President Yoweri Museveni’s growing authoritarianism and the country’s weak institutions are multiplying Uganda’s challenges. Conflict risks at the local level are rising due to uncertain political succession, economic stagnation, a youth bulge and an influx of refugees from South Sudan. The state’s repression of political opposition and its increasing reliance on security responses to political problems is fostering discontent in politically and economically marginalised communities. Through field research in Kampala and conflict-affected areas, Crisis Group works to reduce the likelihood of local tensions escalating into violence. We indicate how Ugandan policymakers can embark on a process of democratic transition in order to reduce the risk of discontent turning into political instability, protest and violence.
Fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is intensifying, with Ugandan and Burundian soldiers in pursuit of rebels and Congolese insurgents on the rebound. With help from its allies, Kinshasa should step up diplomacy lest the country become a regional battleground once more.
Govt extended joint military operation in DR Congo; authorities arrested opposition leader protesting govt’s approach to high commodity prices. Kampala and Kinshasa 1 June extended joint military operation against Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group in eastern DR Congo by two months. After M23 armed group 13 June captured Congolese town of Bunagana on Ugandan border, several Congolese MPs next day accused Kampala (and Kigali) of supporting M23, which both Uganda and Rwanda deny. Govt 14 June announced raising defence budget by nearly 15% to $1.02bn to strengthen operations in DR Congo. Authorities 16 and 20 June announced discovery of alleged ADF bomb-making material in Luweero town, west of capital Kampala, and arrest of 16 alleged ADF members in Mityana district, both Central Region. Army leadership 23 June reportedly placed military on highest level of combat readiness without providing reason. During trip to north eastern Karamoja region, President Museveni 8-9 June discussed growing opposition to govt’s attempts to disarm cattle keeping groups with local leaders and security forces, proposed series of measures to curb escalatory violence, which has left nearly 400 people dead since July 2021. In state of nation address, Museveni 7 June reiterated govt’s refusal to offer tax breaks or subsidies to address high commodity prices. Authorities 6 June released, and 14 June rearrested opposition leader Kizza Besigye, who was charged in May with allegedly inciting violence during protests criticising govt’s failure to cushion Ugandans from effects of price hikes. Army 4 June reportedly made incursion into South Sudan’s Eastern Equatoria state and killed South Sudanese soldier. Amid improving relations with Rwanda, Museveni 23 June arrived in Kigali to attend Commonwealth heads of govt meeting.
Three Great Lakes states – Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda – are trading charges of subversion, each accusing another of sponsoring rebels based in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo. Outside powers should help the Congolese president resolve these tensions, lest a lethal multi-sided melee ensue.
Growing discontent threatens the dysfunctional and corrupt political system built by President Museveni, who is now manoeuvering to extend his three decades in power by raising a 75-year age limit on presidential candidates. As security, governance and economic performance deteriorates, Uganda needs urgent reforms to avoid greater instability.
Vigilante groups have been successful in providing local security. But subcontracting security functions to vigilante groups for counter-insurgency purposes is a dangerous option for fragile African states. African leaders should set clear objectives and mandates when enlisting vigilantes and invest in disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programs.
Unless President Yoweri Museveni breaks with the ways of his predecessors and the trend of his own lengthy rule, popular protests and discontent will grow in Uganda.
To make an end of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) once and for all, national armies, the UN and civilians need to pool intelligence and coordinate their efforts in new and creative ways.
This week on The Horn, Africa editor at Nation Media Group Daniel Kalinaki joins Alan Boswell for a deep dive into what Uganda’s latest elections revealed about President Museveni’s hold on power and the likelihood of future instability.
Official results indicate that President Yoweri Museveni will extend his 35-year rule in Uganda. But the contested election, marred by fraud claims, illustrated many citizens’ frustration with his administration. In this Q&A, Crisis Group expert Murithi Mutiga explains why the path ahead will be rocky.
President Tshisekedi’s plans for joint operations with DR Congo’s belligerent eastern neighbours against its rebels risks regional proxy warfare. In this excerpt from our Watch List 2020 for European policymakers, Crisis Group urges the EU to encourage diplomatic efforts in the region and Tshisekedi to shelve his plan for the joint operations.
Economically and politically, Uganda's government’s actions are leading to growing frustrations and lawlessness.
Originally published in African Arguments