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.
Authorities re-arrested opposition leader Robert Kyagulanyi and relations between Uganda and Rwanda remained tense. Police 22 April placed under house arrest singer-turned-opposition MP Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, after banning his concert in capital Kampala. Court 29 April charged Kyagulanyi for his involvement in illegal protest in 2018 and remanded him in prison. Protests in several areas of Kampala against his arrest 30 April led to clashes between police and protesters. Highest court 18 April endorsed constitutional changes removing age limit of 75 years for presidential candidates, enabling President Museveni to contest 2021 elections. In west, following 2 April kidnapping of U.S. citizen and Ugandan tour guide in Queen Elizabeth National Park on border with DR Congo, Ugandan authorities arrested eight people for involvement in kidnapping and 4 April arrested over 40 Rwandans near park for being in country without necessary immigration papers; unidentified kidnappers 7 April released American and Ugandan after safari company paid ransom. After Rwanda late Feb restricted travel across two of three principal border crossings with Uganda (Katuna and Cyanika), Rwanda relaxed restrictions at Gatuna, allowing Rwandans to enter Uganda during daytime, returning before end of day.
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