Brussels, BelgiumThe official residence of Uganda’s top diplomat to Belgium and permanent mission to the European Union has been turned into a safe-haven for vagabonds, hoodlums and drug addicts, Daily Monitor can reveal. The house, located on Claude Leurier, 35, in an upscale Brussels city area preserved for the residencies of foreign envoys, has been condemned by the Belgium government and now stands as a symbol of national shame.Daily Monitor visited the damned property last week, with a group of legislators led by Deputy Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. The MPs were attending a conference to discuss the challenges, opportunities and strategies to address gender equality in politics and government. Valued at an estimated Shs7.2billion, the property, purchased during the reign of former president Idi Amin, sits on a 5,000 square metre plot of land and has been left to rot. A sizeable part of the tiled roof has caved in. Complete with a tennis court and swimming pool, the double-storeyed building surprisingly stands 10 years after housing its last inhabitant, Ambassador Katima Ntambi. The front porch of the house is wrecked, windows are shattered and the roof leaks. An unpleasant smell oozes out of the decomposing debris littered on floors in the rooms while paint on the walls has peeled off. Hoodlums, who call this home, have inscribed graffiti on the walls in the rooms. In one of the bedrooms, a creepy welcome note is boldly emblazoned on the wall, “Welcome to Hell,” it says. That message aptly tells this shocking story of what used to be a plush magnificent residence, now turned into a terrifying ghetto dwelling. What used to be a clay tennis court is now a water logged grass pitch. The backyard could easily pass for a forest and has a thick bush grown all over. The swimming pool is a now a bed of greenish fungi infested mucky waters that smelt of sewer. The plumbing and electrical wiring are rotten while it is evident the building has been vandalised. All windows and door glasses have been shattered. There was nothing that would tell this property is owned by Uganda except for the colours of the national flag that are neatly wrapped around two garbage bins in the backyard. Although the property is fenced, riffraff have managed to find access to the house, which has been turned into a safe abode for drug abuse and is clearly an embarrassing portrait of the country’s image abroad, especially in Brussels, the capital city of the European Union Secretariat, Uganda’s largest trade and development partner. Uganda’s Chancery located on Avenue de Tervunen, which is a 10-minute drive away from the residence, is equally in dire need of a facelift. Ceilings are broken; walls are cracked and stained. “Oh, my God!” exclaimed Ms Kadaga at the residence. “How could we let this property come to such a pathetic state?” It is a question that the government will grudgingly answer. “It is true that the property was neglected for some time,” admitted Ambassador James Mugume, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “But the key issue was lack of money. They (Brussels mission) simply didn’t have the money to fix it.” The state of Uganda’s mission in Brussels raises questions about the government’s ability to maintain investments made by previous regimes. The Auditor General’s report for the year ended June 2007, paints a relatively similar picture for missions in London, Rome and Copenhagen, detailing the government’s struggle to maintain them. Last year, the government spent Shs803 million renovating Uganda’s official residence in London, while the Brussels Chancery had its roof repaired at €75,000 (about Shs 183million). Mr Mugume said the government had submitted proposals to the Brussels city authorities to have the building razed and two new residences constructed but a permit authorising the demolition is yet to be issued.“The city authorities said they cannot issue a demolition licence until we present structural architectural designs of how we intend to develop the property,” he said. “Brussels has been a challenge. We thought we could demolish and have a clean site to stop those drug users from using it, but this is where we have had a delay.” Mr Mugume said while the government had managed to raise Euros 40,000 as fees for the demolition, the costs for the designs for two properties, each sitting on 2,500 square metres, would “almost” hit the million Euro mark. Mr Mugume, however, added that the government had conscripted local engineers, surveyors and a valuer, who were dispatched to Brussels to “help reduce estimated costs of the Belgian architectural fees.” Ambassador Alfred Nnam, who heads the property management unit recently established in the Foreign Affairs Ministry, to manage foreign missions, said the team returned from Brussels “two weeks ago.” He admitted that the country has not had a systematic policy for the maintenance of property abroad. “When there is no specific budget for maintenance, a building gradually deteriorates,” he said. “But now we have a new policy and things are changing. We have engineers, surveyors and architects from the ministry of works whom we send to make evaluations and propose action to be taken. We are doing this for all missions abroad.” Ambassador Nnam said the government would construct two residences-one for the ambassador and another to rent out, at about $1.4million (Shs2.3 billion). For the moment, Uganda’s Ambassador to Belgium, Mr Katente Apuli resides in the country’s other property, a temporary official residence formerly meant for the deputy head of mission.
World Security Network reporting from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, October 30, 2008
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
"A major shift in the current geopolitical landscape is on the way with a reappearence of Russia on the global stage. A cooperative handling of the glacis from the Baltic to the Balkans and the Caucasus could be an important effort to match the words of a "strategic EU/NATO -Russia partnership" with deeds."The decline of big powers in history always started with political, economic and social problems inside and on the periphery of their empires. Consequently, the glacis between falling and rising powers became the contested area for exercising influence. Rising powers started to reshape the glacis around their own state in order to safeguard new and broader interests. Such developments sometimes took quite considerable time, but the result was always the same – imperial overstretch led to the fall of one empire and to the rise of another. Is this what is happening between “the” West and “the” East? Are we experiencing the decline of Western supremacy?
Yes. We need to realize that a major shift in the current geopolitical landscape is on the way with the reappearance of Russia on the global stage, the enormous pressure on the US to tackle a huge amount of social, economic and political problems at home, the struggle of the EU to meet its role as “global player” and the rise of China, India and other powers as future regional or global players. The current financial crisis – caused by the West, foremost the US - is only the last signal of this tectonic shift of power. The world has crossed a threshold and is drifting away from the US-dominated hegemony in politics, economy and culture into multipolarity, or in the worst case into a world of “no polarity” in which the danger arises that multiple players play according to their own interests and rules.
Signals for these shifts are increasing the challenges faced by all Western-dominated global institutions. The current bank crisis will lead to major adjustments of the global financial structures – calls for a “Bretton Woods II” are on the table. The failure of the Doha trade talks and demands for a new balance in international organizations (e.g. the G-8, UN) indicate only that the current system of power no longer reflects today’s realities and those of the future. It will have to be adjusted. We have to look for new bodies, or if we cannot agree, to adjust the current institutions so they reflect the new global realities in a better way. And as a next step, we have to agree on new “Rules of Engagement” or new strategies in order to provide some stability in the turbulent times ahead. This task is the most complex one for all national and international policymakers. Failure to accomplish this would most probably result in a “world without order.”
Another indication of a power shift is the behavior of Russia in the current reshaping of political positions between East and West on the Eurasian continent in the critical arc from the Baltic via the Mediterranean towards the Caucasus and Afghanistan. The list of hot spots and unsettled issues waiting for the final policy settlement is an impressive one: Ukraine, Moldavia, Serbia/Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Armenia/Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iraq and Afghanistan – to name the most striking ones.
This WSN newsletter will concentrate on the role of the United States and Russia in shaping the “glacis from the Baltic to the Caucasus.” By using this very contested region as an example, it intends to offer some reflections about a possible “political code of conduct” for the handling of broader policy issues in other regions in the years to come as well.