Tuesday, December 18, 2012

(MONITOR UG) Uganda’s Western aid and N. Korea’s Western sanctions

Uganda’s Western aid and N. Korea’s Western sanctions
By Timothy Kalyegira
Posted Sunday, December 16 2012 at 02:00

In Summary

Dream destination. I really wish I could visit North Korea. I would like to see the country for myself, free from both the biased Western news reporting and the North Korean state media’s tendency to exaggerate the country’s glorious path to development and national harmony.

On December 12, North Korea launched a three-stage rocket into space. A carrier rocket called the Unha-3, with the second version of the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3 sitting atop, lifted off the Sohae Space Centre in Cholsan County, North P’yo’ngan Province at 09:49:46.

The satellite entered its preset orbit at 09:59:13, nine minutes and 27 seconds after lift-off. It flew round the polar orbit at a 499.7km perigee altitude and a 584.18km apogee altitude at the angle of inclination of 97.4 degrees.

I have given the somewhat obscure technical details of the orbital flight for a reason: To show that behind the image of North Korea as a starving, rigid, paranoid, reclusive Communist state is a whole lot of dedication to actual productivity and scientific exploration. This is not just a country about the Great Leader, the Dear Leader and now the Dear Leader II.
It is a highly disciplined, focused, cohesive state.

In his own words

Kim Hye Jin, director of the country’s General Satellite Control and Command Centre, said of the launch: “The second version is an earth observation satellite going round the sun-synchronous orbit. As such [this] kind of satellite requires ultra modern technologies, many countries launch satellites atop others’ carrier rockets. We found out shortcomings in April’s failed satellite launch and solved them. Those opposed to the DPRK’s [North Korea] development of space science would be surprised by its successful satellite launch….Unlike the satellites launched in the past, the second version of Kwangmyongsong-3 is viewed as the start of the stage in which satellites are actually used for the progress of the national economy. Its successful launch helps the DPRK fully gain up-to-date communications technology as well as earth observation technology.”

These comments by the satellite launch director reveal a country that knows what it is doing. They read a lot, follow space developments in other countries and contrary to the image by the Western media, have an economic purpose for their rocket launch. It is not just about vainglory and shoring up the image of the young “Dear Leader”.

Over the last two years, I have started taking a special interest in a country called North Korea. It is not because I am taking a turn toward Communism.
Part of my developing fascination with North Korea is because of what eventually became of China and South Korea.

Many of us grew up at a time when the basic stereotypical image of China was of grim-faced men in grey or blue suits walking or riding bicycles to work in factories that produced bland hoes, wheelbarrows and padlocks.

For many years, I completely ignored the Chinese-made herbal toothpaste sold in Kampala shops. Something about this toothpaste seemed too organic, too alternative, too out of the mainstream brands such as Colgate Palmolive and McLean to feel safe to use.

China, to us, was Tiananmen Square, Marxism-Leninism and authoritarian grimness.
In the mid 1980s, South Korea too had this bleak air about it.

Japanese brands
It was not exactly an iron-fisted totalitarian state but to us, an also-run. We grew up on the high-quality Japanese brand names JVC, Panasonic, Sony, Hitachi, Honda, Pioneer and when compared with these products, South Korea’s Goldstar TVs and in the early 1990s, Daewoo and Hyundai cars seemed like sad imitations of Japan.

When Lak-Hui Chemical Industrial Corporation merged with Goldstar, the new company became known as Lucky-Goldstar (or LG as we know it today).
Today, we also know LG to be the manufacturer of some of the world’s most desirable domestic electrical appliances, particularly fridges and television sets.

Along with the other giant electronics maker Samsung, now the world’s largest phone maker, LG and Samsung in the last five years, have succeeded in doing what many of us once thought nearly impossible --- breaking the Japanese stranglehold on the global high-end electronics consumer market.

As for China, we are all by now familiar with the story. Despite stubborn denial in many quarters, this once bland and gloomy-looking military power has, since joining the World Trade Organisation in December 2001, gone on the show the world economic clout that has changed history.

China is now an ultra-modern and modernising world economic superpower, with the very latest in high-speed trains, solar energy research, with countless cities with better and more modern infrastructure than London or Washington DC, and despite occasional forecasts of “China’s economy is about to implode” since 1978, the rumours of China’s demise have been greatly exaggerated, it turns out.

Therefore, when I see how these East Asian nations have succeeded in gradually rising from their bleak, authoritarian ways and image and become these modern, cutting-edge states, my eyes naturally are forced to look last the Western image of North Korea and ask when we might see its day in the sun.

North Korea requires careful watching. One day, soon, it is going to open up and become the next Taiwan or South Korea, with ultra-modern, ultra-clean, ultra-productive and trendy cities.

Since 1986, billions of dollars in foreign aid, grants, debt relief, debt cancellation, foreign direct investment and domestic tax collections have poured into the Ugandan economy.

Praising NRM
The NRM government has consistently got praise by Western governments, media and academia for pulling Uganda out of the “dark days” of Idi Amin and Milton Obote and playing a major role in regional peacekeeping.

The government has had more educated people running it at all levels of state than any other government in Ugandan history, with the longest time of any government since independence to implement its programmes uninterrupted.
It is also reported that President Yoweri Museveni has won the general elections of 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 by comfortable margins.

In other words, there are no excuses. So, what do we have to show for this 26-year period, coming now to 27? Uganda is still a long way off from being a lower middle-income country (let alone middle income).

Its industry still comprises light manufacturing, assembly and processing, as it was in 1962. Kampala City that was once an urban centre is now one of Africa’s most modern rural areas.

A country like Rwanda that had been highly praised too until recently in the Western world and by some sections of the Ugandan media, is much like Uganda: Maximum Western diplomatic and media support, aid pouring in continuously since 1994 (until recently), one government since 1994 and a president who, it is reported, has won elections with more than 90 per cent of the votes cast.

What Rwanda has to show for all this is a few new high-rise buildings in the capital, Kigali, streets said to be clean, street lights that work and roads with black and white paint markings across them where, it is said, Zebras sometimes cross. Rwanda also does some light processing and packaging.

This light manufacturing, processing, packaging, light economic activity in general, is what passes for the “new breed” of African countries, Uganda and Rwanda after years and years of consistent Western aid and diplomatic support.

How North Korea, strangled by decades of Western sanctions, is able to launch this advanced space technology and yet pro-Western African countries like Uganda and Rwanda receiving all that aid and diplomatic support can barely manage to manufacture low-quality plastic mugs and buckets, is a hit below the belt for me.

timothy_kalyegira@yahoo.com


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