Uganda: On the Way to Democracy?

Democratic reforms under Museveni

In July 1985 President Obote (who went into exile in Zambia ) was overthrown by a military coup led by T. Okello (* 1914, † 1996). The NRM stepped up its military action and was able to take Kampala in January 1986. Y. Museveni became the new president, which introduced market-oriented economic reforms and a democratization process. In February 1989 elections for the new parliament took place; according to the “non-partisan democracy” only individuals and no parties were allowed. The symbolic reintroduction of the monarchy in Buganda (1993) and other earlier kingdoms met with approval, but could not permanently end federalist efforts in Buganda.

In 1994 elections for a constituent assembly followed, which confirmed the restrictions on the activities of political parties in the sense of the “movement system” in the October 1995 constitution. In the parliamentary elections in June 1996, which international observers described as fair and free, almost exclusively supporters of the president, who was confirmed in office in May (for the first time by the population), were elected.

Despite the reforms, serious human rights violations also occurred under the Museveni government. In the north and west of the country in particular, there have been conflicts with rebel movements since the NRM came to power. the Christian fundamentalist Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has been operating since 1987 with the support of Sudan and which – apart from the ruling class – is recruited almost exclusively from children and young people. Uganda supported foreign policy inter alia. In 1994 the FPR (Front Patriotique Rwandais, German Patriotic Front of Rwanda) invaded Rwanda to end the genocide there and in 1996/97 the advance of L. D. Kabila’s troops in what was then Zaire, but since 1998 rebel movements against Kabila. In 2003, the withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the Democratic Republic of the Congo was completed, which was contractually regulated in a peace agreement on September 6, 2002.

Although the population voted against the introduction of a multiparty system in a referendum in June 2000, Museveni (confirmed in office in the 2001 presidential elections) announced that political parties would be allowed to vote in 2003; up to now these could only act within the structures of the NRM. Contrary to the vote of 2000, Ugandans finally voted in a referendum in July 2005 for the introduction of a multi-party system.

Return to an authoritarian regime

Following a constitutional amendment that now enabled the president to run for a further term, the first parliamentary and presidential elections since 1980, in which several parties or candidates were officially allowed, took place in February 2006. The ruling NRM emerged victorious from the elections; at the same time, President Museveni was re-elected for another five years.

After 18 years of civil war in the north of the country between the LRA and government troops, which resulted in an estimated 100,000 deaths and around 2 million refugees, talks on a ceasefire between the conflicting parties took place for the first time at the end of 2004, but were unsuccessful. The talks were resumed in July 2006 in the southern Sudanese city of Juba. Finally, at the end of August 2006, a ceasefire between the LRA and government forces came into effect. Negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement with the LRA, which were repeatedly delayed, began in Kampala in November 2007. On February 23, 2008, representatives of the LRA and the government in Juba finally signed an indefinite ceasefire.

After the LRA leader J. Kony (* around 1961) had not signed a peace agreement, new military actions were carried out against the LRA, which had relocated its areas of operation to the neighboring states under pressure from the army. In July 2010, 76 people died in bomb attacks in Kampala, for which the Somali al-Shabab militia were responsible. The militias of the Allied Democratic Forces – National Army for the Liberation of Uganda (ADF-Nalu), allied with al-Shabab, are endangering security in the border area with the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On February 18, 2011, according to remzfamily, Museveni was confirmed in office with 68.4% of the votes in presidential elections. His strongest opponent K. Besigye (* 1956) received around 26%. In the parliamentary elections held at the same time, the dominant position of the NRM was further strengthened. In 2011 and 2012 there were protests against the government, which continued to pursue a repressive course. The Besigye- led opposition movement Action for Change was banned. In the South Sudanese civil war that broke out in 2013, Uganda supported the South Sudanese President   S. Kiir Mayardit.

Other priorities of foreign and security policy include: engagement in the East African Community and in the peacekeeping mission in Somalia. On September 18, 2014, Museveni dismissed Prime Minister A. Mbabazi (* 1949), who had been in office since 2011 and who was said to have ambitions for the presidency himself. The previous Minister of Health R. Rugunda (* 1947) succeeded Mbabazi.

In the run-up to the elections scheduled for 2016, there were temporary arrests of opponents of the incumbent president. The arrests were taken as a warning from Museveni to his challengers and the opposition. International observers noted a lack of transparency and fairness as well as inadequacies in the electoral process in the presidential and parliamentary elections on February 18, 2016. Museveni won the presidential election with 60.6% of the vote. In K. Besigye, the candidate of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), 35.6% were of the vote. He was arrested or placed under house arrest after the elections. In the parliamentary elections, the ruling NRM won 293 of the 426 parliamentary seats.

In January 2021, according to the electoral commission, Museveni again emerged victorious from the presidential and parliamentary elections with around 58.6% of the vote. The election campaign was marked by violence, human rights violations and repression. In the week before the election, among other things, there was a blackout of the internet and a blocking of social media. The defeated candidate, pop singer Robert Kyagulanyi (* 1982), known as Bobi Wine, won around 34.8% of the vote with his National Unity Platform (NUP) party. He was particularly popular with the younger population and questioned the election result. As in 2006 and 2011, international observers criticized the election as “not fair and free”. After the election results were announced Bobi Wine placed under house arrest for several days before a court enforced his release. Museveni had justified the arrest with the danger of an impending coup. The arrest prevented the possibility of an objection, as this was only possible within ten days of the election.

The EU reacted hesitantly to the events in Uganda, as Museveni is considered to be an important stability factor in the region and a partner in the fight against terrorism in East and Central Africa.

Uganda - On the Way to Democracy