from Africa in Transition

Uganda: Repression Deepens

May 4, 2011

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Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

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Ugandan military police officers patrol along a barricaded street during demonstrations in Kampala April 29, 2011. (Edward Echwalu/Courtesy Reuters)

While most of us have been watching Pakistan, bin Laden and violence in northern Nigeria, popular opposition to the Museveni government in Uganda has been growing, resulting in more official repression. Last week, there were anti-government demonstrations in the economic and commercial capital of Kampala, with the press reporting five dead and well over one hundred injured. At least some of the deaths were the result of police shooting point-blank into the crowds. Today, the Uganda Law Society, a membership organization representing the country’s lawyers, declared a three day sit-in at Kampala’s High Court building to protest the recent police violence.

Meanwhile, the Museveni government has jailed prominent opposition leader Kizza Besigye five times over the last two months. In order to call domestic and international attention to his plight, some thirty of his supporters attempted to take him food last week.  (In African jails, families frequently provide food to inmates.)  They were stopped by the authorities, leading to a violent confrontation. As nearly always, the police were the winners.

Uganda (or parts of it) appears to be seething. Museveni is a wily politician who in the past was the darling of the West, if no more, as he has become more repressive and his intervention in the eastern Congo more destructive. After some twenty five years in power and displaying the characteristics of a Big Man, it remains to be seen whether repression and his mastery of ethnic divide and conquer tactics will be enough for him to ride out the current storm. Watch this space.

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