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.
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.
Ahead of 2021 general elections, President Museveni continued to use legal measures to suppress dissent and ward off key challengers, and Congolese gunmen launched cross-border raid in north west. Security forces 12 March arrested former intelligence chief and security minister Henry Tumukunde, who said 28 Feb he would run for president in 2021, for allegedly seeking Rwanda’s support to unseat Museveni; authorities 18 March charged Tumukunde with treason. Earlier in month, authorities 4 March placed journalist and filmmaker Moses Bwayo in custody pending bail hearing, after security forces arrested him late Feb on charges of unlawful assembly while he filmed documentary on musician-turned-opposition leader Bobi Wine, who plans to run for president in 2021. Police 14 March also detained Pastor Andrew Muwanguzi on charges of unlawful assembly for hosting Wine at his home in March 2019. Following petition filed by civil society groups and opposition in 2013, constitutional court 26 March overturned legislation granting police powers to prohibit public gatherings and protests. Gunmen, including Congolese militiamen, 6 March raided army post in north west at border with DR Congo (DRC), killing at least three soldiers. Defence and security officials 11 March met with counterparts from Burundi, DRC, Tanzania and Rwanda in Goma, DRC, to assess information exchange mechanisms to help stabilise eastern Congo. Amid COVID-19 pandemic, govt in March expelled over 300 Rwandans for allegedly spreading virus, 25 March suspended refugee arrivals for one month; Museveni 21 March closed borders and 30 March ordered fourteen-day lockdown.
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.
The Juba peace process, intended to bring closure to the northern Uganda conflict and disarm Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), is failing. On 29 November, Kony failed again to appear at the Ri-Kwangba assembly point to sign the Final Peace Agreement (FPA).
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
President Museveni will naturally defend Uganda’s short-term interests, but he should also work towards longer-term stability by supporting President Salva Kiir’s pledge to bring peace through ARCSS implementation, negotiations and national dialogue.
Originally published in Daily Monitor
Six months after its February general election the political atmosphere in Uganda is unsettled, securitised and paranoid. Opposition leaders and some supporters – seeking to rally a popular movement against the regime – are regularly harassed, accused of treason and temporarily detained. The ruling elite is clearly concerned about the opposition’s growing support. Its hard-fisted approach to the problem, alongside a stuttering economy and no foreseeable transition of power, is likely to see political pressure continue to grow