Detention Centre and the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They sought to establish another facility – preferably in Africa where human rights issues receive less scrutiny.

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni long the Pentagon’s man in the region seems to have agreed to the plan following consultations with his Kenyan counterpart, Mwai Kibaki who was in Kampala to attend the ninth COMESA Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government in June 2004.

But the calculus did not go their way.

Kibaki eying re-election for a second term had to delay the plans at least until after the elections to avoid a backlash. But plans were even delayed further as Kibaki emerged weakened by the 2007 post election violence. He also failed to follow through with his pledge largely because the then Prime Minister, Raila Odinga with whom he shared power was reluctant. Understandably, Migingo (if in Kenya) is in Nyanza Province – his political heartland. Indeed, Odinga instead drummed up Luo nationalism demanding that Uganda withdraws its officials from Migingo, effectively rendering the Migingo plan impossible.

It is Odinga’s perceived sabotage of the planned facility that prompted President Museveni to implicitly refer to him and his “Jaluo” tribesmen as mad, in an address at the University of Dar-es-salaam while on a visit to Tanzania in May 2009.

Terrorism and the Security Dilemma

But the need for the Migingo Prison regained relevance when in 2010, Somali Islamist group Al Shabab attacked Uganda killing 70 people. Suddenly, increased US presence in Eastern Africa was inevitable. The heightened security cooperation among countries saw Kenya arbitrarily extraditing several radicals and suspected Al-Shabab members to Uganda to face terrorism charges.

Yet both countries faced a key security dilemma on how and where to detain the radicals. Luzira Prison, currently Uganda’s most secure is too close to the Kampala Commercial District to house terrorists. Apart from fears that mobs seeking revenge might attack the suspects while on the way to the High Court (which is located in the Kampala CBD), there was a possibility that other terrorists could likely target suspects’ convoys in a bid to silence those in custody. This put security in a tricky position that the trials more or less stalled, not necessarily because the cases lack merit but transporting terrorists through the CBD proved a security nightmare.

In fact, security gurus in Kampala consider Luzira Prison untenable that government is contemplating a swap deal in which a private investor would take over Luzira land in exchange for constructing better, modern, spacious and conveniently located detention facilities. The Commissioner General of Prisons, Johnson Byabashaija told parliament last year that he had forwarded the plan to Cabinet.
Nairobi’s Kamiti and Industrial Prisons also presented the same dilemma.

Besides, cramping terrorists with regular criminals is a recipe for disaster. The terrorists often use Prisons as recruitment grounds.
All this justified the urgent need for the Migingo facility.

Another Kenya Spoiler

However, events in Kenya yet again took a different turn from what the US had expected. Following a long break of political uncertainty and US having counted on a Raila Odinga win, Uhuru Kenyatta emerged President resulting in the limited cooperation with the West due to ICC charges, hence compounding the delay by the US to move on the Migingo plan.

This writer understands that President Obama who used the “close Guantanamo” card to his electoral advantage knew about the Migingo plan, which is why he spoke with such confidence in 2008 – hoping that it would be salvaged with him at the White House and Raila Odinga at State House Nairobi.

But as things stand, the US seems to have resorted to other alternatives like releasing some prisoners that were planned for transfer to the “new Migingo Prison” most of them without being charged. Others are transferred to face charges in their home countries. An estimated 158 prisoners down from a high of nearly 800 when the plan was conceived are currently held at Guantanamo.

It is unclear if the project is still on the books but Ugandan Special Forces and police officers still administer Migingo Island and the Kenyan government has not raised any protests in recent years. Meanwhile, the work of the joint re-demarcation team instituted to mark the boarder in 2009 has since stalled although the two countries set up a Joint Permanent Commission this year, which among other things will streamline their borders. A separate Kenyan commission established in 2010 concluded that the Island belonged to Kenya. However, no move has been made since to reclaim the Island from Ugandan authority.

Uganda and Kenya are some of the top US military allies in Sub Saharan Africa along with Ethiopia and Djibouti. According to this 2012 report by the Washington Post http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-06-14/world/35462335_1_contractors-missions-central-african-republic, Uganda alone hosts a US airbase with a large fleet of PC-12 aircrafts used in surveillance operations in Central and Eastern Africa. The country’s Entebbe airport also has a fueling partnership with the Pentagon while several sites in the country are used as Strategic Bases, Forward Operating Sites and Contingency Security Locations as well as many other shared facilities. The US army also routinely trains Ugandan troops and conducts joint operations like those against the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Kenya, apart from hosting a US Naval base in Mombasa has over 100 US Commandos stationed at a Military Base in Manda Bay. The country, like Uganda also hosts Forward Operating Sites and all its Airports have fueling agreements with the US Military, according to a report by Tom Dispatch http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/us-military-bases-africa in 2013.

But relations between Kampala and Washington are not at their best since the signing in February of the controversial Anti-Homosexuality Law by President Museveni despite fierce opposition by President Obama.

The posturing over the Anti-gay laws however seems to have no bearing on the long standing military relations as it emerged this week that Washington is sending more combat aircrafts and US special forces to join the UPDF hunt for Ugandan rebel leader, Joseph Kony.

Museveni’s legacy

On the domestic front, some sources this writer spoke to allude to the idea that President Museveni will not rest until the Migingo Prison is in place because it fits in his retirement plan. His government perpetually tainted by corruption and allegations of officials committing war crimes, President Museveni who has ruled for 28 years and is eying another five-year term in 2016 is gradually constructing his legacy around the fight against corruption and intends to leave a “clean” government in place.

“One pointer is his move to scrap bail for those he calls economic saboteurs”

“The hardcore corrupt officials will be banished and isolated in the maximum security Migingo Prison, if it comes into existence,” a source says, noting that he will not want them to destabilize his new kids on the block.

Apparently, Museveni hopes to hand over power to a new professional and well-educated class which he has been personally grooming using the magnanimous State House coffers for the last 20 years.

If true, President Museveni is likely to have revisited the Migingo Plan when he held talks with US Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel and other Pentagon officials on his last visit to US in September last year.

In Secretary Hegel’s meeting room, President Museveni was quickly followed by Defence ministers – Denmark’s Nicolai Wammen, Italy’s Roberta Pinotti and Spain’s Dr. Pedro Morenes, all countries that can easily buy into the Migingo Plan given their history with Islamist radicals.

Eastern Africa now the Continent’s lame duck as peers take strong lead in FDI in-flow.

It maybe the unspoken truth but bitter as it is, Eastern Africans will have to bear the bitter taste it spews and concede that the region is falling way too short in attracting foreign direct investments. And that’s never a sign of good things, if you ask any economist. More so considering that the countries in the region have little domestic investment capacity. FDI is as important to them as is their sovereignty.

If ones goes by the latest FDI report by UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)  UNCTAD REPORT ON FDI – JANUARY 23RD Egypt, Nigeria, Angola and South Africa’s performance from 2010 – 2012 is a vindication to those who hold their economic belief in North, West and Southern Africa.

Don’t shout at me yet. I know many other reports have shown Kenya to be second only to South Africa in attracting FDI on the continent. I know Uganda, with its “newly” proven oil wells has been following Kenya closely in this regards, so does Ethiopia with its massive investment in energy projects. Even Tanzania managed to attract considerable investments as the euphoria for gas reserves spikes.

Africa Investment

But, those are just projects counted in numbers. Check the monetary value of the investments and it turns out to be a totally different story. Egypt’s less than 40 projects for example trounce South Africa’s 155 – making the former’s investment value at over $6bn compared to South Africa’s $1.2bn. Yet Kenya, which led its peers in Eastern Africa last year, could only afford 55 projects.

Even worse, most FDI tracking agencies like FDI Intelligence have largely painted a rosey picture by reflecting investment attractions in terms of percentages and not in value. This approach hence disguises underlying shortfalls in economic performance by ignoring the key factor of monetary value.

The FDI Intelligence report for last example shows the number of projects coming to Kenya rose 77 per cent from 2010, pushing it ahead of Nigeria, and Egypt. I guess the rest of the countries in the region including Uganda should be thankful that they were not included in the survey, for, its very misleading.

By and large, most investments coming into Eastern Africa are into the service sector. Its largely banks and support services. Its no-wonder then that Uganda, which has 3nb barrels in oil deposits, is struggling to find financing for its planned billion dollar petroleum refinery. While investor appetite would be expected to be at its peak with oil and gas activity in the region, it seems the money guys are still jittery.

They are waiting for-example to see how Kenya’s election goes next month. How the DR Congo issue is sorted. How South Sudan and Sudan peace talks end. How Tanzania and Malawi settle their boundary quarrel. And with Meles Zenawi gone, how Ethiopia’s transition holds amid Eritrean and Somali chaos.

UNCTAD

In contrast, South Africa, Nigeria and Angola continue to rack in billion dollar FDIs because its obvious investor confidence in the countries is high. South Africa has its polital bearing sorted so they are opening up more and more mines. Egypt, with all its chaos capitalises on the change and freedom the Mursi era brings. There is nothing to worry Edwardo Dos Santos’ Angola, not since Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA met its fate – even the Cabinda enclave separatists just hot for the sake of it. While Nigeria, with all its Boko Haram has cemented its spot as Africa’s top investment destination, with its millions of increasingly resourceful people.

Does anyone think the licensed oil companies like Dominion which have been selling oil blocks held in Kenya and Uganda are doing it for the sake? Is it speculation? Yes, speculation is part of the game in the oil and gas industry but it could be a sign of things worse. May be they’re afraid of getting stuck in it. Maybe not. But who knows? Seeing as governments are spending much of their time drumming up the oil and gas dream – yet ignoring other sectors which could attract the much important FDI in the short-term.