Bill Clinton's 'New Generation' of African Leaders Mostly Still Around in 2016

In 1998, Bill Clinton lauded four African presidents for their commitment to democracy. Three of them are still in power today. The other's dead.


In March 1998, President Bill Clinton went to Africa, where he waxed lyrical about a "new generation" of African leaders supposedly committed to free markets and democracy. The relevant leaders included Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea.

Two months after Clinton's speech, Eritrea attacked Ethiopia in an attempt to seize a disputed border town called Badme. Up to 300,000 people died over the next two years. Today, Badme (pop. 1,500) is still in Ethiopian possession.

Ethiopia's Zenawi died in office in 2012. He held the office of the presidency for 17 years. Eritreans have not been so lucky. Afewerki, who became president in 1993, is still in charge.

What about Uganda and Rwanda? The two have been the darlings of the aid community for many decades. Between 1998 and 2013, they received US$20.5 billion and US$10.5 billion, respectively.  Some 20 percent of Uganda's budget and 40 percent of Rwanda's budget comes from foreign aid.

Surely, with all this aid money and, concomitantly, influence, the West has purchased Museveni's and Kagame's good behavior?  Far from it. Museveni, who has been President since 1986, is running for his 5th term in office. (Uganda abandoned term limits in 2005.) The opposition candidates are being harassed, while opposition supporters are being beaten up or, worse, killed. 

Kagame was supposed to have stood down from the presidency in 2017. Instead, he recently held a referendum to change the Rwandan Constitution. Over 98 percent of the voters, we are told, supported an amendment that will allow Kagame to stay in power until 2034.

A chart below, which is brought to you courtesy of Human Progress, shows that since Clinton's 1998 speech, the political rights of ordinary people deteriorated in three out of four of the above mentioned countries. Only in Rwanda have they slightly improved. (Seven is the worst score that a country can obtain on a Freedom House scale. One is the best.)

Turns out, the "new generation" of African leaders is as power-hungry as the old one. But then, something similar could be said about the Clinton family.

Explore more data like this at Human Progress.

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  1. Curious as to where the US lands on this chart.

    Anyone who is aware of the Dems action when they were trying to recall Scott Walker knows they are not above openly using police power to harass political oponents. The IRS and EPA seem to be think bureaucratic power is useful for political punishment as well.

    1. “By any means necessary”

      Rule of law is a prejudice they do not share.

  2. Must be because the Democrats are in charge….

  3. Freedom House is the one doing the scoring but they’re kinda squishy on the “democracy” thing that’s all about electing your Top Men and not so much being your own boss. Economic rights seem to be more about your right to collect food stamps than your right to buy and sell food.

    These subcategories, drawn from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, represent the fundamental components of freedom, which include an individual’s ability to:
    ?Vote freely in legitimate elections;
    ?Participate freely in the political process;
    ?Have representatives that are accountable to them;
    ?Exercise freedoms of expression and belief;
    ?Be able to freely assemble and associate;
    ?Have access to an established and equitable system of rule of law;
    ?Enjoy social and economic freedoms, including equal access to economic opportunities and the right to hold private property.

  4. Over 98 percent of the voters, we are told, supported an amendment that will allow Kagame to stay in power until 2034.


  5. “Eighteen years later, the strong men are still mostly going strong.”

    And the envy of Top Men right here in the USA.

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  7. ms. tupy needs to put the glue down and breathe some reality air. the current election cycle in the u.s. is probably the first since jfk that the frontrunner isn’t being bankrolled by the cia.

  8. good post.

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