Independent since 1962, Uganda has long suffered from internal tensions and has repeatedly been subject to power overturns, culminating in Yoweri Museveni’s military coup in 1986. Referred to in the 1990s by US President Bill Clinton as the exponent of a new more pragmatic and reliable leadership, responsible for the so-called ‘African Renaissance’, Museveni has increased his power and influence over the years. Despite the doubts about democratic governance raised by most donors, Uganda remains a key ally of the US in a region of great strategic importance.
According to itypeusa, there are two main sources of instability in the region. On the one hand, Uganda borders some of the states that, for decades now, have been going through – or have gone through – situations of extremely violent civil conflict such as Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. In particular, Uganda was directly involved in the Rwandan affairs of the 1990s: the head of intelligence soldier of the Ugandan army, Paul Kagame, of Tutsi ethnicity and refugee in Uganda in 1960, was the military and political leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, which in 1994 left Uganda to stop the genocide in progress and then assumed the government of Rwanda. In 1998, Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a military operation launched in concert with Rwanda. Although the initial objective was to stem the incursions of the Hutu militias who took refuge there after the genocide, the clash soon took on wider contours and incorporated the possibility of weakening and controlling the great regional neighbor. The Second Congo War soon ruined relations between Uganda and Rwanda, which mutually accused each other of harboring dissidents and destabilizers until 2006,
At the regional level, relations with Sudan have always been complicated by the mutual support that Uganda and Sudan have given to the rebel movements. The proclamation of independence of South Sudan has nevertheless led to an improvement in relations with Uganda, although the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) movement led by Joseph Kony still constitutes the greatest factor of tension between the two countries. On the other hand, relations with Tanzania and Kenya are much more stable and consolidated: in January 2005, the agreement establishing the creation of a union entered into force within the East African Community (Eac). customs involving the three countries. The agreement, extended to Rwanda and Burundi, led in 2010 to the creation of the common market forEac.
A second source of instability is represented by the terrorist threat that has recently affected Uganda, as a consequence of its involvement in the Amisom (African Union Mission in Somalia) mission against the Islamist group al-Shabaab. In October 2013, US intelligence sources warned Kampala of the risk of a terrorist attack; the alarm, renewed in 2014 and 2015, does not seem to have returned yet.
The institutional forms and the quality of Ugandan democracy are deeply affected by the troubled history of the country. Until 2006 Museveni banned the formation of opposition political parties, arguing that competition between parties would favor the spread of ethnic tensions. In general, post-independence Uganda has been characterized by a sequence of conflicts between the government, the north and the south of the country, all of which have conflicting interests. In 2006, mainly due to pressure from international donors, a new electoral law was approved, which made it possible to form opposition parties. However, the law and allegations of corruption have not stopped Museveni’s party, the National Resistance Movement (Nrm), which, in the presidential and parliamentary elections of February 2011, won with 68% of the votes.
Although from a constitutional point of view political, association and expression freedoms are guaranteed, in fact the country seems to be heading towards a substantial authoritarianism. At the very least, it seems that the NRM now has a dominant position in the Ugandan electoral competition and this makes it almost impossible to organize a credible and competitive opposition. Nonetheless, in 2015 the Democratic Alliance (TDA) was formed, a heterogeneous grouping of political groups united by common opposition to the NRM. Among the main exponents of the TDA are Kizza Besigye, long-time opponent of Museveni, and Amama Mbabazi, former secretary general of the NRM, who left the party after the failed attempt to be elected leader of the party. Neither, however, seems to have reasonable hopes of winning against the massive party and personal relationship machine at the disposal of Museveni, who has been at the helm of the country for thirty years.