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Uganda - Politics


Sir Edward Mutebi Muteesa II 09 Oct 196302 Mar 1966
Apolo Milton Obote02 Mar 196625 Jan 1971
Idi Amin Dada Oumee25 Jan 197113 Apr 1979
Yusufu Kironde Lule13 Apr 197920 Jun 1979
Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa 20 Jun 197912 May 1980
Paulo Muwanga12 May 198022 May 1980
Presidential Commission22 May 198015 Dec 1980
Apolo Milton Obote15 Dec 198027 Jul 1985
Tito Okello Lutwa26 Jul 198526 Jan 1986
Yoweri Kaguta Museveni 26 Jan 1986

Sophie King and Sam Hickey argue that "There is little evidence to suggest that Uganda has achieved the structural conditions identified ... as providing the basis for achieving democratic development. Uganda represents a ‘weak dominant party’ type of political settlement, whereby state-society relations remain dominated by a neopatrimonial logic, public organisations are heavily personalised and lack the capacity or commitment to deliver development in a universal manner, and where there is little prospect of democratic change.... over 70 percent of the workforce remains in the agricultural sector and Uganda remains heavily dependent on primary commodities and lacks a diversified economic base on which to move forward. This has left the Ugandan economy in a heavily informalised state, and unable to generate the level of revenue required for the executive to maintain the buy-in of powerful groups in society through formal budgetary processes." Under protectorate rule after 1894, Uganda's various regions had developed along different paths and at different rates. As a result, at independence the most politically divisive issue was the difference in accumulated wealth among these regions. Political tensions centered around the relatively wealthy region of Buganda, which also formed the most cohesive political unit in Uganda, and its relationship to the rest of the country. Adding to these tensions by the late 1960s, northern military domination had been abruptly translated into political domination. After independence, Uganda was governed for a period of 22 years by leaders (Obote, Amin, Obote and Okello) who hailed from the North. Those leaders did not address the mistakes which were inherited from their colonial masters. They instead sustained the status quo, given the fact that it enabled them to maintain a grip on the reigns of political power.

Moreover, some political leaders represented the interests of Protestant church organizations in a country that had a Catholic majority and a small but growing Islamic minority. Ugandan officials increasingly harassed citizens, often for their own economic gain, while imprisonment, torture, and violence, although universally deplored as a means of settling political disputes, had become commonplace. All of these factors contributed to political fragmentation.

Post-independence elections scheduled for 1967 were "postponed" by Obote because of the crisis of 1966. Elections organized for 1971 were canceled by Idi Amin when he took power through a military coup d'etat. The Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF), an interim government formed when the Tanzanian army overthrew Amin's military regime in 1979, organized the first national elections since independence. These elections were held in December 1980 under conditions that favored the UPC, which was still led by Obote. Widespread local opinion regarded these elections as neither free nor fair, despite acceptance of the results by a Commonwealth Observer Group, which monitored them. The UPC was declared the winner, but most Ugandans believed it actually lost the elections to the DP and took power by altering the results. Thus, before the NRM came to power, only one set of national elections had been held since independence, and its results had been hotly disputed.

Civilian political institutions were unable to end the regional strife that plagued Uganda, and because they were also unable to address the basic economic and social needs of their citizens, popular support for the idea of military rule increased.

Under Idi Amin Dada's military regime (1971-79), several hundred thousand Ugandans died, many of them as a result of human rights violations by security forces. The violence, together with the practice of using the military to protect presidential wealth and power, destroyed Ugandan society. Amin's aggressive foreign policy also heightened tensions with neighboring states, and in 1979, Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere ordered his troops to invade Uganda. The ensuing conflict led to Amin's downfall.

Milton Obote's second term as president, from 1980 to 1985, followed a period of transition and nationwide elections that renewed hopes for democratic rule. Obote nonetheless failed to restore peace or stability, and as insurgent groups proliferated, the government unleashed another reign of terror against the civilian population. Under Milton Obote the security forces had one of the world's worst human rights records. In their efforts to stamp out an insurgency led by Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA), they laid waste to a substantial section of the country, especially in the Luwero area north of Kampala.

The NRA continued fighting, seized Kampala in late January 1986, and assumed control of the country. Yoweri Museveni of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party was elected president in May 1996. Museveni's forces organized a government dominated by the political grouping called the National Resistance Movement (NRM or the "Movement"). When the NRM took power in 1986, it added a new element to the unsolved political issues that had bedeviled Uganda since independence. It promised new and fundamental changes, but it also brought old fears to the surface. The most serious political question was the deepening division between the north and the south, even though these units were neither administrative regions nor socially or even geographically coherent entities. The relationship of Buganda to the rest of Uganda, an issue forcibly kept off the public agenda for twenty years, re-emerged in public debate.

A referendum was held in March 2000 on whether Uganda should retain the Movement system, with limited operation of political parties, or adopt multiparty politics. Although 70% of voters endorsed retention of the Movement system, the referendum was widely criticized for low voter turnout and unfair restrictions on Movement opponents.

Museveni was reelected to a second 5-year term in March 2001. Parliamentary elections were held in June 2001, and more than 50% of contested seats were won by newcomers. Movement supporters nevertheless retained firm control of the legislative branch. Observers believed that the 2001 presidential and parliamentary elections generally reflected the will of the electorate; however, both were marred by serious irregularities, particularly in the period leading up to the elections, such as restrictions on political party activities, incidents of violence, voter intimidation, and fraud.

A July 2005 national referendum resulted in the adoption of a multiparty system of government, but in September 2005 Uganda's parliament amended the constitution to remove term limits for the president, enabling President Museveni to run again in the 2006 elections. In February 2006, the country held its first multiparty general elections since 1980. Ruling NRM candidate President Museveni was declared the winner with 59% of the vote, giving him a third term in office. Opposition Forum for a Democratic Change (FDC) leader Kizza Besigye captured 37% of the vote, while the remaining contestants received less than 2% of the vote each, according to official figures from the Electoral Commission. Besigye challenged the results in Uganda's Supreme Court, which ruled that serious irregularities had occurred but were not significant enough to alter the outcome of the elections.

Brigadier Noble Mayombo was Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Defence, chairman of the Board of Directors of the state-owned New Vision Corporation, publishers of the successful New Vision newspaper. Before that he was head of the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), and earlier President Yoweri Museveni's aide de camp. Mayombo died in Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi, in May 2007 of pancreatic failure. There were claims, which were denied, that Mayombo was the victim of a poison plot. But this is not the standard conspiracy of the government or president getting rid of a potential rival. Privately, security sources claimed that Museveni had recently indicated that Mayombo was his chosen successor, which allegedly infuriated a long line of politicians who felt they were more qualified.

By 2008 Museveni's paranoia was extending to once trusted insiders like Col. Leo Kyanda, the boss of the dreaded terror agency Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence. There were stories that he was suspected (right or wrong) of being in a clique of senior officers who are thought to be working to undermine Museveni. And Museveni removed him from the scene to avoid a replay of the late Mayombo incident where someone attempts another coup and then had to be eliminated causing further resentment in the system.

By 2008 Ugandan Vice President Gilbert Bukenya, an ethnic Baganda, was the NRM's most popular leader. Museveni kept Bukenya on as his Vice President to keep tabs on Bukenya's potential presidential ambitions. Museveni was increasingly patterning himself after Robert Mugabe and wanted to position his son, Lieutenant Colonel Muhoozi Kainerugaba Museveni, as his eventual successor. Muhoozi returned from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in mid-2008 to assume command of the new Special Forces, a component - or potentially entirely separate unit - of the praetorian Presidential Guard Brigade comprised of all the PGB's elite, technical, and specialized non-infantry capabilities. Muhoozi may still be too young to mount a credible presidential bid in 2016.

In September 2009, the government’s restriction on the travel of the Buganda Kingdom’s prime minister to Kayunga district, combined with incorrect reports of the prime minister’s arrest, sparked 3 days of riots in Kampala that left at least 40 people dead and many more injured.

On February 18, 2011, Uganda held its fourth presidential and parliamentary elections since Museveni came to power. Seven opposition presidential candidates, including FDC leader Kizza Besigye (the Inter-Party Cooperation candidate) ran against Museveni. On February 20, the Electoral Commission declared Museveni the winner with 68% of the vote; Kizza Besigye came in second with 26% of the vote.

Uganda's president made a major change in the army 27 May 2013, removing the chief of the armed forces to the interior ministry and replacing him with a general in charge of land forces. Yoweri Museveni named General Katumba Wamala the new Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and General Aronda Nyakairima the interior minister in a reshuffle which also affected the cabinet.

The reshuffle came amid controversy over a leaked letter published by Daily Monitor, a semi-independent paper, saying the government was planning to assassinate senior officers opposed to the president’s son succeeding his father as leader. Aronda was one of the officers named in the letter that was leaked by General David Sejusa, who heads an army unit that coordinates national and foreign intelligence and was currently out of the country. Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, had scaled ranks faster than other officers.

The threat of civil unrest, public protests, strikes, demonstrations, and political violence have been an issue. Politically- or economically- motivated demonstrations can surface with little/no warning. Protests revolved around power struggles between ruling and opposition parties, students protesting school fees, taxi drivers protesting taxation, and those fighting over land rights issues. Demonstrations occasionally take place in response to world events or local conditions. These demonstrations can often escalate if police response is not swift and appropriate. It is advisable to avoid demonstrations if possible and to leave the area.

Opposition protests continued into 2014, highlighted by the 19 September 2014 sacking of Prime Minister Mbabazi. There had been a reported rift between Museveni and Mbabazi over the latter's presidential intentions to contest in the 2016 presidential elections on the ruling National Resistance Movement party ticket.

Opposition and civil society groups called for a postponement of the 2016 poll until electoral reforms are implemented to ensure transparent, free, fair and credible future elections. Supporters of President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement [NRM] say the party has always won legitimate elections deemed free and fair by international poll observers. They dismissed call for a postponement of the election contending that it undermines the constitution.

Opposition groups came together 10 June 2015 under one umbrella to challenge President Yoweri Museveni and his ruling National Resistance Movement. The groups signed a protocol to form the Democratic Alliance ahead of the 2016 elections. The group can present joint candidates to represent the opposition in the elections.

The opposition was joined by the Uganda’s former vice president, Gilbert Bukenya, as well as Amama Mbabazi, former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling NRM. Mbabazi was still a popular figure despite his recent fallout with Museveni, which eventually led to his expulsion from the his positions in government and the NRM.

After years of speculation, on 16 June 2015 former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi announced he would be running for president in 2016. In what was seen as a sharp blow to President Yoweri Museveni, who was a close ally to Mbabazi for nearly 30 years, Mbabazi declared his candidacy, saying the current system of government must be reinvigorated.

Nomination of presidential candidates for Uganda’s 2016 general elections began 04 November 2015. President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 30 years, was nominated by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) for a fifth term. Also nominated for president was former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who was running as an independent under auspices of The Democratic Alliance (TDA). Long-time opposition leader Kizza Besigye was nominated by his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) for a fourth attempt to knock the president from power. Museveni won his fourth term in 2011 with 68 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent for Besigye. Besigye and Mbabazi failed to agree to field a single candidate despite last-minute marathon meetings.

On 28 February 2016 Ugandans voted for President, 290 Members of Parliament who are directly elected to represent 290 constituencies, as well as 112 District Women Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament are elected in single-member constituencies through a simple majority system. A presidential candidate must receive 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a run-off election.

President Yoweri Museveni was expected to be elected for another five-year term, even as opposition against him grew and internal divisions within his political party, the National Resistance Movement, began to show. Election watchers across the continent expected this contest to be even more contentious than the election battle fought in 2011.

The divisions within NRM were even more apparent with the split of its top leadership (e.g., current presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi who was the party’s former Secretary General and Prime Minister in Museveni’s government is running for President as a candidate for the Go Forward movement). Following the 2011 elections, Dr. Kizza Besigye, one of the main opposition leaders, led anti-government protests and accused Museveni’s administration of corruption, ballot rigging and voter intimidation.

The opposition, civil society and other electoral stakeholders called for electoral reforms that were tabled in Parliament, with only a few passed, even though the government had over two years to implement most of these reforms.

Part of the reforms call for the disbandment of the Electoral Commission and revision of how Commissioners are appointed. Under Article 60(1) of Uganda’s constitution, the Electoral Commission (EC) leadership is appointed by the President, with approval from Parliament. The identification and selection process of proposed EC Commissioners is not clear, and the opinion of stakeholders is not sought. Due to this, many have claimed that there is no room for the EC to safeguard itself from the influence of the President and his party. That noted, the February 2016 polls provide an opportunity for institutions such as the EC to act independently, transparently and more inclusively.

Even though there have been laws in place to provide some guidance on campaign financing, these laws are considered lacking and do not meet international standards on campaign financing. Furthermore there have been calls for electoral reform on this issue, but these have fallen on deaf ears. The laws also lack tight restrictions on political party spending to solicit voters – for example, there are no direct provisions made to disclose individual candidate’s campaign income – but greater focus is put on routine financing of political parties. Each candidate, particularly those in the ruling National Resistance Movement, spent an average of 200 million UGX (or approximately $60,000 USD) on internal party elections according to media reports, and the current election is set to be one of the most expensive in Uganda’s history.

On 20 February 2016 Badru Kiggundu, the chairman of the Ugandan Electoral Commission (EC), declared President Yoweri Museveni, already in power for 30 years, the winner of the Thursday's poll - giving him an additional five-year term. According to the Commission, Museveni won 60.8 percent of the vote and his main challenger Kizza Besigye got 35.4 percent. The election was marred by delays in the delivery of election materials, especially in Kampala. In addition, around five percent of the votes cast were declared invalid.

The main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, remained under house arrest at his home outside of Kampala after police raided his party headquarters on Friday and arrested party officials. This was his third arrest in the four days preceding the election.

Election observers from the African Union, European Union, the Commonwealth, and the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), among others, released their preliminary findings 20 February 2016 in Kampala before the final Ugandan election announcement was made. They found overall that the elections suffered from democratic shortcomings, while still remaining largely peaceful.

Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo led the Commonwealth observer mission to Uganda, and said that “These elections fell short of meeting some key democratic benchmarks … namely, the increased prevalence of money in politics, the misuse of state resources, which led to significant advantages for the incumbent, and the confidence, credibility, and ability of the electoral commission to manage the process effectively and impartially".

On May 16, 2016 President Museveni promoted five officers in the Uganda People’s Defence Forces. Key among them was his son, Brigadier Muhoozi Kainerugaba who was promoted to the rank of Major General. Kainerugaba is the commander of the elite unit - Special Forces Command that is in charge of protecting, VIPs and important installations around the country. Kainerugaba was elevated to a two-star general --- the same rank or higher than some of the veteran officers that fought in the 1981-86 war that brought President Museveni to power in 1986.

Although the 'Muhoozi project' had been talked about for years, it became a major talking point in 2013, when Gen David Sejusa alleged an official plot to eliminate anyone opposed to Muhoozi. The army and government have persistently denied that there's any such scheme. In the NRA war [1980-86], Museveni promised equal opportunities for all Ugandans. That would mean equal access to jobs, resources and other services, which isn't the case. Instead, combatants just fought for the emancipation of Museveni and his close relatives.

Interviewed on May 11, NRM's deputy spokesman Ofwono Opondo said "Much as it is not true that Museveni is dominating everything in NRM, no one is conscripted to join NRM simply because their parents fought ... Some of the veterans went to the war not knowing that they will ever come back.... The lucky ones that did were recognised because under the NRM structures, we have the elders' league and in government's socio- economic programmes, we have specific programmes for the war zones."

Rumored successors are his wife Janet Museveni, formerly the Minister for Karamoja Affairs, and his son and head of the Special Command Forces, Muhoozi Kainerugaba. But such figures are not particularly popular.

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Page last modified: 01-12-2021 16:19:52 ZULU