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 cracked down on opposition and media and tensions rose between Uganda and Rwanda. In capital Kampala, police 4 Nov blocked supporters of opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) from reaching rally venue, prompting FDC supporters to march to their party headquarters. Police used tear gas, water cannon and live ammunition to disperse crowds and arrested some 50 FDC members including former FDC head Kizza Besigye. Police same day used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up demonstration of some 50 journalists protesting police brutality against journalists. Govt 14 Nov shut down more than 12,000 mostly local NGOs that had failed to register and obtain permits to operate. In Rwanda, Rwandan security forces 4 Nov shot and wounded Rwandan national returning from Uganda and 10 Nov shot dead two Ugandan citizens accused of smuggling tobacco into Rwanda. Ugandan govt 12 Nov sent protest note to Rwandan govt condemning killing of its nationals. Security forces 25 Nov arrested 35 Rwandan and four Congolese nationals in Kisoro in south west for illegally entering Uganda. President Museveni 7 Nov hosted peace talks in Entebbe between South Sudan’s warring parties who agreed to push back by 100 days deadline for formation of transitional govt.
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