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.
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.
General elections 14 Jan held amid violent crackdown and internet shutdown; electoral commission declared victory of President Museveni, which opposition rejected. Police 6 Jan reportedly fired live bullets at convoy of Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Patrick Amuriat Oboi in Kitagwenda district; 2 and 10 Jan briefly detained Amuriat for allegedly defying police directives and violating traffic rules in Nakasongola and Mpigi districts, respectively. Police 7 Jan dragged opposition National Unity Platform leader and presidential hopeful Bobi Wine out of his car in Namayingo district, reportedly firing tear gas and live bullets; Wine was giving online press conference to announce he had filed complaint with International Criminal Court against President Museveni and nine security officials over alleged incitement to murder, arrests and beatings. Facebook 11 Jan took down alleged fake pro-govt accounts. Uganda Communications Commission next day directed telecommunications providers to block access to social media, and 13 Jan shut down Internet. Elections 14 Jan proceeded without major security incident; security forces next day put Wine under de facto house arrest in capital Kampala. Electoral commission 16 Jan announced Museveni’s re-election with 59% of vote against Wine’s 35%; said ruling party National Resistance Movement (NRM) won 310 of 529 seats in parliament. Wine immediately rejected results and accused govt of electoral fraud. Protests against election results erupted same day in Luwero and Masaka districts; security forces reportedly killed two and arrested 23. Govt 18 Jan partially restored Internet access. High Court in Kampala 25 Jan ruled Wine’s house arrest illegal, reportedly prompting security forces to withdraw next day. Meanwhile in Wakiso district, supporters of ruling NRM and opposition Democratic Party 26 Jan took to streets in Entebbe town to contest election of independent candidate Fabrice Rulinda as Entebbe mayor previous day; security forces reportedly fired teargas and live bullets, leaving NRM local official Eric Kyeyune dead and several others injured.
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.
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
As part of Crisis Group’s research on civilian defence forces, Horn of Africa Analyst Magnus Taylor spoke to former fighters in Uganda known as the Arrow Boys. The group played an instrumental role in routing the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army when rebels attacked Teso in eastern Uganda in 2003.
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