News / Africa

Uganda Opposition Hopes to Capitalize on Economic Discontent

Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye makes a speech during a protest rally against the rising cost of living and commodities in the Namungoona suburb of Kampala, January 24, 2012.
Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye makes a speech during a protest rally against the rising cost of living and commodities in the Namungoona suburb of Kampala, January 24, 2012.

Ugandan opposition leaders have re-launched last year’s political protest movement, called Walk to Work, with a series of demonstrations marked by arrests and scuffles with police. The movement hopes to take advantage of the economic discontent sweeping the country.

They are calling it Walk to Work Reloaded: a protest movement against the government of President Yoweri Museveni that picks up where last year’s demonstrations left off.

Once again Kizza Besigye, leader of the opposition party the Forum for Democratic Change, has been holding rallies against corruption, bad governance and the rising cost of living. And once again he and his followers have been harassed, tear gassed and arrested.

Last week, Besigye and a number of other politicians and organizers were briefly arrested ahead of a planned rally.

Police spokesperson Judith Nabakooba told journalists that the police had every right to detain Walk to Work’s leaders. “They were arrested to prevent them from engaging in acts that would lead them to damage property, injury to themselves and others, and also obstruction on the highways. Legally we are mandated to take such an action if we realize that there is a likelihood for breach of peace."

Mary Okurut, Minister of Information and National Guidance, told reporters that the police action was to prevent what she called “mass uprising” and “chaos.”

Several demonstrations have been held in Kampala since and at each one, police have met protesters with tear gas. Besigye claims that this use of force constitutes an abuse of power. “I doubt that there is really any legal remedies, because what they are doing is clearly not backed by any law. It is a clear case of abuse of power, and a blatant violation of the rights of people who have political views that are different from the people in government,” he said.

Walk to Work’s latest push comes on the heels of a series of protests against Uganda’s deteriorating economic situation. These include a traders’ demonstration last November against worsening power cuts, and a four-day strike earlier this month against a steep rise in interest rates.

Besigye claims that these protests indicate a profound discontent with the current government. “The discontent is across the board. What has changed only is that people have become more bold, and are willing to come out and protest against the regime,” Besigye stated.

But political analyst Nicholas Sengoba says that, in fact, most of the recent protests have very little to do with politics. He says although politicians like Besigye would like to capitalize on the current economic malaise, they will find it difficult to do so.

“Many of these protests are actually very selfish, and have narrow interests. For instance, when the traders go on strike, they are mainly concerned about interest rates. They do not expand their cause to include things like corruption, bad governance, restoration of term limits. That is the main reason why in the past, Walk to Work has been starved of that mass appeal,” Sengoba said.

If anything, Sengoba says, Walk to Work is having less of an impact than it had last year, when clashes with police left 10 people dead. He adds that by immobilizing the movement’s leaders, the Ugandan government has actually found a very effective way to prevent it from escalating.

“You can really see the solution that the state has found to clamping down. They simply wake up in the morning and surround the homes of all the party leaders and the people who are organizing Walk to Work, stop them along the way, and that alone breaks up the whole arrangement," noted Sengoba. "So it really puts them in a very weak position.”

With so many Ugandans struggling just to feed their families, Sengoba says, it is difficult these days to summon sustained support for a political cause. He adds that Walk to Work has lost its novelty value for Ugandans, and without police intervention and the headlines it generates, the movement might simply burn itself out.

“If these people walk, two things might happen: one, they might be joined by people. But secondly, they might also be ignored by people who feel less concerned about the matters that the opposition is trying to put across. For how many days are people willing to keep following politicians and listening to them talking about bad governance, term limits, corruption? The state has a very good opportunity of crushing Walk to Work by simply allowing it to go ahead,” Sengoba said.

Police say they will continue to crack down on demonstrators whom, they say, are acting illegally. Walk to Work organizers are planning another rally on Saturday.


You May Like

Beijing Warns Hong Kong Protesters, Cracks Down at Home

In suppressing protest news, China reportedly has arrested more than 20 people on the mainland who acted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters More

Competing Goals Could Frustrate Efforts to Fight Islamic State

As alliances shift and countries re-define themselves, analysts say long-standing goals of some key players in Middle East may soon compete with Western goals More

Child Sexual Exploitation to Worsen in SE Asia

Southeast Asia’s planned economic integration is a key step for boosting the region’s productivity, but carries downsides as well More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid