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

    Post-White House, Obamas to Rent Washington Mansion

    Nine-bedroom home is 3 kilometers from Oval Office, near capital's Embassy Row; rent estimated at around $22,000 a month

    Red Planet? Not so much!

    New research suggest that Mars is in a warm period between cyclical ice ages, and that during Ice Age Maximum over 500,000 years ago, the red planet was decidedly ice, and much whiter to the naked eye.

    Taj Mahal Battles New Threat from Insects

    Swarms of insects are proliferating in the heavily contaminated waters of the Yamuna River, which flows behind the 17th century monument

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora