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.
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.
Tensions rose in Apaa region in north over boundary dispute between Amuru and Adjumani districts; after late Jan attacks between Acholi and Madi communities, security forces 9 Feb arrested several Acholi MPs during their peaceful protest in Gulu calling for resolution of conflict. Central Executive Committee of ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) 19 Feb endorsed President Museveni – in power for 33 years – as party’s candidate in next presidential elections in 2021; choice to be confirmed at party’s National Delegates’ Conference in Nov. Relations between Uganda and Rwanda deteriorated further: after govt deported Rwandan senior employee of telecoms company MTN in Jan, countries continued to exchange mutual accusations of spying. Rwanda 27 Feb closed Katuna border crossing for cargo trucks, and 28 Feb for private individuals in both directions; Rwanda’s Revenue Authority 28 Feb said closure due to upgrading of border post, but govt questioned Rwandan motive and called on authorities to allow people to cross border. Govt 26 Feb repatriated 70 former members of Congolese rebel group M23 to DR Congo under voluntary repatriation program.
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).
Peace talks between the Ugandan government and the insurgent Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) are moving in the right direction, but the core issues – justice, security and livelihoods – are still to be resolved and require difficult decisions, including on the fate of LRA leaders whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicted.
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
Originally published in The Africa Report