2006 Parliamentary election
|Party||Number of seats (284)|
|National Resistance Movement (NRM)||191|
|Forum for Democratic Change (FDC)||37|
|Uganda's Peoples Congress (UPC)||9|
|Democratic Party (DP)||8|
|Conservative Party (CP)||1|
|Justice Forum (Jeema)||1|
2006 Presidential election
|Candidate (Party)||% of votes|
|Yoweri Museveni (NRM)||59,26%|
|Kizza Besigye (FDC)||37,89%|
|John Ssebaana Kizito (DP)||1,58%|
|Miria Obote (UPC)||0,82%|
Uganda enters its second general election since the adoption of a multiparty system in 2005, amid fears of violence after police have warned of possible terrorist threats prior to, or on, election day, which is February 18. Fresh in the memory of most Ugandans is the July 11, 2010, twin bombings by the terrorist group al-Shebab during the Soccer World Cup final.
The Somali Islamist group claimed responsibility for the attack in retaliation for the Ugandan government’s supporting of the Western-backed Mogadishu government. In response, the Ugandan police and armed forces have been on high alert and security has been stepped up around the capital Kampala.
Although there is little doubt that incumbent leader Yoweri Museveni will retain the Presidency, with his party the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to maintain a Parliamentary majority, most of the public attention is set on the terrorist threat facing the country.
Uganda’s political history can, generally, be defined as being dominated by two prominent figures – Idi Amin and incumbent Museveni. The eight-year rule of Amin has become synonymous with economic decline, social disintegration and massive human rights violations. Amin purged political opposition along ethnic lines by violently persecuting the Acholi and Langi ethnic groups that supported the political opposition and made up a large part of the Ugandan army. It is estimated that more than 100 000 Ugandans were murdered under Amin’s regime in the 1970s.
Amin was eventually deposed in April 1979 after Tanzanian troops, backed by Ugandan exiles waging a war of liberation against him, captured Kampala forcing him to flee with his remaining forces.
After Amin’s rule, Ugandan politics was dominated by a series of power struggles and infighting, which resulted in a series of changing regimes and military commissions charged with leading the country. In December 1980, the Ugandan People’s Congress (UPC) came to power, under the leadership of Milton Obote. Under Obote, the human rights violations increased on opposition supporters in an effort to stamp out an insurgency lead by Museveni and his National Resistance Army (NRA).
Obote’s rule lasted until July 1985, when he was ousted by a military coup headed by General Bazilio Olara-Okello, who proclaimed a military government. The new regime, headed by former Defence Force commander Tito Okello, opened negotiations with Museveni and the NRA, and pledged to hold free and fair elections.
Massive human rights violations, however, continued in a ploy to destroy Museveni’s support base. Negotiations between the government and the NRA proceeded and, although a cease-fire was agreed in late 1985, the NRA continued fighting and eventually assumed control of the country in January 1986. With Okello fleeing to Sudan, Museveni formed a government with himself as President, and the NRA was renamed the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
Museveni’s rule, thus, initially began through a “movement” system, which allowed limited operation of political parties. In March 2000, a referendum was held on the issue with 70% voting to retain the system as opposed to a move toward multiparty politics. The vote, however, was marred by low voter turnout and irregularities.
Museveni was re-elected for a second five-year term in 2001. Parliamentary elections were held later the same year, which saw more than 50% of the seats won by opposition candidates. The system, nevertheless, remained as supporters of the system retained firm control of the Legislature. The elections generally reflected the will of the electorate; however, there were sporadic outbreaks of violence and reports of electoral fraud and intimidation.
Another referendum on the Ugandan political system was held in July 2005, which, unlike the previous vote, resulted in the adoption of a multiparty system of government and subsequent inclusion of opposition parties in elections and government.
February 2006 saw the country hold its first multiparty elections. Although the election was said to reflect the general will of the people, some serious irregularities occurred. Museveni was declared the winner with 59,26% of the vote and the NRM winning 191 seats in Parliament. Museveni, thus won a third term in office after a controversial amendment saw him change electoral law to eliminate Presidential term limits.
According to the Constitution, the President is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term. There are no Presidential term limits. If no candidate wins an absolute majority, a two-round runoff system will be implemented.
Uganda has a unicameral Parliament with 319 seats, with 215 members elected by direct popular vote in single member constituencies using the first-past-the-post system, 69 women directly elected to represent each of the country’s districts, 15 members representing special interest groups indirectly elected, ten members representing the army, and another ten are ex-officio members. Members serve five-year terms in the Parliament.
There is a growing resentment within Uganda at the perceived economic mismanagement of the country and increasing corruption and cronyism. As a result, there is mounting opposition to Museveni’s regime and this is supplemented by the wide-spread belief that the 2006 elections were not free and fair.
Chief among those making these allegations is current nemesis and former doctor to Museveni, Kizza Besigye, from the Democratic Change Party. After coming in second in previous elections, the upcoming vote may be Besigye’s best chance as Museveni’s support is steadily waning. However, with State resources at his disposal, it is doubtful that Museveni will relinquish any kind of power.
The pre-electoral conditions have seen government-backed gangs of stick-wielding men, who have disrupted opposition rallies in an attempt to intimidate opposition supporters. This is one of the factors that has already caused Besigye to decryl the upcoming elections flawed.
Another factor playing against the opposition is that it is not unified. Opposition parties have failed to reach consensus and unify to form any sort of challenge to Museveni’s dominance.
Also, the recent discovery of oil in the country has raised the political stakes of the upcoming election. Exploration has uncovered an estimated two-billion barrels of oil and drilling is expected to start soon.
Should the election prove to be fraudulent, it is unlikely that Western international actors will intervene, as Uganda plays an important role in the Somali conflict by sending troops to the peacekeeping mission. The Ugandan government remains an important strategic ally to the West in the region and, in all likelihood, will accept another Museveni term regardless of how he comes to power.
Museveni is likely to retain the Presidency following the vote. The Parliament is the one area where the opposition may be able to challenge the NRM’s dominance. However, the fragmentation of the opposition is likely to be a liability to the opposition’s cause in forming a credible opposing force to Museveni and the NRM’s dominance.
The feeling among the Ugandan people is that the election comes at a critical point, with terrorism on the rise and a wave of insurgency sweeping through North Africa. The current trends may just provide the electorate with the impetus to protest against the current regime if the election is perceived to be fraudulent.
The Christian Science Monitor. Concerns of violence as Uganda election season kicks off (October 28, 2010).
The CIA World Factbook. Background note: Uganda (February 8, 2011).
African Elections Database. Elections in Uganda (February 8, 2011).
African Foreign Press. Uganda police warn of election attack (February 8, 2011).
Reuters. Uganda election war of words stokes violence fears (February 4, 2011).
AllAfrica.com. Uganda: postelection violence in nation unlikely (February 2, 2011).
News24. Uganda ripe for ‘Egypt-style uprising’ (February 9, 2011).