Why Uganda's 25-year ruler is unlikely to face Egypt-style protests
Ugandans are expected to extend President Yoweri Museveni's 25-year rule in Friday's election. More voters seem to want change, but apathy and fear of brutal crackdowns prevent unrest.
Johannesburg, South Africa; and Ibanda, uganda
After abolishing term limits and reaching 25 years in power, Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni is up for re-election on Feb. 18. He's expected to win and remain one of Africa's longest-serving rulers.Skip to next paragraph
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This is due to the stability and relative prosperity he's brought, supporters say.
A growing number of Ugandans, though, are fed up with the rampant poverty, high unemployment, and widespread corruption. They want change. But like many other African countries with aging strongmen who alter the rules of the game to extend their power, Uganda is unlikely to see the type of revolt recently witnessed in Tunisia or Egypt. Apathy and fear of brutal crackdowns stand in the way.
"We want change in our country, but I don't think it can happen at elections the way they have been rigging the votes," says primary schoolteacher Paxtone Agatasha, who plans to vote for opposition leader, Kizza Besigye. "In Africa, these Arab countries like Egypt and Tunisia are the only ones where people can riot and change things, but not here in Uganda."
Why Ugandans won't rise up
On the surface, Egypt and Uganda have plenty in common: long-ruling authoritarian presidents, endemic poverty, lack of political freedom, weak opposition movements, large numbers of unemployed youth. Both countries, in theory, should be equally in danger of revolt. But experts say that Uganda is unlikely to follow Egypt's path of mass revolt.
"I believe we'll not have anything happen in Uganda like what we see in Egypt," says Sandra Adong Oder, a Uganda expert and senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. "From the security side, the president will make sure there are no incidents of violence [by protesters], and his police are very well equipped. He has effectively neutralized the opposition and the government institutions that might limit his power. And from the public side, there is this lethargy, an apathy, really."
Indeed, Uganda's largely rural population remains unpoliticized, with a low level of Internet use and few major towns. And security forces are always prepared to use lethal force. All of this makes an Egyptian scenario unlikely. "If an uprising like Tunisia happened in Uganda, then Museveni would kill a lot of people," says Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, a political scientist at Kampala's Makerere University. "If it happened it wouldn't last long, as the government can also easily cut off telephones and radio stations."