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In the ruling party manifesto, peace and stability are presented as President Museveni’s legacy. However, it is ironic that a re-election campaign built on these claims is now widely associated with so much state-sponsored violence and intimidation.

The Republic of Uganda is scheduled to hold its fifth general election on February 18, 2016. A close examination of, at least, three previous elections reveals two main characteristics – Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as a perennial candidate, on the one hand, and (election) violence, on the other hand.[1] Campaigns for this round of elections began in November 2015. President Museveni has until now managed to scoop two regional, high level endorsements: from Deputy President of Kenya William Ruto and Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda.

In his endorsement remarks, Kagame said, ``I know Ugandans will choose a person who will ensure stability and continue with development projects``.[2] As the remarks go, Museveni is campaigning on a platform of peace and stability as his most significant achievements since he came to power almost three decades ago. This short article intends to highlight the irony that the said platform embodies.


Museveni is widely credited for restoring peace and stability in Uganda.[3] His achievements range from diverting LRA`s rebellion in the northern part of the country, reforming – precisely disciplining - the armed forces, to reviving the economy. Even the leading opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), recognizes this contribution in its Policy Agenda for Uganda`s Leap Forward (2015). The document notes, ``over the last 3 decades, the leadership contributed to establishing relative security across most parts of the country and enhanced state security although human security and sustainable peace remain elusive.``[4]

Restoring regular elections can equally be added to his list of achievements. NRM`s ascendancy to power, violent itself, disrupted a previous trend of coups and counter-coups that had become the norm in Uganda. But this success story has not been without its limitations.

Having studied at the Dar es Salaam University College, 1967 - 1970, Yoweri Museveni later reflected in a radical student magazine, Cheche, in which he wrote, “[B]efore I came to Tanzania, I expected a lot, probably too much, of the Tanzanian revolution.”[4] Unfortunately, this statement may, perfectly, describe the feelings of those that were highly optimistic when the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986 and who have now reaped a great deal of disappointment. One obvious failure that can be attributed to the highly romanticized NRM `revolution`, which came as a result of a protracted `bush war`, is the failure to abolish violence in Uganda`s politics especially during elections. This is the case both with intra-party (intra-NRM) as well as inter-party elections.[6] The process of transfer of power remains a highly contentious exercise, characterized by use of rebel-like language and dominated by big ex-military men.


The Institute of Security Studies, based in South Africa, classifies Uganda as a potential 2016 conflict hotspot, among other countries such as the Central African Republic (CAR), based on its analysis of the upcoming election.[8] Real time conflict data from Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED) project notes ``a steady increase in violence and protest throughout 2015, peaking in October.” The report adds, ``The recent spike in protests and violence is associated with the start of campaigns and primaries for presidential elections to be held in early 2016.” [9] 78% of the recorded violence stemmed from either riots and protests against police brutality or happened as part of police action in suppressing opposition rallies. It is indisputable that the role of state organs is central in instigating violence or provoking violent reactions from opposition political actors.

The opposition is also, partly, to blame. Years of violent, tactical repression from the state organs seem to have hardened them. As a result, `defiance` appears to have remained the only way of expressing disapproval or attempting to delegitimize the incumbent. There are a few times when such defiance has been applied unreasonably, causing far-reaching damage.


The Manifesto is quite interesting to read, full of praises for `the old man with a hat`. It describes Museveni as the ``first directly elected President in the history of Uganda``, and also describes NRM achievements in the areas of security, peace and stability, economic growth, good governance and democracy as `monumental`. Peace and stability are presented as a foundation stone, on top of which all other policy proposals are anchored. However, it is ironic that a re-election campaign built on claims of achievement of `monumental` peace and stability is associated with so much state-brokered violence and intimidation.

The NRM acquired power through the use of violence and has failed to break away from the use of violence to retain it. This fact stands as a landmark limitation of what is often referred to as the NRM revolution.


There is a broad consensus from analysts in the region that the NRM will sail through the 2016 elections especially at the presidential level. The establishment is finally succeeding in forcing the opposition through another general election without carrying out necessary electoral reforms for the purpose of leveling the political field. Nevertheless, succession struggle within the ruling party is expected to intensify even after this scheduled election. Succession within the NRM, especially from the bush-war generation to the relatively young, regional-power enthusiasts and those within the Uganda People`s Defence Forces (UPDF), will open an important window of opportunity for the opposition.

* Dastan Kweka is a researcher based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


[1] For clarity on what constitutes election violence see - Ssempebwa E.F (2015) Avoiding Election Violence: What are the Prospects for Uganda?
[2] Mukasa H (2015) `Kagame Backs Museveni Fifth Term`, Daily Monitor, 22 December
[3] Mwakikagile G (2014) Statecraft and Nation Building in Africa: A Post-colonial Study, New Africa Press, Dar es Salaam
[4] Forum for Democratic Change (2015) Policy Agenda for Uganda`s Lead Forward, March.
[5] Hirji K.F (2010) Cheche: Reminisces of a Radical Magazine, Mkuki na Nyota, Dar es Salaam
[6] Kweka D (2015) `Does Museveni need militias to retain power in 2016? `
[7] Musisi F (2015) `Why are campaigns taking a violent turn`, Daily Monitor, 27 December
[8] Institute of Security Studies (2015) Peace and Security Council Report.
[9] ACLED (2015) Uganda: November update, available online at
[10] URN (2015) `I will run a campaign of defiance, says Besigye`, The Observer, 4 November
[11] NRM (2015) NRM Manifesto 2016 – 2021
[12] Clottey P (2015) `Uganda Opposition Wants Electoral Reforms, Vote Postponed`, VOA, 31 May,



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