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.
Popular musician-turned-opposition MP Robert Kyagulanyi, known as Bobi Wine, arrested and reportedly beaten in detention, sparking protests which security forces dispersed forcibly. During campaign for parliamentary by-election in Arua in north where Kyagulanyi had been campaigning for independent candidate, opposition supporters threw stones at President Museveni’s motorcade 13 Aug; Kyagulanyi and four other opposition MPs arrested same day for suspected involvement. Kyagulanyi’s driver shot dead, allegedly by security forces, in Arua 13 Aug. Kyagulanyi charged 16 Aug with unlawful possession of weapons, three other MPs and dozens of other people charged with treason. Security forces 19-20 Aug forcibly dispersed opposition protests in capital Kampala and elsewhere, at least one person killed and 68 reportedly arrested. Kyagulanyi appeared at military court hearing in Gulu in north 23 Aug, court dropped charges of unlawful weapons possession, but local magistrate charged him with treason over alleged role in stoning of motorcade. Court 27 Aug released on bail 33 people accused of treason, including Kyagulanyi. Authorities at Entebbe airport 30 Aug prevented Kyagulanyi and another MP, Francis Zaake, from travelling abroad to seek medical treatment, triggering more protests in Kampala 31 Aug. Police 23 Aug arrested opposition politicians Kizza Besigye and Kato Lubwama for defying house arrest. Military court 24 Aug charged General Kale Kayihura, inspector general of police from 2005 till March and arrested in June, on three counts including aiding and abetting kidnapping, and remanded him in custody until 28 Aug.
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