Uganda is a country located in the region of Eastern Africa. Before Yoweri Museveni became Ugandan president, he criticized former African leaders for sitting too long in power. Now he and his party National Resistance Movement (NRM) have often called only the Movement, governed Uganda since 1986. Museveni clearly won in the presidential election in February 2016. At the same time, the divided opposition, which is countered by hard methods, found it difficult to achieve anything credible. alternatives to Museveni’s board. However, pop star Bobi Wine (Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu), who was elected to Parliament in 2017, has emerged as one of the government’s foremost critics.
Yoweri Museveni and his party NRM won the election in February 2011 with clear numbers, but beneath the surface grew dissatisfaction with both the president and the government. In the spring of that year, Kizza Besigye, from the largest opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and other opposition politicians began organizing protests against the rapidly rising food and fuel prices. Initially, the demonstrations in Kampala gathered relatively few participants, but more and more Ugandans joined since the authorities tried to stop them by force. Some of the protests degenerated into clashes between protesters and security forces. In April 2011 alone, nine people were shot dead by police and military. Opposition leaders were arrested and then released on bail – a procedure that was repeated several times.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of Uganda, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
A new group, Activists for Change (A4C) formed during the late spring by the FDC, parts of the Democratic Party and the Justice Movement, survived the protests even in 2012 and 2013, despite the fact that the group was formally banned.
At the same time, a number of corruption scandals were noticed in the political summit. One of those appointed was Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, who was allowed to leave the government in May 2011, after accusations that he shot himself at the purchases of luxury cars made before the Commonwealth Summit in Uganda in 2007. But the prosecution was dropped before the trial had begun. Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa and two other ministers left the government in the fall of 2011 after they were also indicted for irregularities in connection with the Commonwealth meeting, but this time, too, the prosecution was dropped. Government critics argued that the accusations were just a way to appease the donors by pretending to tackle the corruption in the country.
The corruption deals created tensions within NRM. After Kutesa, along with Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, among others, was accused of receiving millions in bribes from the oil company Tullow Oil, radical, younger members of parliament in 2011 temporarily stopped all new agreements in the oil sector (see also Natural Resources and Energy). Both the accused ministers and the oil company denied that there was anything in the charges.
At the end of 2013, Parliament approved the controversial legislation aimed at homosexuals, but unlike in the first proposal (see Modern History), life imprisonment was the highest penalty that could be imposed. It was also forbidden to encourage a “gay lifestyle”. Shortly thereafter, the law was signed by President Museveni, who had appeared to support the bill, who had tried to delay it. Several donors responded by withdrawing part of their support to Uganda and media reported increased violence against gay Ugandans. However, the law was rejected by the Constitutional Court in July 2014 because there were too few members present in Parliament when the law was passed.
According to some analysts, Museveni, by approving the law, could play on anti-colonial sentiments in Uganda and portray himself as a person who stood up when he was subjected to pressure from the West. Some felt that even Western countries took part in the game when they acted on this particular issue, while they were not as clear in their criticism of Uganda’s involvement in the Congo-Kinshasa conflict or the government’s harassment of the opposition.
Positioning for the 2016 election
However, much of domestic politics was about positions ahead of the 2016 presidential and parliamentary elections. Rumors abounded that the president was trying to pave the way for his son Kainerugaba Muhoozi, who had climbed rapidly in the military hierarchy, to become a new president. In 2013, police intervened against several media citing a letter in which General David Sejusa Tinyefuza called on the head of the security service to investigate information that there were plans to assassinate people who opposed Kainerugaba’s takeover of power when Museveni’s term expired. Sejusa fled the country, but returned home in 2014 after forming a new party, the Freedom and Unity Front Party (FUFP), under exile.
In the fall of 2014, the president dismissed his prime minister, which was interpreted as Museveni trying to get rid of a political rival. Initially, Amama Mbabazi appeared to have set his sights on becoming the NRM candidate in the upcoming elections, but he announced in the summer of 2015 that he would participate as an independent after the party supported the president. Then the opposition’s attempt to unite around a joint presidential candidate had also failed (see Political system). The pattern from previous elections seemed to repeat itself: shortly after Amama Mbabazi, Besigye and Sejusa had announced that they would run for president, they were arrested by police, citing that they organized political meetings without permission. They were released after twelve hours.
Museveni is re-elected
Few doubted that Museveni would be re-elected on February 18, 2016. He was benefited by the fact that the opposition had not been able to agree on a joint candidate, in particular Beigye and Mababzi were expected to take votes from each other. However, if the election goes to a second round, an opposition candidate would have a greater chance of challenging Museveni’s power holdings. Of the opposition parties, only Besigye’s FDC, alongside the NRM, was strong enough to run its election campaign throughout the country. Opposition surveys indicated that Museveni, which conducted an intensive election campaign from November 2015, would receive just over half of all votes. More uncertain was how it would go for NRM in the parliamentary elections.
As the election approached, new reports came out about the opposition and the independent media. Sejusa was arrested before a military court accused of not obeying orders. Several other opposition supporters were also reported to have been arrested and detained without prosecution. Three days before the election, violent clashes occurred between opposition supporters and police in Kampala, which required at least one death victim. The regime was also reported to have recruited groups of young people as “crime prevention”. The official purpose was to guarantee security during the election campaign, but in fact they were used to disrupt elections and harass opposition supporters.
Sejusa was not among the eight candidates who ran for president. Over 1,700 candidates took part in the parliamentary elections. Of the latter, more than 900 stood as independent. Many of these candidates had first tried to become candidates for NRM without succeeding. This contributed to the uncertainty surrounding the election, and whether Museveni, if he won again, could control Parliament.
The most important issues before the elections were high unemployment, widespread corruption and shortcomings in public service, especially in healthcare.
The final result of the presidential election on February 18, 2016 was a clear victory for Museveni, who received nearly 61 percent of the vote against just over 35 percent for Besigye. Mbabazi didn’t even get 2 percent of the vote. The turnout was 63.5 percent. Besigye accused Museveni and NRM of electoral fraud and refused to accept the election result. Before the election and on Election Day, both military and police were in place in Kampala in order to defeat possible protest statements. But even though Museveni was re-elected with clear numbers, it did not seem to arouse such enthusiasm even among his own followers. At the same time, it was clear that the opposition failed to win any new land in NRM’s core areas in the countryside in the southwest and central parts of the country.
The opposition leader was arrested again a few days after the election when, along with supporters, he was on his way to the Election Commission to protest the outcome. He was accused of threatening public order and creating social unrest. He himself said that it was a peaceful march and that the purpose was to collect data to appeal the election. It was the fourth time in eight days that Besygie was arrested by police.
In a statement from EU observers, they said they had not found any electoral fraud on a large scale, but pointed out that there were a number of democratic deficiencies, including the climate of fear and threats that prevailed and where the government side had so much greater resources than the opposition. Both the EU and the US criticized the arrest of Besigye, and the authorities’ decision to shut down social media. Besigye was released on bail in July 2017.
Constitutional change beds for re-election of Museveni
In autumn 2017 decided the ruling party NRM to try to push through a constitutional amendment to abolish the age limit of 75 years for the president, which would allow Museveni to run for re-election in the presidential election in 2021. The bill aroused protests from the opposition that led to regular fights in Parliament. Kizza Besigye was re-arrested and charged, among other things, for causing the death of two protesters in connection with protests against the proposed age limit. The proposal was adopted at the end of December 2017 after a long and chaotic debate. In July 2018, the Constitutional Court rejected an attempt by the opposition to overturn the constitutional amendment. At the same time, the court decided to abolish the section that reintroduced restrictions on how many times a president can be re-elected.
In April 2019, the Supreme Court also approved the constitutional amendment.
Pop star challenges Museveni
Through Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (rapper Bobi Wine, also called the ghetto president), Uganda has been given an oppositional voice that reaches out to young Ugandans. This is important in a country where 77 percent of the population is under 30, and unemployment and underemployment are a major problem among the country’s young people. Furthermore, they have no memories of the role Museveni played in creating peace in the country. His song lyrics have always had a political cap, but he has also been criticized for homophobic lyrics, and in 2014 this led to him not getting a visa to perform in the UK. In later interviews, however, he has distanced himself from the homophobic texts.
Kyagulanyi Ssentamu has been sitting in parliament as an independent since he won a parliamentary election in Kampala in June 2017 with overwhelming support (he got 78 percent of the vote). Since then, he has opposed the latest constitutional change and new taxes on social media. But he has also supported other opposition candidates for election. It was in connection with such a thing that he was arrested and charged with treason (see Calendar). In connection with the security forces, he was charged with assaulting and torturing him in custody. The arrest triggered protests that were defeated by security forces. Kyagulanyi Ssentamu was allowed to leave Uganda to seek hospital care in the United States, but returned the following month to his home country. However, the protests against the arrest of the opposition politician have developed into general dissatisfaction with Museveni’s rule and how the president, his family and the security forces can act without risk of being punished.
One sign that Museveni felt threatened, or at least making an effort to reach out to the young, was the tour he made to Kampala’s slums to talk to young people and hand out money.
In the spring of 2019, Robert Kyagulanyi was apprehended several times, and would face trial accused of organizing demonstrations in 2018 against a new tax on social media. This has been happening since he said in April he was considering taking part in the presidential election in 2021. In the summer of that year he announced his candidacy.
Follow the ongoing development of the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of Uganda / Republic of Uganda
republic, unitary state
Head of State
President Yoweri Museveni (1986–)
Head of government
President Yoweri Museveni (1986–) 1
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
National Resistance Movement (NRM) 293, Democratic Change Forum (FDC) 36, Democratic Party 15, Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) 6, Independent Candidates 66 (2016) 2
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
National Resistance Movement (NRM) 249, Democratic Change Forum (FDC) 35, Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) 12, Democratic Party 10, and others (2011) 3
59% in the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2011, 63% in the 2016 presidential election
presidential election 2021; parliamentary elections 2023
- The President is assisted by a Prime Minister. That post is held since September 2014 by Ruhakana Rugunda
2. In Parliament there are also 10 representatives of the military
3. In Parliament there are also 10 representatives of the militarySources
Lord’s Liberation Army (LRA)
The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), led by Joseph Kony, is the guerrilla group that has caused incomparably the greatest suffering for the civilian population of Uganda in recent decades. In 1987–2006, the LRA fought a guerrilla war from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The group committed violent offenses against civilians, but today the LRA is in fact militarily defeated.
LRA was founded in 1987, as a continuation of a Rebel movement, Holy’s movement (Holy Spirit Movement). with tens of thousands of followers created by Alice Auma Lakwena (see Modern History), a relative of Kony. He presents himself as a kind of priest or spokesman for the Holy Ghost. The LRA is often described as a Christian fundamentalist movement, but the religious motives are considered to be of secondary importance. The political line is also not clear, apart from opposition to Museveni’s government. Especially since the flight from Uganda, the group seems to struggle most to ensure their own survival.
The LRA has been described as a “army army” used by, among other things, the Government of Sudan to spread concern in Uganda and southern Sudan (see also Foreign Policy and Defense). The LRA soldiers have committed serious abuses against the civilian population: at least 25,000 children have been kidnapped, boys have been forced to become soldiers and girls to become “soldier wives” (a combination of domestic slavery and sexual exploitation). From 1993 to 1998, the LRA was accused of killing up to 10,000 people and driving 220,000 on the run.
The LRA’s attack caused Uganda’s army to establish so-called sheltered villages, in practice a kind of refugee camp, often with inadequate military protection against guerrilla attacks. Nearly 1.5 million people in the north were moved to such camps or fled there themselves. According to analysts, the camps were not only to protect the residents but also to remove the support the army supposedly gave the Acholi people group the LRA. The uncertainty spread by the LRA in northern Uganda hampered the development of the region and made life even more difficult for those not directly affected by the violence.
The government adopted in 2000, a law that gives amnesty to people who participated in armed uprisings against the government on condition that they put down their weapons. However, it did not include the LRA’s leaders.
In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued arrest warrants for five of the LRA leaders, its top executive Kony, Vincent Otti, Okot Odhiambo,. Raska Lukwiya and Dominic Ongwen. This contributed to the LRA agreeing to start peace talks with the Ugandan government a year later and a ceasefire was concluded. Kony demanded that the ICC terminate the prosecution.
The parties agreed to a peace agreement, but Joseph Kony failed on several occasions in 2008 when it was to be signed, for fear of being arrested, despite the fact that Museveni assured that they would not be extradited to the ICC but tried in Ugandan court.
In December 2008, Uganda, the then self-governing South Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa, launched a military offensive against LRA strongholds in northeastern Uganda. At the same time, small groups from the guerrillas committed several massacres against civilians in Congo-Kinshasa, Central African Republic and South Sudan, as well as kidnappings of civilians. In Congo-Kinshasa alone, at least a thousand people were killed and several hundred children were abducted. The ICC accused the LRA of taking advantage of the peace that peace negotiations provided for preparing a new offensive. Since then, no new calls have been made.
LRA’s strength has always been difficult to estimate, but during the first decade of the 2000s, estimates ranged from 1,000 to 3,000 men. The guerrillas have always operated in small groups of 10 to 20 people, but still managed to maintain tough, centralized discipline. Since then, the LRA has weakened further and in 2015 it was estimated to consist of only 200-300 people, divided into a number of smaller groups. It was also unclear if they had contact with each other. Most were in the Congo-Kinshasa, Central African Republic, Kafia-Kingi area on the border between Sudan and South Sudan.
In recent years, several members of the LRA’s leadership have either surrendered to the opponents, killed in battle or, as the second highest commander, Vincent Otti, executed following a decision by Kony. Of the five ICC defendants, three are dead, and one, Dominic Ongwen, was arrested in the Central African Republic in January 2015 and is in The Hague in the ICC’s custody.
In 2010, Uganda, South Sudan, Congo-Kinshasa and the Central African Republic agreed to form brigades to jointly fight the LRA. The intervention would be coordinated by the African Union (AU). US President Barack Obama also presented a plan for how his country would more actively address the LRA.
As no attacks had been carried out in Uganda since 2006, the refugee camps in the north were closed down in 2009–2011.
In July 2011, the first war crimes trial in Uganda against, Thomas Kwoyelo, a “colonel” from the LRA was initiated at a court in Gulu in the north. He was charged with 53 counts for, among other things, murder, hostage taking and destruction of property. He was granted amnesty only a few months after the Constitutional Court ruled that he would be subject to the same rules as other LRA rebels.
In October 2011, the United States sent a hundred military advisers to Uganda, to assist the Ugandan military in the pursuit of the LRA (see also Foreign Policy and Defense). However, judges questioned whether a new military offensive was really the right method to defeat the LRA, which continued with its acts of violence and forcibly joining new recruits.
However, political will was considered limited. In Congo-Kinshasa, the LRA posed no direct threat to the political and economic establishment, and in the Central African Republic and South Sudan there were other armed uprisings that posed a major threat to the governments there.
In March 2012, the AU announced that it would deploy 5,000 soldiers to capture – or kill – LRA leader Kony. This happened then a movie, made by the American organization Invisble Children, demanding that Kony be arrested had reached wide spread via social media. Kony was then suspected of being in the Central African Republic. Invisible Children was criticized for having given a simplified picture of the conflict and that the film gave the impression that the LRA was still active in Uganda.
In April 2012, data emerged suggesting that most of the LRA rebels who had been in the Central African Republic had now moved to Congo-Kinshasa, where they mainly devoted themselves to looting villagers in the province of Orientale.
In November 2013, information came out that the government of the Central African Republic was holding talks with Kony who was said to be prepared to give up on certain conditions. According to some sources, he was seriously ill. In January 2014, Kony was said to have written a letter to a Ugandan newspaper, The Daily Monitor, asking for forgiveness and to resume peace talks with the Ugandan government. However, he laid a large part of the blame for the conflict on the Ugandan government, claiming that some abuses in Northern Uganda had been committed to blacken his name. The Ugandan government expressed doubts about whether Kony really wanted peace. After a coup in the Central African Republic at the end of 2013, the Ugandan army stopped its activities there.
The United States has offered a $ 5 million reward for anyone who can come up with information that leads to Kony being arrested. Efforts were also made to find Kony.
In May 2014, information came from people who had left the LRA that Joseph Kony had appointed his son Salim Saleh as deputy leader of the guerrilla. It seemed as if Kony had brought several young people to senior positions, while other older LRA members, some of whom had military experience, were pushed aside. Several of the LRA’s former commanders were reported to have been killed by the Ugandan army or executed by their own.
The United States said in early January 2015 that it had seized Dominic Ongwen, an LRA commander, at the level of Joseph Kony, in the Central African Republic. Uganda’s army confirmed that Ongwen had been arrested and he was handed over to the ICC (see also (Calendar 2012–).) Since the US intervention 250 people have escaped, relocated or been released.
According to the Ugandan Amnesty Commission, about 200 LRA members who have been in Congo-Kinshasa or the Central African Republic have surrendered and returned home.
During the period 2008–2011, according to relief organizations, the LRA had killed at least 2,400 civilians and kidnapped approximately 3,500 children in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Congo-Kinshasa, but from 2012 guerrillas seemed to use less force than before.
The regional AU force, supported by the USA, has been able to show results. The violence has diminished. But in some places criticism comes because it did no more to protect the civilian population and that it took more than just military efforts to finally defeat the LRA. From 2011, the violence has decreased, but that does not mean that it has ceased completely. From January 2014 to June 2015, according to the LRA Crisis Tracker database, LRA had killed at least 22 people and kidnapped several hundred.
In June 2016, a spokesman for the Ugandan military announced that it intended to withdraw its forces from the Central African Republic at the end of the year. The reasons for this were the limited international support for the operation against the LRA. Several other countries would have contributed troops, but have not, much due to armed conflicts at home. AU appealed to Uganda to retain its forces in neighboring countries.
According to the UN, the LRA had increased its activities during the first quarter of 2016 and attacked larger villages than before. During the period April 2017 until March 2018, the LRA killed nine people and kidnapped 129 people.