Africa > East Africa > Uganda > The president of Uganda looks likely to hold on for another term

Uganda: The president of Uganda looks likely to hold on for another term

2016/02/21

UGANDA’S president likes to keep people waiting. In a marquee in the grounds of a swanky hotel in Kampala, about 150 smartly dressed bigwigs were treated to a buffet breakfast. It helped pass the time until 12.30pm, at the same time as Yoweri Museveni finally turned up to launch a half solar-powered electric bus. The Kayoola bus, designed by Kiira Motors, a national-owned firm, trundled around the hotel car park in front of a pack of cameras. Mr Museveni, clad in his trademark bright yellow shirt and wide-brimmed hat, again ambled back to the marquee to listen to tributes.

The photo opportunity, two days before the country’s presidential election on February 18th, presented a contrast to events a few miles down the road the previous night. There police had fired tear gas and rubber bullets at supporters of Mr Museveni’s major electoral rival, Kizza Besigye (pictured riding pillion). One person was killed and Mr Besigye, who had been briefly detained before that day, was taken home before he could address a rally.

Mr Museveni, who is running for a fifth term next 30 years in power, is facing what observers say is his most competitive election from presently on (voting was taking place as The Economist went to press). A poll released in January put Mr Museveni at 51% of the vote, exactly what he needs to avoid a run-off. Mr Besigye, the president’s doctor during the bush wars in the 1980s, was on 32%. Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister who split with Mr Museveni over his succession plans, languished at 12%.

Polls are unreliable, however, so Mr Museveni is taking no chances. Policemen are not the only ones disrupting opposition rallies: the government has recruited hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men as “crime preventers”. These militias have harassed opposition politicians and supporters, says Human Rights Watch, a watchdog. On February 13th police arrested a radio talk-show host mid-broadcast. He was charged with defacing posters of Mr Museveni.

Mr Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) as well have far additional money to hand. The 27 billion Ugandan shillings ($7.9m) splurged on his campaign in November and December accounted for 91.6% of spending by all candidates in those months. The Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring, the local lobby group that collected the data, says the NRM has bribed voters with hoes, saucepans, seeds, sugar and salt. Meanwhile, Uganda’s press made much of people giving Mr Besigye cash, fruit and even cows, suggesting widespread support for his fourth campaign.

Change was the watchword part the opposition leader’s blue-clad supporters on the last day of official campaigning, as his convoy inched through cheering crowds in eastern Kampala. Additional than one unemployed young man said he both expected Mr Besigye to win and would take to the streets to “fight” if the 71-year-old Mr Museveni triumphed.

The Electoral Commission is widely viewed as subservient to Mr Museveni, along with the police, army and judiciary. It didn’t help matters by banning mobile phones from polling booths (limiting voters’ ability to document irregularities). Mr Besigye has urged his supporters to cast their votes before midday on Thursday and remain until voting closes to make sure “nobody steals your victory”. If, as is likely, Mr Museveni triumphs outright in the initial round, his rivals’ supporters will probably take to the streets.

If that were to happen, a heavy-handed response is likely. The police and army have not shown themselves gun-shy in dealing with protests in the completed. Nor should Mr Museveni expect much criticism from Western governments, which have little leverage—Western aid has been suspended or cut in recent years next a corruption scandal and outrage over the treatment of Ugandan homosexuals.

In any case Mr Museveni has new friends. He spoke admiringly of the Chinese and Soviet models of national-led development as he launched the costly national-funded Kayoola bus—which reportedly broke down in a little while afterwards. A spokeswoman denied the statement, saying the bus was towed away to avoid a traffic jam. Meanwhile, Uganda continues to putter along in the slow lane.

Related Articles
  • Why a proper record of birds in Africa is so important – for Europe

    2018/01/13 Most of Europe’s birds chief south each year around September to escape the northern winter. Some species only migrate as far south as southern Europe. But most cross the Mediterranean Sea to Africa. And a lot of species cross the Sahara Desert to destinations in West Africa such as Nigeria and in East Africa, such as Kenya. Some travel as far south as South Africa. These European birds are diligently monitored. Each April, during the breeding season in the early part of the northern summer, teams of citizen scientists in most European nations gather vast amounts of data on the distribution and densities of breeding – for almost each bird species. Thousands of citizen scientists are involved. They diligently generate the data in their leisure time.
  • New dams in Africa could add risk to power supplies down the line

    2018/01/13 In the 1980s and 1990s parts of Africa saw a surge in dam building for energy production. Next a brief hiatus there has been renewed interested. A lot of new construction projects are planned and underway across sub-Saharan Africa. Hydropower represents a significant and rapidly expanding proportion of electricity production in eastern and southern Africa. Around 90% of national electricity generation in Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia comes from hydropower. The share of hydropower in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounts for 20% of electricity production, is likely to grow rapidly. (If South Africa – which relies on coal powered electricity – was excluded, this figure would be much higher, but separate numbers aren’t available.)
  • Toothless Pan-African Parliament could have meaningful powers

    2018/01/13 The Pan-African Parliament was established by the African Union in 2004. Since again it has not passed a single law. That’s because it’s based on a Protocol that gives it only an advisory role. The parliament can gather data and discuss it, but can’t make binding regulations to change anything. Its limited “consultative and advisory powers” hamper the African Union’s ability to achieve a prosperous and peaceful Africa as envisioned in its Schedule 2063. Is there any point, again, in having this parliament? The 2001 Protocol envisaged that a conference would be organised to “review the operation and effectiveness” of the protocol five years next the establishment of the Parliament, which was 2009. This provision gave rise to the view that such a conference would explore the possibility of granting the Parliament meaningful legislative powers. But no such review has been carried out so far.
  • The EU-Africa summit is now the AU-EU summit. Why the upgrade matters

    2018/01/13 African and European heads of government gathered last week in Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire, for their 5th summit since 2000. For the initial time, the African Union (AU) rather than “Africa”, officially appears as the European Union’s partner. While plenty has been discussed about youth, migration, security and governance less is being said about the shift from an EU-Africa to an AU-EU summit. Is this just a case of semantics? Next all, the AU has been the key organiser of these triennial summits since they started in 2000. Or are there larger implications? We think there are. The AU-EU summit coincided with the January 2017 statement on the reform of the African Union prepared by Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The statement recommends rationalising “Africa’s” a lot of international partnerships by having the continental body take the lead. This means that the previous, current and next AU chairpersons, plus the AU Commission chairperson and the chairperson of the Regional Economic Communities, would represent the AU, rather than all its member states.
  • World food prices up 8.2% in 2017

    2018/01/13 World food prices rose by 8.2 % in 2017 compared to 2016, the UN's food agency said on Friday (Jan 12). The Food and Agriculture Organisation said that its FAO Food Price Index averaged 174.6 points in 2017, the highest annual average since 2014. In December alone, however, the index - a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities - stood at 169.8 points, down 3.3 % from November, the FAO said in a statement.