ISSN 2330-717X

Uganda: No Resolution To Growing Tensions


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, warns the International Crisis Group.

Uganda : No Resolution to Growing Tensions, the latest International Crisis Group report, examines the increasing dissatisfaction with Museveni’s administration. The main cause of the social unrest is a slow and continuing shift from constitutional-style government to patronage-based, personal rule. In his two decades of power, the president has come to rely like his predecessors – though without their wanton brutality – increasingly on centralised power, patronage and coercion to maintain control.

“Democratic initiatives lost momentum after the first decade of Museveni’s rule”, says EJ Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s Horn of Africa Project Director. “Instead of supporting the no-party system as the framework for unfettered participation, the president began using it to further his own objectives”.

The British Protectorate of Uganda merged a highly diverse region of competing kingdoms and more loosely organised pastoral societies into a single entity. Milton Obote, independent Uganda’s first president, and Idi Amin worsened those divisions. They entered office with broad coalitions that soon foundered over colonial cleavages and turned instead to patronage and coercion to remain in power.

After the National Resistance Movement (NRM) seized power in 1986, Museveni seemed at first to put the country on a more inclusive path in order to restore civilian control, rule of law and economic growth. He created a non-partisan “democratic” system that many enthusiastically embraced, and an elaborate consultative process led to a new constitution in 1995 with checks and balances. But after a decade in power the president began using the no-party system to further his own objectives. Over time, he replaced veteran politicians and longstanding NRM members who criticised his policies with trusted members of his inner circle. He also created a patronage network loyal to him.

Museveni was elected to a fourth term in February 2011. He injected huge amounts of official funds into his campaign, and the government and NRM harassed the opposition. While Museveni won majorities throughout the country, it is uncertain whether this reflected more his popularity or the power of his purse and other state resources.

The discovery of significant oil reserves is unlikely to reduce social and political tensions. The oil may ensure Museveni’s control by enabling him to consolidate his system of patronage, but it could also feed corruption and disrupt the steady growth produced by economic diversification. Five years after learning that the country will become a major oil producer, the government is just beginning to put a regulatory framework in place. Meanwhile, popular protests are increasing. “Walk to Work” demonstrations continue in Kampala and other urban centres despite a violent crackdown.

“The president’s re-election, access to material resources, tactical skill, ability to deflect international criticism and ambition to control the country’s transition to an oil exporter suggest that he will try to continue to consolidate his personal power and direct Uganda’s future for some time to come, despite the consequences this may have for long-term stability”, says Comfort Ero, Crisis Group’s Africa Program Director. “Unless he changes course, however, tension will grow. Considering Uganda’s violent past, conflict might then become more deadly”.

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7 thoughts on “Uganda: No Resolution To Growing Tensions

  • April 6, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I wonder why you doubt wether Museveni’s support in the last elections was genuine.
    He is political genius.Unfortunately,his arch
    rival Kizza Besigye is all out to try to
    destroy what Museveni has achieved in the past
    26 years.We hear that he is paid buy foreign powers to organize protests in order to discredit Museveni.He used some of the money to buy some expesive buildings in Kampala and a seconday school.Besigye,who is very unpatriotic is Uganda’s problem,not Museveni.

    • April 7, 2012 at 5:38 am

      Tom you know those are lies especially that about 60% of the eligible voters never participated in the previous elections and in addition there was massive vote staffing and the way the electoral process is designed is to make it easy for the incumbent to win.

      It is also not true what you say about Besigye that man is more patriotic than any politician in NRM. Museveni is the problem of our country and our party NRM

  • April 7, 2012 at 4:29 am

    I strongly disagree with the Western media,portraying Museveni as a dictator, this is an outright lie..,if anyone is causing havoc, its got to be Besigye who has failed to admit the fact that he has lost the elections to Museveni more than once, the people democratically voted Museveni into power and note that this was the majority,how in the world does someone go on to say that Museveni is a dictator, i also strongly think that the West is interested in ousting Museveni basing on these totally baseless allegations, the Western needs to do an unbiased ground survey and will soon find that Besigye is the problem and not concerned about the people, after all his family is safely tucked away in the US, thank you.

  • April 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    The author does not know what he is saying. Uganda economy has been growing even before the oil. The whole country is peaceful and contributing to building peace in Somalia where big powers failed and ran and the opposition is too weak even with billions from George Soros and other imperialists. Come to Uganda and write facts, stop being armchair journalists.

  • April 8, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Uganda is ticking bomb so to let you know. One day all we have worked for will be in ruins. There is no foundation for system continuity because everything is out of M7 mentality. Uganda is like the Metternich’s Europe of the 1800 and his Carlsbad decrees that is the Constitution we have. All what the report talked about is true unless M7 changes, the Uganda he has built will fall with his fall trust me.

  • April 8, 2012 at 3:52 am

    Church of Uganda Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi said the country is burdened by unclarified issues.
    “Our nation is built on a weak foundation of greed, hatred and betrayal. We need to create a new foundation of love and unity for it before it makes 50 years of independence,” he said.
    What does that tell you about Uganda and its leader M7?
    Gen. Tumwine, an army representative in Parliament, said corruption today is threatening to plunge the country into a crisis, admitting that fighting the vice “is an obligation we must do or we perish”.What does that tell you about Uganda and its leader M7? Uganda is in bad shape and its future stability is uncertain

  • April 10, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    M7 is a triblistic dictator who has refused to give up power. Anyone saying that he was freely elected is delusional. Massive cash after invading the national treasurly, bullot stuffing, intimidations etc. Uganda is being ruled by one family and where else do you find members of one family openly getting government jobs except in Uganda. Janet has two jobs an MP and as a minister while most Ugandans have no jobs. His police is full of military men mascarading as policemen. The military’s job is to kill NOT policing the public. 26yrs plus and some of you stilling telling us that M7 is the greatest thing ever happened to Uganda. No Uganda did not go to the dogs, its the dogs that came to Uganda in group as NRM.


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