An international crisis tracking and analysis organization says although most Ugandans are better off than they were a quarter-century ago, frequent demonstrations and violent crackdowns indicate many are now deeply dissatisfied with the continued rule of President Yoweri Museveni.
In a report released last week, the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned there could be conflict and political instability if he fails to break with the ways of his predecessors and set a date for ending his long years in office.
The Uganda government has dismissed the report and says its warnings do not reflect political reality.
The criticisms by the Museveni government, said E. J. Hogendoorn, the ICG’s Horn of Africa project director, “are not surprising, but we believe it [the report] is based on extensive fieldwork in Uganda and accurately reflects the situation in the country.”
Hogendoorn said it is not too late for the Museveni government to carry out internal reform, but cautioned, “…the longer Museveni has been in power, the greater the discontent with his rule. Unless he starts to reform his government, demonstrations will continue, and pressure will rise, and if not dealt with politically, it will manifest itself in armed revolt.”
He said the developments Museveni initiated early in his rule had been encouraging but “unfortunately he and his close associates made decisions in the past decade that have increased authoritarianism in Uganda and have created the problems we are seeing.”
The report says Museveni has followed a governance trajectory similar to that of predecessors Idi Amin and Milton Obote, although without their brutal repression. Like them, the report says, he has failed to overcome regional and religious cleavages that make Uganda difficult to govern and has relied increasingly on centralization, patronage and coercion to maintain control.
Unless this trend is corrected, Uganda will become increasingly difficult to govern and political conflict may become more deadly.
Hogendoorn, however, clarified that the report did not say Museveni is like Idi Amin or Milton Obote. But, it said Museveni faces the same structural problems encountered by his predecessors.
“Unfortunately, Museveni has chosen to deal with those governance challenges in the same way [his predecessors did].
He has done that, Hogendoorn continued, “largely by relying on patronage and increasingly personalizing his rule. If that trend continues, instability will increase in Uganda.”
The ICG also warned that the discovery of significant oil reserves is unlikely to reduce social and political tensions: “Clearly,” Hogendoorn said, “the discovery of oil will generate additional huge amounts of revenue for the government. We believe that oil will be used by Museveni and his close associates to strengthen their rule through patronage and corrupt practices.”