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, Alan Boswell is joined by Betty Bigombe, Uganda’s special envoy to South Sudan, to discuss the South Sudan peace deal, why it has not been fully implemented yet and how regional mediation needs more South Sudanese participants.
President Museveni sworn in for sixth term amid massive military deployment in and around capital Kampala. In run-up to Museveni’s inauguration 12 May, security forces early May arrested at least 41 people for allegedly planning to disrupt ceremony and 10 May surrounded homes of opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) leader Bobi Wine and Forum for Democratic Change leader Kizza Besigye in Kampala. In inaugural address, Museveni accused western govts of interfering in domestic affairs of African nations to serve their own interests. In contentious parliament speaker election setting two of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement MPs against each other, Jacob Oulanyah 24 May defeated incumbent Rebecca Kadaga. Meanwhile, DR Congo’s govt 12 May announced joint operation with Ugandan army against armed group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) in eastern DR Congo, days after Congolese President Tshisekedi introduced martial law in North Kivu and Ituri provinces to stem rising violence; Ugandan military 17 May said both countries had agreed to share intelligence and coordinate anti-ADF operations (see DR Congo). International Criminal Court 6 Maysentenced former commander of rebel group Lord’s Resistance Army Dominic Ongwen to 25 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in northern Uganda in early 2000s.
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.