Uganda election was reality check for Africa, West
We're not likely to see Uganda or other African countries revolt against corrupt governments as the Arab world has done. With the election of Museveni in Uganda, citizens chose short-term stability, with long-term consequences – not just for Uganda, but the entire region.
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This leaves the opposition complaining of daylight robbery. Yet the poll itself, although messy, was transparent enough – with each polling station publicly counting and declaring votes – to rule out fraud on a scale large enough materially to affect the result. If Ugandans were bought, they allowed themselves to be.Skip to next paragraph
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Short-term stability isn't good for long-term
Another factor in Museveni’s favor was that the north of the country is finally at peace. Remnants of the Lord's Resistance Army rebels have been chased into neighboring countries, if not finally extinguished; reconstruction programs in the north are under way, bankrolled by international donors; and cross-border trade with Sudan is booming. This bought Museveni support in the north, where he polled well, despite ample, local grounds for historical resentment.
Northerners are not alone in prizing stability. Mindful that there has never been a peaceful transfer of power in post-independence Uganda, many voters across the country doubtless figured that stability would best be preserved by leaving the big man in power.
Such a move to preserve stability may have made sense in the short-term, but it doesn’t portend well for Ugandans down the road.
Meanwhile, the kind of power built and maintained on patronage breeds corruption – clearly visible in the vicious contest, late last year, to select NRM parliamentary candidates.
Role of Western aid donors
This is not an ideal atmosphere in which to have oil revenues coming on stream. Museveni has declared that he expects Uganda’s oil finds to enable the country to reach “middle income” status by 2016 – but resource wealth may just as easily further stimulate corruption and infighting.
If Museveni negotiates these difficulties and spreads enough benefits to remain popular, he may, come 2016, want to stay on even longer. Or, as some Ugandans fear, pass the ruling party baton to his son, Colonel Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who commands elite special forces guarding the oil fields.
Although relieved that violence has not erupted, the international donors, particularly Europeans and Americans, whose aid supplies roughly 50 percent of the Ugandan government’s budgets and who have spent millions of aid dollars on “deepening democracy” will probably feel lukewarm about this result. Museveni has been pro-market and, through his deployment of troops in Somalia, a strategic ally.
But donors – who Museveni himself calls “pesky” – have winced at his autocratic tendencies and the homophobic evangelizing that he and his wife, Janet, have encouraged. But patronage, gerrymandering, vote-buying, and dynastic tendencies seen in Uganda’s recent election, are likely to remain features of sub-Saharan politics until populations become more urbanized, educated, and determined to hold their governments accountable as many Arab nations are doing now.