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When revolutionaries grow old: the Museveni babies and the slow death of the liberation



The liberation struggle plays a crucial role in providing legitimacy for post-liberation regimes. This was the case for the Museveni regime, for whom the liberation argument provided strong moral authority, and a legitimising foundation for its patronage and coercion strategies. But what happens when the liberation argument ‘grows old’, i.e. when the liberation generation elite starts to die or defect, and the young population is no longer impressed by the liberation argument? This article argues that in response to this changing situation, the Museveni regime almost exclusively relies on patronage and coercion, yet is increasingly devoid of the legitimising liberation foundation.
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When revolutionaries grow old: the Museveni
babies and the slow death of the liberation
Anna Reuss & Kristof Titeca
To cite this article: Anna Reuss & Kristof Titeca (2017): When revolutionaries grow old:
the Museveni babies and the slow death of the liberation, Third World Quarterly, DOI:
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When revolutionaries grow old: the Museveni babies and the
slow death of the liberation
AnnaReussa,b and KristofTitecac
aInstitute for Development Policy and Management, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium; bDepartment
of Conflict and Development Studies, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium; cInstitute for Development Policy and
Management, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
The liberation struggle plays a crucial role in providing legitimacy for
post-liberation regimes. This was the case for the Museveni regime, for
whom the liberation argument provided strong moral authority, and
a legitimising foundation for its patronage and coercion strategies.
But what happens when the liberation argument ‘grows old’, i.e.
when the liberation generation elite starts to die or defect, and the
young population is no longer impressed by the liberation argument?
This article argues that in response to this changing situation, the
Museveni regime almost exclusively relies on patronage and coercion,
yet is increasingly devoid of the legitimising liberation foundation.
In Uganda, Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Army (NRA) came to power in 1986 after
a ve-year Marxist-inspired guerrilla struggle against the authoritarian Obote government.
Hailed for ending decades of military rule and civil war, the liberation struggle prescribes
the legitimacy of the President Museveni as a political and military leader, the ruling National
Resistance Movement (NRM) party, and the national army born out of the rebel ranks. Three
decades after the NRA/M’s capture of Kampala, the legacy of the struggle still looms large
in symbolic politics: Museveni often refers to himself as ‘freedom ghter number one’
(Sabalwanyi Number One), and Ugandan political rhetoric is rife with references to the bush
war and its achievements – most importantly that the NRM brought peace and stability to
the divided country.
Yet, more than 30 years after the NRM liberated Uganda, crucial changes have occurred:
a range of key gures of the liberation struggle have defected, the most recent and notorious
examples being a key gure within the army, General Sejusa, and the former right hand of
President Museveni, Prime Minister and NRM Secretary General Amama Mbabazi. Moreover,
demographically Uganda went through major changes: 78% of the population is below
30 years of age, and was therefore born during the NRM regime.1 These ‘Museveni babies’
have never experienced any other president and government and have never experienced
nationwide turmoil, and, in the face of their search for jobs and livelihoods, are less impressed
by the ‘liberation argument’.
© 2017 Southseries Inc.,
Received 1 February 2017
Accepted29 June 2017
CONTACT Anna Reuss
In this article, we set out to explain how the regime responded to these challenges. In
order to do so, we take the following steps: after a theoretical overview of the impact of
liberation struggles, we aim to show how the liberation argument played a central role in
providing legitimacy to the regime, particularly with regards to the strategies of patronage
and coercion. We then explain the changing context (the introduction of the multiparty
system, the elite defections and the changing demographics), and show how the regime
responded to these challenges. This article primarily draws on the following methodologies:
rst, it draws on data collected in non-participant observation and informal interviews in
Uganda between 2013 and 2016 with a variety of actors: government ocials, military o-
cials, journalists, analysts and so on. Second, it draws on a literature review of both the rel-
evant academic literature and the Ugandan press.
The slow death of revolutionary regimes
How do regimes maintain power? The material basis for regime support, and more particu-
larly the distribution of resources, has been shown by a variety of authors. Bueno de Musquita
et al.2 show how a ‘winning coalition’ is needed whose support is kept through both positive
inducements and threats of exclusion. Others3 further expand on the importance of ‘perverse
accountability’4 in which the distribution of material benets (subsidies, public goods and
so on) is made contingent on citizen support. This creates voters’ support even when the
regime is corrupt, and lacks economic growth.5 Lust-Okar6 shows how, in this context, elec-
tions are more frequently contests over access to state resources than actual debates over
Other scholars have emphasised that material support is much more eective in combi-
nation with non-material bases of regime support. An obvious form of non-material cohesion
and support is ideology, which plays a crucial role in structuring party organisations.7 They
play a crucial role, for example, in creating the necessary incentives for the individual party
members.8 This is particularly the case if the ideology goes along with, or is based on, a
violent struggle: it has been widely shown how regimes that came into power through a
violent struggle have a lasting impact on the stability of these governments, which are often
authoritarian regimes. This was rst analysed by Samuel Huntington, who showed that the
longer the struggle, the more stability for authoritarian regimes once the struggle has been
won.9 Later on this was extended, particularly by Levitsky and Way,10 who convincingly
showed that ‘sustained, violent and ideologically-driven conict’ is crucial for the cohesion
and durability of these regimes,11 as they have a wider range of repertoires and resources
on which they are able to draw.12
Concretely, this history of violent struggle has a positive eect on cohesion and durability
in the following ways: the struggle introduces military structures which leave an important
legacy with regards to the internal discipline and the cohesion of the regimes in question,
allowing these regimes to be more capable of repression and less prone to defection.13 For
example, for the Chinese Communist Party the continued importance of the revolutionary
process for ‘the techniques of rule- and policy-making’14 has been shown, giving rise to
‘guerilla-style policy-making’.15 A violent struggle not only leaves a heritage of military dis-
cipline, but also allows key sta from this struggle to be placed in key state institutions, as
personnel are replaced with loyalists, through which power is both concentrated and
expanded in the political system.16 This is particularly the case within the security agencies,
which in turn have the benet of increased obedience and discipline.17
The violent struggle in itself also has an impact on feelings of belonging and cohesion
for the regime in place: it has produced a particular identity and sense of community, which
for example allows the legitimisation of particular hardships.18 Party membership is there-
fore more than a pure formal issue: it is also understood in moral terms.
This is particularly
the case for the leadership, as the violent struggle gives ‘extraordinary legitimacy and
unquestioned authority’ to a generation of leaders (or individual leaders), which not only
is useful for the leaders as such, but which can also be used ‘to unify the party and impose
discipline during crises’.20 Often, liberation struggles create a generation of leaders who
have a particularly high moral authority. Particularly important is that relationships and
alliances which are formed during liberation struggles are crucial, and do have a lasting
However, what happens if the legacy of this liberation struggle (and hence the various
forms of non-material cohesion) starts to lose its importance? What happens if the founding
fathers of this struggle start to die o, and for most of the (young) population, this struggle
is something of the past, with little relevance for today? These are the principal questions
this article focusses on.22
The literature shows the following eects in place. First, an evolution gradually takes place
in which non-material sources of cohesion become less prominent, and the nature of the
alliances in place change. Key is that when the liberation ideology starts to disappear, these
parties or regime develop into more standard regimes, which on the one hand use the spoils
of oce as the primary means of elite cohesion: as Dorman highlights, the nature of alliances
in place is not permanent, and they lead to more patrimonial, spoils-oriented, exclusive
modes of rule.23 In other words, the ‘moral’ character of partisan identities is weakened, the
importance of ideology is reduced, and the unifying force of the founding generation dis-
appears. Through this process, identity and ideology are replaced with ambition and patron-
age, transforming revolutionary parties more and more into ‘ordinary parties’, vulnerable to
defection, corruption and petty factionalism.24
Second, legitimacy is a major issue in this whole process: regime legitimacy is largely
concentrated within the group of founding members/leaders of the armed struggle. Once
these leaders and veterans of the liberation struggle die, a legitimacy problem occurs: new
generations often lack this, as well as the experience for repression.25 Often, the new gen-
eration of leaders lack an independent power base or constituency to speak of (or any con-
stituency at all), but instead base their power on the new institutional context of
patrimonialism and spoil politics.26 While this oers a number of advantages for the regime
– these new elites’ power base is mainly, or only, based on their links with the highest levels
of the regime, leading to a stronger control over this new group of politicians; the disadvan-
tage is an increasingly narrow power base and disconnect with society: power is increasingly
situated and concentrated within a small group of people. This increases the vulnerability
of the regime, by potentially exposing it to frustrated political elites or large sections of the
Liberation as a formula for hegemony
Also in Uganda, the liberation war was crucial for the regime: the liberation war itself, and
the sacrice of those who fought it, has since 1986 provided the core basis of legitimacy for
those in power. In this section, we aim to show not only how this was an important identity
issue for the regime leadership, but also how the liberation legacy oered a legitimising
rationale for politics of patronage and coercion.
The NRA/M’s ascension to power marked the end of two post-independence decades of
turmoil, military dictatorship and civil war under former presidents Milton Obote and Idi
Amin, that had left the economy in tatters. Museveni and comrades had previously fought
Amin as the Front for National Salvation Army (FRONASA) which became a member of the
government of the United National Liberation Front (UNLF), a group of loosely allied oppo-
sition groups formerly based in exile in Tanzania that had invaded the country together with
Tanzanian forces and removed Amin in 1979. After the disputed 1980 elections that returned
independence leader Milton Obote to power, former FRONASA cadres, joined by new recruits,
took up arms against the second Obote government in early 1981: The NRA/M fought a
ve-year guerrilla struggle in a civil war involving several armed groups, and in January 1986
captured Kampala and swore in NRA leader Museveni as President. The NRM government
restored peace and stability in large parts of the country, and an era of economic growth
The liberation struggle framed the symbolic politics of state re-construction and consol-
idation of rule. In the Museveni regime, the bush war remained omnipresent: veteran gen-
erals are eminent gures of public life, ruling party Members of Parliament (MPs) convene
for retreats in fatigues at bonres, and the NRA’s rst attack in the bush war continues to be
commemorated with an annual army week when soldiers clean towns and engage in other
civic action. In the next sections, we explain how the liberation legacy played a crucial role
in legitimising the NRM government’s rule, and more particularly in its ‘big tent’ politics,
patronage and military force.
Peace and military force: two sides of the ‘liberation argument’
To date, support for the NRM government is sought and granted on the basis of the stability
dividend of the revolution, or what we call the ‘liberation argument’. The regime appeals to
citizens’ appreciation for the NRA/M’s role in ending two decades of military rule and civil
war, and bringing about an era of (relative) stability and economic growth. This continues
to be brought up, even today.27 From the beginning, it resonated with citizens who had
experienced Idi Amin’s brutal military dictatorship, the turbulent year of quickly succeeding
governments following Amin’s demise, and the civil war under Obote II, and were yearning
for stability and economic reconstruction.
These symbolic politics of liberation have attributed a central role to the military born
out of the ghting force that was credited with liberating the country. As it was the ghters
of the NRA, rather than the political superstructure of the movement – the NRM – who were
credited with ‘liberating’ the country from authoritarian rule, the new national army – the
NRA/Uganda People's Defense Forces – born out of the guerilla ghting force, took a central
place in the post-1986 order. The NRA/UPDF was portrayed as the vanguard of the struggle
for democracy and development,28 and, crucially, as inseparable from its birth father,
President Museveni. Equally important was that the members of the historical High
Command, the NRA’s supreme organ, were granted lifetime seats on the post-war military
High Command and continued to drive strategic decisions behind the scenes. The military
was also represented in the legislature, although Museveni did not appoint any bush war
commanders to cabinet positions.29
The use of military force was ‘democratised’ through ‘patriotic trainings’ on the gun, open
to citizens from all walks of life, and the formation of local defence councils and vigilante
groups. This was rationalised as empowerment of citizens for self-defence with reference to
past regimes’ anti-people armies but, crucially, gave rise to a pervasive militarisation of soci-
ety that in turn painted the use of military force as normal. In sum, taking recourse to the
liberation narrative legitimised the militarisation of society and civilian administration. This
was equally the case for patronage and ‘big tent’ politics, which are explained in the next
Big tent politics, patronage and personalisation
Having captured the capital Kampala in January 1986, the NRM under newly sworn-in
President Museveni formed a broad-based government that included members of all estab-
lished political parties, with the exception of former President Obote’s party, the Uganda
People’s Congress (UPC). The NRA/M blamed past turmoil in the country on sectarian politics
that pitted dierent ethnic and religious groups against each other.
As a consequence, the
NRM sought to accommodate all citizens and treat them equally. Ideologically, the NRA/
NRM’s government reected this anti-sectarian stance and formed an inclusive ‘big tent’
government. Apart from this anti-sectarian stance, there was another reason for this big
tent’ government: the NRM co-opted established and traditional elites into the new political
order to legitimise itself in power. The NRA/M was not in control of all parts of the country
and its political cum ethnic base for legitimacy was narrow, with its leadership overwhelm-
ingly hailing from western Uganda. Critically, the NRA during the war, which was primarily
fought out in the Buganda heartland, was heavily reliant on the support of the Baganda for
manpower, supplies and intelligence. Museveni’s wartime promise to the Baganda to return
their king from exile and restore the kingdom’s institutions abolished in 1966 became instruc-
tive for NRM politics: The alliance with established political forces, most critically the Buganda
kingdom and its supporters, broadened the NRM’s legitimacy base and enabled it to con-
solidate its political and military control over the country.31 At the same time, the demands
of politics of ethno-regional balancing on the centre even today constrain the President’s
free hand, and manifest, for example, in a never-ceasing spiral of demands for new districts
and government recognition of cultural leaders.32
Crucially, sectarianism became equated with partisan politics – and party politics: The
1995 constitution eectively banned political party activity and formalised big tent politics
in a movement political system under which Ugandans of all political colour would come
together to spearhead the social and economic development of the nation.33 Thus, the NRM
became the only viable vehicle of political participation, unchallenged by traditional
Consolidation of the post-1986 order, which stretched into the early years of constitutional
rule in the late 1990s, prioritised the inclusion of a wide range of actors and constituencies
to broaden its basis of legitimacy. Ideological cohesion had to be neglected in favour of big
tent politics. The institutionalisation of state- and party-structures was also neglected; the
NRM’s inclusive governance approach became based on patronage politics rather than inclu-
sive policies, and allowed a culture of corruption to quickly take root. Observers early on
noted elitist and exclusionary trends, as dozens of rst-family members and in-laws became
spread across State House, ministries, the army and parastatals.
Over the next two decades,
nepotism and corruption gravely undermined the performance of the public service: Past
corruption scandals involved high-prole political and military gures, including members
of the President’s family,
and have led to temporary suspension of donor funding in recent
years. The persistent bias of men from Western Uganda, the President’s home region, in the
senior military leadership has served critics as a symbol of ‘western’ and, more specically,
Banyankole control over the state.36
Multipartyism: the big tent 2.0
Pressures to re-introduce multiparty politics were rising in the early 2000s, at the same time
that the end of President Museveni’s second – and last – constitutional term loomed. The
debate over a third term for President Museveni revealed deep rifts within the veteran lib-
eration elite. Personalisation of power and bad governance had attracted criticism from
within the historical NRA/M’s ranks: Over the years, a number of eminent veterans of the
liberation struggle had defected from Museveni and the NRM, citing concerns over personal
rule and deviation from NRM principles.37 In 1999, NRA veteran Kizza Besigye cited corrup-
tion, cronyism and personal rule, running counter to the NRM objective of democratisation,
for his decision to stand as an alternative candidate in the 2001 elections.38 In 2003, the
debate over the lifting of constitutional term limits for the presidency saw open splits at the
highest echelons of the party. Prior to the 2005 referendum over the constitutional changes,
Museveni sacked three openly critical ministers, and appointed two loyalist senior military
ocers, who had joined the NRA as young men at junior ranks and were groomed by the
President after the war, as army commander and Inspector General of Police.
Among those
dropped from cabinet after publicly opposing the third-term project in 2003 was Museveni’s
childhood friend, former FRONASA cadre and NRM veteran Eriya Kategaya, then Internal
Aairs minister.40 In 2005, NRA veteran and the First Lady’s in-law Col. Henry Tumukunde,
then an army MP, was arrested and arraigned before the court martial for public criticism of
the President over the lifting of term limits, in a trial that was to last eight years.41
Museveni coupled the popular referendum vote on the re-introduction of multiparty
politics with a lifting of presidential term limits, the so-called omnibus bill: In 2005, Ugandans
overwhelmingly voted to abandon the no-party system and in the same vein oered their
president a constitutional path to more years in power. After the re-introduction of multiparty
politics, the NRM changed its formal name to NRM-O to reect the transition from a national
movement to a political party organisation.42 But the O was quickly dropped and forgotten
about. The abandoned name change illustrates a broader failure to transform the no-party
movement’s NRM into a competitive, cohesive political party, which did not really function
dierently as it had during the no-party movement: the ‘big tent’ approach and patronage
were still at the heart of its functioning.
Beyond the ‘liberation argument’ – that it brought peace and stability – the NRM did not
really have a strong ideological foundation for its rule, and institutionalisation of the party
had long been neglected. It therefore did not fundamentally change its functioning: the
re-introduction of the multiparty system did not alter the substance of the NRM or its inclu-
sive approach to government. At the same time, pressures for generational change and
criticism over personal leadership within the party were slowly mounting. Therefore, the
return to multipartyism drove an expansion of state patronage. Government and the public
service were bloated to accommodate as many constituencies as possible after the rst
opposition challenges to the regime emerged. In 1996, the NRM cabinet counted 21 minis-
ters. Five years later, after President Museveni had fought o his contender, his former per-
sonal physician during the bush war, retired Col. Kizza Besigye, cabinet size shot up to 65
members. In 2011, Uganda had the third largest cabinet in the world, with 74 appointed
ministers (New Vision, 8 June 2011). Museveni today has more than 140 advisors, an ever-in-
creasing number of old friends and foes who remain mostly irrelevant (The Observer, 14
September 2016). According to the presidential spokesperson, There are reasons why such
people are appointed; [it] may be to please certain people, to give you a job or because of
the contribution you made earlier’ (quoted in the Daily Monitor, 3 April 2013). In other words,
patronage became a visible and central part of the Museveni regime: public administration
and parliament continued to grow in size. At the local level, decentralisation, encouraged
by donors, became a primary tool to rally communities’ support. From 56 districts in 2002,
Uganda counted 77 districts in 2006, and by 2012, there were 111 districts (New Vision, 20
July 2012). Each new district meant a new budget for the new local administration, and more
members of parliament. Between 2002 and 2012, parliament grew from 295 to 385 mem-
bers.43 The NRM parliamentary caucus’ acquiescence to presidential will was not assured
and often had to be bought, at constantly rising costs:
In 2005, lifting term limits cost 5 million [USD 2900]. Five years later, inducing MPs to support
the president took 20 million [USD 8840], and that is not even counting informal expenditures.
Members of Parliament are now nding themselves forced to spend much more on their own
reelections, meaning that the bill for the regime’s eorts to keep itself in oce has gone sharply
Appointments to public oce, and monetary rewards, also play a key role in co-opting
opposition supporters and undermining opposition parties’ performance at the polls (The
Observer, 6 February 2014).
Under multiparty rule, the NRM did not rely on patronage alone: military force has equally
played a signicant role in keeping the NRM in power. Whereas patronage was legitimised
by the rationale of an inclusive government based on anti-sectarian principles, military force
and coercion were equally embedded in a legitimising narrative of the liberation legacy.
This manifested itself not only in a militarisation of society, but in a strong preference for
military solutions, also in dealing with political protest and opposition. This has particularly
been the case since the return to multiparty politics: The regime has increasingly been using
the military to crack down on the opposition. This has manifested itself in various ways, but,
in essence, a heightened display of the martial force of the regime is common in the lead-up
to elections. A martial commando under an anti-terrorism task force laid siege to the High
Court and prevented the release on bail of opposition leader Besigye’s co-accused in a trea-
son case over accusations of forming a rebel group.45 The unit dubbed the ‘Black Mamba’
again stormed the court to re-arrest Besigye’s fellow bailed treason suspects. Ahead of the
2011 elections, police introduced the large Field Force Unit, clad in military camouage,
which led the violent crackdown on the popular walk-to-work protests after the 2011 elec-
tions (Daily Monitor, 14 September 2016).
In sum, in the above sections we have highlighted how the liberation argument was
crucial in providing the legitimacy for the regime, and provided a legitimatising foundation
for both patronage and coercion. Yet the power of this argument slowly began to erode.
While patronage, personalisation of power and coercion were from the beginning embedded
in the liberation argument, patronage and coercion not only became increasingly prominent
throughout the years, but also became increasingly disconnected from the liberation argu-
ment. However, there are limits to this system, as we explain in the next sections.
Generational change: the Museveni babies come of age
By the time of the 2016 elections, the NRM had been in power for 30 years, the span of a
generation. This has important implications for the regime. On the one hand, the party today
has to scout for votes among a young population which has never known the country as a
whole in war, and the armed struggle between various regimes. This part of the population
is thus less impressed by the ‘we brought peace’ liberation argument on which the regime
bases much of its power. On the other hand, many veterans of the struggle who are bearers
of the legitimacy of post-liberation rule have fallen out with the regime – quietly or publicly
– over the longevity of Museveni’s rule and the unfullled promises of the fundamental
change46; others have retired into private life, or passed away. Prominent public critics of
Museveni’s leadership among the NRA veterans in Museveni’s fourth term included General
Sejusa (formerly Tinyefuza), then Coordinator for Intelligence Services, who ed into exile
before being persuaded by State House ocials and material incentives to return home and
abandon his critical stance; and Major General Biraaro, a long-serving army ocer who after
years of non-deployment was retired from the army and ran as a presidential candidate in
the 2016 elections.47 In this section, we outline the generational challenges with which the
post-liberation rule of the Museveni regime is confronted.
With 80% of the population below 30 years of age, youth are, in terms of numbers, the
most powerful voting bloc. These ‘Museveni babies’ (those born during the Museveni regime)
have never experienced any other president or government. An estimated 64–83% of them
are unemployed,48 and many of them come to the towns in search of livelihoods. This has
had a decisive impact on the logics of regime support in the ageing post-liberation regime:
The ‘liberation argument’ is less relevant in the face of the coming of age of a generation of
post-war youth that have not lived through the violent struggles in Uganda post-colonial
history. Instead, they yearn for jobs and development, putting pressure on the labour market
and social services, as they constitute the bulk of an estimated 700,000 newly entering the
labour market each year.49 The latest Afrobarometer results also indicate a strongly growing
discontentment about the direction the country is taking, a feeling driven by dissatisfaction
with economic conditions and declining personal living conditions, and concerns about
government eectiveness in addressing citizen priorities.50 The role of (especially urban)
youth in regime stability shifted into the focus of the government’s attention after the 2011
walk-to-work protests that closely followed the Arab Spring. The walk-to-work protests which
lasted almost two weeks and erupted shortly after the elections were not motivated by the
results of the vote but by the skyrocketing fuel and commodity prices that made transport
fares unaordable to many urban dwellers (Al Jazeera, 28 April 2011). Kampala has since
2006 always recorded an opposition victory, with the gap signicantly widening in the more
recent elections: in 2006, Besigye scored 56.7% of the capital city vote, narrowly trailed by
the incumbent with 46.86%; but in 2016, Besigye won 65.93% of the Kampala vote.
A rapid
population growth rate of 3.3%52 also, then, means a growth of the opposition’s key constit-
uency of urban youth. This segment of the population has little to lose in protests they know
to be violently repressed. Given the lack of opportunities they face in life, and that they never
saw the war the regime prides itself for ending, the NRM’s traditional post-liberation argu-
ment – ‘we brought peace and stability’ – exudes much less attraction. In sum, the rapid
population growth has dramatically altered the environment in which the NRM regime has
to scout for votes and deliver services. While the security argument has not become entirely
redundant, it is losing its appeal as compared to a generation that experienced the Amin
and Obote regimes. The extent to which the government fears the wrath of the youth was
indicated in various ways ahead of the 2016 elections: there were serial buy-os of youth
groups as discussed below, and the three-day social media shutdown starting on the morn-
ing of polling day. Moreover, it is also indicated in – as an opposition activist argued –
attempts to ‘conscript them into government support’53 through crime preventers and the
Youth Livelihood Programme. Lastly, it is also reected in the increased use of force in sup-
pressing any attempt at urban (Kampala) street mobilisation by the opposition.
At the same time, the long years of rule ever more pressingly pose the question of lead-
ership succession, especially in a context of development gaps and widespread corruption.
When the NRA came to power, President Museveni was legitimised in power by his rep-
resentation of the collective struggle for liberation, and the expressed support of his fellow
(rebel) veterans who had brought about the liberation. As the years went by, and patronage
and corruption took root, and the regime repressed opposition activity and political protests,
this image changed and Museveni’s government came to be viewed less as a national and
more as a personal system, as we showed above. Internal friction (such as the debate around
the third term we illustrated above) and the voter demographics strip the Museveni regime
of the air of legitimacy the liberation had endowed it with for many years. Museveni’s dec-
ades-long stay in power has nurtured many grievances among old comrades who reject the
personalisation of power, and those who felt they themselves were entitled to a turn at the
presidency. By 2013, in the run-up to the last presidential elections before Museveni would
breach the constitutional age, the loyalty of veterans had eroded substantially.
In other words, the Museveni regime is confronted with substantially changing circum-
stances, eroding the power of the liberation argument, both among the general society
(a young population) and within the regime (liberation veterans who died or no longer
support the regime). How did the Museveni regime respond to these challenges? In the next
sections, we argue that the reduced appeal of the liberation argument necessitated a further
expansion, exaggeration and adaptation of the existing strategies of personalisation, patron-
age and coercion.
Holding the regime together: tightening the grip and marching on
In response to the erosion of support amongst veterans who could claim legitimacy bestowed
upon them by the liberation struggle, Museveni tightened his personal grip on party and
security services, and increasingly relied on personal loyalists and patronage to ensure his
control. The tightening of personal control over state and government takes two main forms:
On the one hand, strategic power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of the rst family,
which is most clearly reected in the armed forces. On the other hand, young personal
loyalists without a claim to historical legitimacy and dependent on the president’s goodwill
are progressively taking control over positions of inuence in party and government.
The revolt of the veterans
The most visible concentration of power is the quick rise in the military ranks of the President’s
son (and, until recently, Special Forces Commander) Major General Muhoozi Kainerugaba,
who is considered a potential successor to his father. Since its inception in 2008, the UPDF’s
Special Forces Command (SFC) with the First Son at the helm has grown signicantly in size,
capability, and inuence; it protects the rst family and strategic installations such as the oil
wells, takes lead roles in foreign deployments, and supports other forces in containing protest
and unrest in Kampala. This, however, led to increasing tensions, bringing together the dual
challenges of eroding veteran loyalty and a young generation yearning for power and change
and resulting in the eruption of a lingering succession debate that centred on the President’s
First, a seasoned veteran NRA commander and eminent gure in the security sector,
General Sejusa, in early 2013 openly accused the regime of not only grooming Museveni’s
son (Kainerugaba) for the presidency, but also of plans to eliminate all those (liberation)
veterans in the ruling elite opposed to the quick ascendance of the son (Daily Monitor, 7 May
2013). General Sejusa’s leaked letter ignited a public debate in the media about the long-
rumoured ‘Muhoozi project’ (The Independent, 17 May 2013). Crucially, the question of a
potential succession by Muhoozi Kainerugaba directly linked military grievances to the
broader political debate. The alleged ‘Muhoozi project’ brought the personalisation of elite
politics to the centre of public debate, and also called into question the prospects of gen-
erational change in party and army. In the army, and extending its tentacles into State House,
the intelligence services and other strategic positions, it is the SFC that represents the youth
and generational change (The Observer, 5 February 2013). The ensuing debate revealed wider
discontent and divisions in the military and among the NRM historicals (Daily Monitor, 18
May 2013) that quickly became dened along support for the veteran General Sejusa versus
loyalty to the young Special Forces Commander, or, more broadly, the veterans versus the
(regime) youth (Daily Monitor, 8 May 2013). The government’s heavy-handed response to
media coverage of General Sejusa’s accusations – a 10-day shutdown of two major media
houses – indicated how politically sensitive the regime viewed this conagration of military
and political grievances to be (Foreign Policy, 22 May 2013). Moreover, the regime responded
to these events with a grand military reshue
that armed the end of the veteran era and
signalled an increasing concentration of power over the military and the state in the hands
of the rst family. In 2016, weeks after the elections, Muhoozi was promoted to Major General
and Museveni’s wife Janet, who had been an MP and state minister for Uganda’s least-
developed region, was appointed education minister (Daily Nation, 7 June 2016) although
she had not contested for a parliamentary seat this time. Behind the scenes, the role of
Museveni’s widely inuential brother, bush war hero and retired General Salim Saleh, has
been growing again over the past years.55
Secondly, the longevity and personal nature of Museveni’s rule again took centre stage
in debate in public and party when the President’s right hand-man, Prime Minister and NRM
Secretary General Amama Mbabazi, an early NRM cadre and long-time condante of
Museveni, was rumoured to vie for the presidency in the 2016 elections. Unlike General
Sejusa, the ultimate regime insider Mbabazi is a civilian veteran who did not ght in the
liberation war, and despite a long career in the security portfolio was unlikely to count on a
substantive constituency in the military (The East African, 11 October 2014). Nonetheless,
the dual public ‘defections’ of highly inuential and prominent veterans ahead of the 2016
elections revealed substantive grievances in ruling party and army. Never before had a vet-
eran of comparable stature openly challenged the presidency to the extent of contesting
for Museveni’s seat in the elections. Eorts to counter the Mbabazi challenge bound much
of the regime’s resources in the advent of the elections – and were rewarded with Mbabazi
scoring only a meagre 1.5% at the polls, while allowing Museveni’s long-time opponent
Besigye to make considerable gains.56
The President’s young men (and women)
The distrust in party institutions sown by the Mbabazi challenge saw an acceleration of the
elevation of young politicians who owe their loyalty solely to the President and his patronage
capacity. Over the years, Museveni had started phasing out the veterans and bringing on
board a number of younger cadres. As shown above, the NRM’s patronage system was his-
torically underpinned by the legacy and ideology of the liberation struggle, endowing the
party with unprecedented legitimacy in the country’s history. Many of the men (and women)
of the old regime elite had been comrades in arms. In the past, the inner circle of regime
loyalists was mainly recruited from amongst veterans of the NRA’s armed struggle and the
immediate post-1986 government and army, who even if they were junior during the war
and the early years could claim some historical legitimacy based on their participation in
the liberation struggle.
This means that, today, instrumental regime loyalists include many who have no bio-
graphical link to the bush war, and whose premier constituency is the President’s goodwill.
Unlike the NRA/M veterans, most of whom regarded themselves as armed political activists
and who built party and army from one rebel movement, the young cadres in army and
party have not positioned themselves as an ideological force. Expressing mistrust in the
systems he built, Museveni has shown a tendency to elevate people who do not have a
pre-existing constituency in the community or at national level, and raises them to power.
Henceforth, the rising stars may use their newfound patronage capacity to develop their
own constituencies, but their power ultimately is contingent on the pleasure of the presi-
dency. As an example, parliament’s youngest member, Evelyn Anite, tabled the sole candi-
dature on her knees at the NRM caucus and was later rewarded with a ministerial appointment.
Two young former revenue ocers became vocal regime defenders who quickly rose to
positions of inuence in cabinet and party.57 Still, many of the quickly elevated (like Justine
Kasule Lumumba who replaced Mbabazi as NRM Secretary General) are known to lack appeal
to voters.
Young regime loyalists are not bound by sentiments of comradeship and decades-old
personal ties. This gives a new signicance and a new quality to patronage. In 2013, each
MP received USD 1880 to ‘promote’ the controversial Marriage and Divorce Bill in their
constituencies (The Observer, 31 March 2013). Between May and October 2015, NRM MPs
received at least USD 1.64 million to popularise the sole candidature motion and de-
campaign presidential candidate Mbabazi.58 At the same time, NRM candidates – both old
and new – have to fund their campaigns59 out of their own pockets, further fuelling
incoherence within the party. The result of these dynamics is a lack of cohesion of the NRM,
and little ideological bonding with its members; instead it underscores the role of the NRM
as a vehicle to access state resources for public service delivery, patronage capacity, and
self-enrichment, rather than an ideological home or political representation. As a newspaper
joked about politicians’ volatile party support, ‘Serving people better means being where
national resources are distributed’ (New Vision, 1 April 2016). The numbers of hopeful and
successful independent candidates who abandon party colours after being defeated in the
primaries are constantly rising.60
Patronage also plays a critical role in securing youth votes. In the party, factions of the
NRM youth, most prominently a group calling itself the ‘NRM poor youth’, switched allegiance
several times, motivated by buy-os (New Vision, 19 August 2015). Several government pro-
grammes and projects launched since 2013 targeted youth with material and cash handouts
ahead of elections. Tens of thousands of youth, between 2014 and early 2016, beneted
from funding for investments in self-employment under the Youth Livelihood Programme.61
The implementation of the scheme which was designed as a revolving fund, including favour-
itism in the selection of beneciaries, meagre results and low recovery rates, underscored
the programme’s primary function as a tool of patronage.62 After the NRM and Museveni
were heavily defeated in the capital city Kampala, President Museveni in the latter half of
2016 launched a new cash-distributing exercise in the capital, donating up to 300 million
UGX (USD 90,000) at a time to selected youth saving cooperatives (New Vision, 9 September
2016).63 In September 2016, Museveni, within three weeks, donated more than 1.6 billion
UGX (USD 450,000) to Kampala youth groups (The Observer, 14 September 2016). At the
same time, the regime also used other kind of carrots towards the urban youth which were
not nancial in nature. A primary mechanism has been the exemption of certain regulations
or taxation. A much-illustrated and prominent example has been the attitude of the Museveni
regime towards the boda boda (motor taxi) drivers: notwithstanding various attempts of the
municipal government to introduce various safety and taxation regulations, they have always
remained exempt from these rules – given that these urban youth constitute both an impor-
tant form of political capital as well a potential threat, the President or national government
has directly interfered to protect their interests. Similar dynamics are at play for market
In other words, the regime is actively looking for ways to make sure not to provoke
urban youth, a process in which not only direct cash disbursements play a role, but also the
absence of regulation or direct policy intervention to protect the urban youth’s interests.
Turning the liberation argument on its head: fear over gratitude
The regime relied not only on an expansion of personalisation and patronage, but also on
a further extension of coercion to strengthen its rule.
This is particularly important vis-à-vis youth: Not only are youth the most powerful voting
bloc but, more critically, the opportunity costs for violence among a largely un- and under-
employed youth are low. For these reasons, youth took the centre stage in the recent elec-
tions. Reference to past achievements of peace and stability after 1986 may lose its
attractiveness, but the projection of negative impacts on stability and development in the
case of regime change is still used to discourage opposition support in presidential elections.
The liberation argument that claims support for the stability and security dividend of the
armed struggle is therefore increasingly used to project negative incentives for regime sup-
port, and high costs of opposition support: The NRM government has consistently laboured
to convey an image of overwhelming superior power which may only be challenged unsuc-
cessfully and at great cost.
Ahead of the 2016 elections, fears of chaos and violence strewn
by senior ocials attained new heights. At his closing campaign in February 2016, Museveni
openly warned voters of instability and violence should the NRM fail to secure a majority
and opposition ‘disrupt peace’ (Daily Monitor, 17 February 2016). NRM Secretary General
Justine Kasule Lumumba warned mothers in a village that ‘the state will kill your children’ if
they were to protest in Kampala (Daily Monitor, 7 February 2016). A 2015 opinion poll showed
that the majority of Ugandans did not believe that the President would peacefully leave
power if defeated at the 2016 polls, yet almost as many Ugandans stated they would vote
for Museveni again (Daily Monitor, 6 September 2015). Today, many Ugandans vote for the
NRM because of the threat of instability invoked by an end of the NRM regime, rather than
because of the stability and peace the NRM brought. ‘They have learnt that Ugandans fear
insecurity and they are therefore trying to hoodwink them telling them that if you don’t vote
[for] this candidate, this will happen and that earns them votes’.66 Support for a candidate
is, then, sought on the basis not of benets, but of the aversion of adverse impacts. Wrong
voting’ at the local level may also have imminent repercussions for community development:
In 2015, when Museveni told voters in a local by-election that ‘I own the money in Uganda’,
he was warning voters that a vote for the opposition might mean less access to social services
for their community (Daily Monitor, 21 January 2015). Conversely, opposition activity, chiey
by the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), is labelled ‘sabotage [of the transformation of
the economy] by some political actors’ (New Vision, 6 February 2015). Similarly, scrutiny of
government by opposition-leaning media is condemned as the promotion of chaos’ that
undermines the nation’s achievements since the NRA’s liberation (New Vision, 6 February
2015). In the run-up to the 2016 elections, the projection of fear and intimidation at nation-
wide levels was spread by a large militia-like outt recruited by the police. So-called crime
preventers had previously emerged in times of elections and crises, but achieved new levels
of signicance in the campaigns for the 2016 elections; police throughout 2015 recruited
large numbers of crime preventers, mainly male youth.67 Police projected numbers of 11
million crime preventers by early 2016 (Daily Monitor, 25 January 2016), although local
observers estimated that the true numbers remain below 100,000.68 If largely psychologically,
the crime preventers, in their highly exaggerated ocial numbers, spearheaded the coun-
trywide ‘mobilisation of the popular vote; crime preventers were clad in yellow Museveni
T-shirts, and ferried to NRM rallies. During the campaigns, crime preventers were implicated
in clashes with opposition supporters, and intimidation.
By recruiting the militia, the regime
also attempted to engage the support of an important voting bloc: un- and underemployed
male youth. Yet in the crime preventers the limits of the need for an ever-expanding patron-
age system became visible: The police chief had originally promised the conscripted youth
payment for their service; a promise later retracted by the President who instead invited
crime preventers to be the primary beneciaries of Operation Wealth Creation (Daily Monitor,
20 October 2015). Failing to pay the crime preventers, about 37,000 of whom were trans-
formed into Special Police Constables before polling day, resulted in cases of riots and unrest,
while crime preventers early on gained notoriety for engaging in crimes of extortion and
robbery (Daily Monitor, 6 November 2015; 29 February 2016).
In this paper, we have shown the importance of the ‘liberation argument’ for the Museveni
regime. The literature on liberation regimes shows how the history of violent struggle has
a positive eect on cohesion and durability in various ways: it leaves a legacy of internal
discipline and feelings of belonging, it increases the legitimacy and authority of a particular
generation of leaders (the ‘liberation leaders’) and so on. Also, in Uganda, the liberation
character of the regime had these eects: it was crucial in establishing the regime’s legitimacy
and in keeping the regime together. But what happens if the ‘liberation generation dies o
or defects, and when, for the youth, the liberation struggle is something of the past? The
literature documents that when the ‘originals’ start dying or defecting, newly recruited lead-
ers’ basis of legitimacy is increasingly based on spoil politics, rather than on broader popular
legitimacy. As a result, the regime’s power base is increasingly narrow, and concentrated
within a small group of people – leading to potential frustrations both within and outside
of the regime. In order to supplement these increasing neopatrimonial tendencies, additional
bases of stability need to be found, such as improved service delivery, economic growth, or
institutionalised mechanisms of leadership succession.70 Failing to properly develop any of
these constitutes a veritable threat to the stability of the regime.71
This highlights the dangers of the current situation in Uganda: The changing demograph-
ics of the wider population and the disintegration of the veteran elite changed the context
in which the Museveni regime must maintain stability. Patronage and coercion have always
been key regime strategies, but were historically embedded in the liberation argument that
oered a legitimising rationale for ‘inclusive’ politics of patronage and militarisation of civil
administration and society. With the reduced attraction of the liberation argument, patron-
age and coercion are increasingly devoid of a legitimising foundation. This has led to a vicious
circle: the escalation of these strategies led to a reduced legitimacy dividend from the lib-
eration argument, and in turn further exaggerates existing strategies of patronage and
On the one hand, the patronage system continues to expand. Yet one may wonder
whether the limits of this ever-expanding patronage system are beginning to be reached:
how long can the strained government budget keep up with the fast-rising voter number?
Given the strong population growth, and the limited improvement in service delivery, the
current situation rather seems to present the limits of this continuously expanding system
of patronage. As illustrated above, the regime, for example, failed to pay the crime preventers.
Along the same lines, the regime is encountering increasing diculties in paying for the
‘Presidential pledges’, in which the President promises, or directly gives, particular sums of
money to associations or individuals. As these are unbudgeted, the regime is struggling to
provide for them.72 A few recent examples are President Museveni’s election promise to
provide sanitary pads to school-going girls (Daily Monitor, 15 February 2017), or his promise
to provide funds to women surviving on selling homebrew alcohol (Daily Monitor, 6
December 2015) – neither of which was honoured.
The case of the sanitary pads also shows the second response of the government: coer-
cion. Stella Nyanzi, the Makerere researcher who was a vocal critic of this failed promise, was
arrested, brought before court and remanded to prison. More generally, coercion is playing
an increasingly central role. While coercion has always been used by the regime, it is increas-
ingly disconnected from the liberation argument. Instead of the army – whose use of coercion
was embedded in the liberation narrative – it now is the police which are increasingly used
as an instrument of political repression. Unlike the military, the police were not dismantled
and reconstructed by revolutionary cadres after 1986, but disregarded and neglected for
many years. After the 2006 elections that returned the country to multipartyism, the police
became increasingly militarised and politicised, while the army became increasingly pre-oc-
cupied with peacekeeping. For example, in the 2011 elections and the walk-to-work protests
afterwards, it was large troops of camouaged, heavily armed police ocers who patrolled
the streets of Kampala. In 2016, police severally arrested Besigye and laid a 40-day siege on
his house and on those of other candidates, and the crime preventers recruited, trained and
managed by police were at the forefront of the projection of fear among the populace.73
In sum, personalisation, patronage and coercion continue to be key strategies for the
regime, as shown by the 2016 elections.74 In the light of changing circumstances in which
the liberation argument has become less attractive and relevant, the regime choses an
increasingly slippery slope of escalating patronage and coercion, which is negatively impact-
ing the development of the country as a whole, and is set to be unsustainable in the long
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
Notes on Contributors
Anna Reuss is a doctoral student at the Institute for Political Science at the University of
Ghent, and the Institute for Development Policy and Management at the University of
Antwerp, Belgium. Her research focuses on regime stability and the security sector in Uganda.
Kristof Titeca is an assistant professor at the Institute for Development Policy and Management
at the University of Antwerp. His research focuses on conict and governance in Uganda
and the Democratic Republic of Congo, issues on which he has published extensively.
1. UBOS, National Population and Housing Census 2014.
2. Bueno de Mesquita, et al., “Political Institutions.
3. Magaloni, Voting for Autocracy.
4. Stokes, “Perverse Accountability,” cited in Magaloni, “Credible Power-Sharing,” 15.
5. Magaloni, “Credible Power-Sharing,” 15.
6. Lust-Okar, “Elections under Authoritarianism,” 468.
7. Hanson, Post-Imperial Democracies; Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies.
8. Hanson, Post-Imperial Democracies, xiv.
9. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 424–7.
10. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage”; Levitsky and Way, “Durability of Revolutionary Regimes.
11. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage, 870.
12. Dorman, “Post-Liberation Politics, 1097.
13. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage, 871 and 880.
14. Heilmann and Perry, “Embracing Uncertainty, 7.
15. This type of policymaking is characterised by on the one hand creative policies in managing
change, and on the other hand a dictatorial, opportunistic and merciless policy style; Heilmann
and Perry, “Embracing Uncertainty, 7–14.
16. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 313.
17. ‘ The result is a party-state in which the army, police, and other security agencies are commanded
by cadres from the liberation struggle and infused with the ruling party’s ideology …. Such
partisan penetration creates a more disciplined coercive apparatus’. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond
Patronage,” 872.
18. Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, 311.
19. Lebas, From Protest to Parties, 47.
20. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage, 871. This has been shown for China (the generation of
the Long March, 1934–1935), Yugoslavia (Tito and the generation of the Partisan), Mozambique
(Frelimo’s liberation leaders) and so on; Levitsky and Way, “Durability of Revolutionary Regimes,
21. Dorman, “Post-liberation Politics, 1092.
22. In doing so, it has a dierent objective than the political settlement literature, which aims
to understand the changing nature of political settlements underpinning particular regimes.
23. Dorman, “Post-Liberation Politics, 1099.
24. Jowitt describes how the Chinese Communist Party leadership gradually was unable to
transform its elite members into ‘combat agents’: instead of having charismatic impersonal
discipline, it became a ‘neotraditional status organization of cadres primarily oriented to
personal, family and material concerns”; Jowitt, New World Disorder, 140.
25. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage, 872.
26. Bratton and van de Walle, Democratic Experiments in Africa, 86.
27. For example, in 2013 Museveni responded to an interview with Besigye by saying that The
NRA/UPDF [Uganda People's Defense Forces] brought oturo [to sleep peacefully without worry]
not only to the people of Central and Southern Uganda but to all the people of Uganda (North,
North-East and Karamoja included)’; New Vision, February 6, 2013.
28. Kabwegyere, People’s Choice, People’s Power, 44.
29. Government of Uganda, Legal Notice No. 1, January 1986; NRA Statute 1992; UPDF Act 2005.
Until Museveni’s fourth term, a colloquial notion of the ‘High Command’ as a supreme advisory
and consultative organ of the regime referred to a small inner circle whose composition could
vary with the issues at hand around a nucleus of historical members of the High Command,
such as General Saleh and General Sejusa (formerly Tinyefuza), then Chief of Defence Forces
General Aronda, ‘super minister’ Mbabazi, and other select veteran personalities.
30. For example: ‘When we overthrew Idi Amin ourselves … we pleaded with the UPC leaders
not to punish the people of West Nile because of the mistakes of Amin as an individual’; PPU,
Museveni warns politicians.
31. Golooba-Mutebi, “Settling the Buganda Question.
32. A range of studies have looked at the changing political settlements underlying the Museveni
regime, and the way in which the nature of the ruling coalition has ‘shaped the character and
performance of the institutions and actors responsible for delivering development’; Golooba-
Mutebi and Hickey, “Investigating the Links, 3. With regards to Uganda, the work of Golooba-
Mutebi in particular has analysed these changing coalitions: Golooba-Mutebi, “Collapse, War
and Reconstruction in Uganda.
33. Barya, “Political Parties,” 11.
34. See The Independent (Uganda), March 25, 2009.
35. Tangri and Mwenda, Elite Corruption.
36. Lindemann, “Just Another Change of Guard?”
37. Makara, Rakner and Svasand, “Turnaround.
38. Kalinaki, Kizza Besigye, 148. For a further discussion of the defection of veterans, see also Makara,
Rakner and Svasand,Turnaround.
39. Makara, Rakner and Svasand,Turnaround,” 193. In 2003, Museveni appointed Aronda Nyakairima
army commander and, after the defence reform, Chief of Defence Forces in 2005. The same
year, Museveni appointed Kale Kayihura Inspector General of Police. The two loyalist ocers
had joined the NRA as young men and had risen through the ranks of intelligence.
40. Kategaya retired into private practice as a lawyer and participated in the formation of today’s
lead opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) in 2004, before returning to NRM
as a cabinet minister in 2006 after facing severe economic constraints; New Vision, March 8,
2004; author interview with relative of Kategaya, December 2006.
41. The period of the trial saw Tumukunde lose political clout and personal wealth before it was
brought to a close at a time when Museveni sought to bring back to the fold some of those who
had earlier fallen out in the face of the emerging presidential challenge by then PM Mbabazi.
After the closing of the trial, Tumukunde was promoted to Lieutenant General, retired and
put in charge of countering the Mbabazi challenge, before being appointed security minister
in the 2016 cabinet; Daily Monitor, July 10, 2008; author interview with journalist, Kampala,
September 2013; author interview with military ocer, Kampala, May 2015.
42. Makara, Rakner and Svasand, “Turnaround,” 187, 195.
43. Kintu and Enamu, “Legislative Research Services Adaptation,” 4.
44. Izama and Wilkerson, “Uganda: Museveni’s Triumph and Weakness,” 75.
45. HRW, “Gunmen Storm High Court.
46. To be clear: falling out with the regime does not mean that these actors have joined the
opposition, as we clarify for a number of actors.
47. Author interview with regime insider, Kampala, May 2015; author interviews with military
ocer, Kampala, September 2012 and May 2015.
48. The Guardian (UK), 17 February 2016.
49. World Bank, “Uganda’s Unemployment Challenge.
50. Ratings of government performance have been declining for almost every sector; Liebowitz
et al., “Going in the Wrong Direction?”; Liebowitz, Sentamu, and Kibirige, “Citizen Perceptions
of Democracy in Uganda.
51. Electoral Commission, “Presidential Elections by District.
52. World Bank, “Population Growth.
53. Author interview with opposition activist, March 2017.
54. See New Vision, May 24, 2013.
55. Saleh has since the 2011 elections taken on various strategic and sensitive assignments,
including the conception and running of an army-led nationwide agricultural programme,
as well as mediation.
56. Author interviews with two regime insiders, May and September 2015, and February 2016.
57. Frank Tumwebaze and Richard Todwong both worked with the Uganda Revenue Authority
before joining presidential service and later successfully contesting for parliament on NRM
tickets. Both were appointed to cabinet in 2012 and assigned strategic mobilisation tasks.
58. ACFIM 2016, 32.
59. Vokes, “Primaries, Patronage, and Political Personalities”; Wilkins, “Who Pays for Pakalast?”
60. Izama and Wilkerson, “Uganda: Museveni’s Triumph and Weakness,” 74.
61. Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, “Youth Livelihood Programme.
62. Author interview with non-governmental organisation [NGO] director and electoral commission
ocer, Eastern Uganda; author interview with town mayor, Central Uganda, March 2017.
63. Opposition leader Besigye encouraged his youth supporters in Kampala to take advantage of
the cash bonanza, as ChimpReports reported on 17 May 2016.
64. Goodfellow and Titeca, “Presidential Intervention”; Titeca, “Commercialization of Uganda’s 2011
65. President Museveni in 2015 rallied voters in a local election: ‘I have the money you need for
some of the social services but if you make a mistake and vote for the Opposition, you would
be blocking the channel because they cannot approach me’; Daily Monitor, January 21, 2015.
66. Patrick Wakida, director of Research World International (RWI), as quoted in The Independent,
February 8, 2016.
67. Tapscott, “Preventing Change and Protecting the Regime,” 3.
68. Author interviews, Kampala, January and April 2016.
69. HRW, “Uganda: Suspend Crime Preventers”; Crime preventers were variably promised salaries,
and facilitation, but most got nothing at all, nurturing grievances and fuelling riots and protests
in some places.
70. Levitsky and Way, “Beyond Patronage, 880; Levitsky and Way, “Durability of Revolutionary
Regimes, 14.
71. A success story in this context is the continued resilience of the Chinese regime, a process
in which the institutionalisation of the elite’s succession process played an important role
(Shambaugh, China’s Communist Party, 2–4) as this happened in a way that was ‘orderly,
peaceful, deliberate and rule-bound’; Nathan, “Authoritarian Resilience,” 7.
72. Titeca, “Commercialization of Uganda’s 2011 Election.
73. Among security services, it is the police that attract the most complaints about human rights
abuses lodged with the Uganda Human Rights Commission (followed by private individuals
and the UPDF); see UHRC, 18th Annual Report.
74. Explaining why he personally distributed the money to Kampala youth, Museveni expressed
his lack of condence in ocials: ‘I have always pledged support but whenever I release money
for my pledge, I am always let down by the NRM secretariat and the leaders you elect because
they don’t deliver what I gave them. This is partly the reason why people are still suering’;
Daily Monitor, September 10, 2016.
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... The pattern of increased contestation and conflict between the government and various opposition groups continued after the introduction of political pluralism. As the NRM's incorporation project of consensus and legitimation based on economic performance and security was increasingly challenged, the emphasis in the government's general strategies for political domination shifted from cooperation and legitimation to co-optation and coercion (Carbone, 2008;Khisa, 2019;Reuss & Titeca, 2017;Sjögren, 2018;Tripp, 2010). ...
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Civil society organizations (CSOs) respond differently to challenges from autocratic governments and opposition parties around the regulation and content of elections. Building on research on autocratic state regulation of CSOs, this article contributes a sharper focus on their horizontal relations to increase understanding of their diverse strategies of engagement. The article argues that even in contexts dominated by a heavy-handed state, relations between CSOs are especially important during elections, when they are most mobilized and motivated to build coalitions. The results of a study into how non-governmental associations (NGOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs) engaged with electoral reforms around the Uganda 2016 general elections show how relations of cooperation, competition, or conflict between civil society organizations modify the effects of state regulation by adding to their incentives and capacities. The findings help explain the many ways CSOs engage with each other, the population, the state, and the opposition, including their submission to and protests against the autocratic order. Horizontal relations of conflict and competition among the FBOs prevented effective coalitions and facilitated submissive politics during Uganda’s 2016 elections. Relations among governance NGOs, however, were more cooperative and generated protest alliances, even though those alliances proved difficult to sustain.
... For many post-liberation governments, struggle-era solidarities diminish over time, leading to, first, a precarious narrowing of the circle of power, and, secondly, increased used of patronage to paper over cracks. 39 The RPF, however, has weathered repeated senior elite defections in the 1990s and beyond, 40 successfully negotiated a generational watershed on many civil war era military figures and implemented serious anti-corruption drives, with very little effect on political stability within Rwanda. 41 The repressive capacity of the Rwandan state is usually cited as explanation for Rwanda's ability to weather these shocks. ...
... Hence the NRM, like many other semi-authoritarian regimes, has used elections to mobilise support and legitimate its power rather than challenge its authority, and 'personalisation, patronage and coercion', like the Obote regime he replaced, to buy support and repress the opposition. (Reuss & Titeca, 2017: 2361) These anti-democratic strategies have intensified opposition and undermined its foreign reputation, but genuinely free elections that disrupted the fragile political settlement could well have destabilised the regime, encouraged dysfunctional populist policies, or provoked violent conflict (Putzel & Di John, 2012) as they have done in many African countries. Instead, the regime does still command widespread support, and the existence of a far better educated professional class, a growing foreign and domestic capitalist class, a dense array of civic organisations and a relatively autonomous media, has indeed enabled it to incorporate a far wider range of social groups into public politics than before. ...
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Conflicted African societies are confronting a crisis of public authority caused by the ethnic, sectarian and class conflicts generated by their ongoing transitions from authoritarian to liberal democratic institutional systems. Most have introduced competitive elections which have rarely produced stable and inclusive political outcomes, discrediting the dominant liberal democratic state-building agenda. We draw on classical ‘dualist’ and ‘new institutionalist’ theorists to explain these failures and suggest alternative strategies. They attribute these tensions to the co-existence of contradictory liberal and illiberal rules and cultural systems that interact in dissonant ways in hybrid social orders, and they enable us to develop a ‘society-centric historical methodology’ that attributes their ability or inability to achieve democratic statehood to the ability of their regimes to build inclusive and hybrid political settlements and organisational structures that reconcile the competing demands of modern and traditional elites and subordinate classes. We then demonstrate the utility of this approach by using it to explain Uganda’s transition from a stable, but dualistic colonial state, to a predatory dictatorship and then to a relatively successful competitive autocracy.
... Uganda has had a difficult political history marked by economic recession, ethnic rivalry, brutality, and coup d'état, especially during Idi Amin's and Milton Obote's regimes between 1960 and 1985 (Nyombi and Kaddu, 2015). President Museveni's coming to power in 1986 was received with new hope and enthusiasm, but after about 36 years, the majority of his contemporaries have either died or joined opposition parties, and the nation is now dominated by youth who are disconnected from the liberation arguments that were popular during Museveni's earlier years in power (Reuss and Titeca, 2017). To remain relevant, Museveni's discourse has shifted towards oil, highlighting how he will protect "his oil" to spur economic development, an issue that continues to bother opposition politicians, civil society organisations, and actors in the private sector (Alstine et al., 2014: 51). ...
The discovery of oil in the North Albertine Rift Landscape of Uganda has increased pressure on land and heightened the potential for resource use conflict. In this article, we focus on changing land use dynamics as oil extraction unfolds in a new resource frontier. We ask how the development of the nascent oil industry will affect land use dynamics, including land use conflicts. This leads us to identify the land use change already arising and to use this as the basis for participatory modelling of projected change. Given they are dominant forms of land use, agriculture and forestry are central to our analysis. Design of the methodology combined remote sensing with innovative modelling incorporating participatory development methods. This facilitated insight into projected land use patterns, and specifically relationships between small-scale food production, commercial sugarcane production, and forestry conservation adjacent to settlement areas. Our data show that ill–defined land boundaries and an aggressive sugarcane out-grower scheme are avenues for so-called land grabbing. Modelling scenarios under both the status quo and under oil extraction suggest the land area covered by sugarcane production will increase at the expense of food crop farming. Given a context where forestry conservation is an important form of land use, we also consider the implications of local agricultural change on land reserved for conservation. Overall, our modelling indicates that in accounting for land use change within the resource frontier associated with oil extraction, there needs to be insight into the intricate interconnections between different forms of rural land use as future change unfolds. Understanding how oil extraction effects rural land use patterns holds relevance for planning in contexts of the Global South where new oil industries are emerging. Innovative methodologies for teasing out these complex land use dynamics can aid planning that seeks to anticipate and reduce land use conflict and support agricultural livelihoods.
... Its image as a central ally in the war on terror by being a key partner of the AMISOM mission, for example, has been of particular interest to the US and UK security community (Fisher 2012;Titeca and Fahey 2016). Its image as an 'economic success story' has been of particular interest to international financial institutions, allowing them to showcase Uganda as an economic success story, prompting the World Bank to 'at last claim that SAP (Structural Adjustment Programs) was worthwhile after all' and touting Uganda as 'a justification for the Bank's actions over the last twenty years or so' (Harrison 2001, 672; see also Tangri and Mwenda 2006, 101;Khisa 2019;Wiegratz 2010, 123-124;Reuss and Titeca 2017). ...
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The progressive refugee policy of the Ugandan government has been widely applauded as a success story, and Uganda has been depicted as a role model. This article argues how the perceived success created a situation of mutual dependency between the Ugandan government and the international community. While the Ugandan government relied on aid from the international community, the international community had interests in the success story as proof that their policies work (for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), and in response to the European migration crisis (for bilateral donor governments). Nevertheless, in 2018, it emerged that the Ugandan refugee policy suffered from large-scale corruption. The article argues that the mutual dependency provided a fertile breeding ground for corruption, and negatively impacted accountability. Similarly to how the Museveni regime has been able to benefit from an image of success to deflect accountability on governance transgressions in the past, it has now largely managed to evade accountability for corruption in its refugee policy.
Much of contemporary Eastern and Southern Africa is governed by former national liberation movements, each having won power after lengthy and punishing insurgencies. To varying degrees, these post-liberation governments have since commemorated their respective struggles through inscribing the landscape with a range of spatial projects – from museums and statues to vast memorial complexes. This study explores the provenance, significance, and meaning of this spatial work, and its relationship to the broader politics of post-liberation Africa. Drawing on 3.5 years of fieldwork undertaken across five countries and numerous memorialization sites, we argue that, with some exceptions, these spatial acts have been undertaken with limited consultation or debate outside of ruling elites, who approach struggle memorialization as a normative and political imperative. For these actors, these spaces are not necessarily intended to persuade domestic audiences of the “rightness” of the struggle or of the party's legitimacy to govern per se. Instead, they offer an assertion of authority, not a dialogue. This, we suggest, aligns with these governing movements' general – totalising – political mindset, whereby ensuring the continued centrality and commemoration of the struggle, and of key figures and leaders within it, is a self-evident obligation rather than a matter for wider reflection and debate.
This thesis consists of a collection of seven essays that address issues of representation, memorialisation and symbolic reparations. Employing a primarily ethnographic approach, it reveals different forms and functions of memory in the aftermath of mass violence. Together, these essays argue for a more nuanced way of understanding how governments, survivors, heritage practitioners, humanitarians, artists and development actors utilise conflict memories, sometimes revealing narrative gaps entrenched in silence. These insights are useful for a better conceptualisation of symbolic repair within the fields of transitional justice, critical heritage and memory studies. Each essay, addresses different geographical and material aspects of conflict memory to create a mosaic of perspectives with a primary focus on Uganda. The Ugandan case studies explore three regions of the country: the Luwero Triangle, Northern Uganda and the Rwenzori Mountain region. Each case shows the need to approach memory work with different types of evidence, including museum displays, monuments, material culture remains from humanitarian assistance, oral literature, sites of trauma, artworks and popular culture. Such evidence both informs the analysis and extends the kinds of data suitable for critical heritage research. Taken together, the essays in this thesis argue that in nations recovering from multiple violent conflicts, whose recovery is absent of holistic statedriven processes for memorialisation, it is critical to understand the everyday negotiations of memory as well as the artistic approaches to repair. Furthermore, the collection highlights the significant role that globalised systems of representation, assistance and peacebuilding have on memory projects within and outside the Ugandan context. Overall, this thesis constitutes a critique of the expectations placed on memory work to repair societies, given the contextual and political barriers to implementing conventional memory projects. By its end, it advocates for a less didactic and more dialogical approach to memorialisation, making space for meaningful work that does not mimic Euro-American models of remembrance.
This article situates its discussion of young Zimbabwean men’s performance of masculinity in a restrictive political space in a broader continental context in which the majority of young people are politically and economically marginalised. It addresses how the older generation’s domination and monopolisation of political space presents obstacles to the youth’s aspiration to perform normative masculinity. The article also discusses various strategies the youth in Zimbabwe are devising to claim space in a political arena that can be characterised as a gerontocracy. The youth seek relevance in Zimbabwe’s congested and gerontocratic political space through strategies that range from co-opting gerontocratic masculinities to subverting them. Notwithstanding the divergence in these strategies, young people who adopt them to create and occupy space in Zimbabwe’s political terrain legitimise their choices by appealing to culture, thus showing how culture can be harnessed for contradictory objectives in the performance of masculinities. The strategies also draw from global trends involving the youth’s engagement in non-traditional political participation facilitated by their dominance of virtual, social media space. Rose Jaji, University of Zimbabwe. Email:
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This article scrutinizes the way the European Union's (EU) democracy aid corresponds to how "a just society" is negotiated among the Acholi-an ethnic group in Northern Uganda. Through document analysis of EU aid projects, qualitative interviews with project implementers and through secondary analysis of ethnographic literature, this article finds that EU democracy aid in Acholiland-through its emphasis on individual responsibility, entrepreneurship, and its exclusion of elders-selectively aligns with the life worlds of urban youths. Such approach, however, risks further antagonizing Acholi social cohesion. As such, this article points attention to the fact that democracy support will always intervene in a contentious debate on what is perceived as locally just and whom participates in such negotiation. When considering questions of how international democracy support could be improved, it is, therefore, necessary to first of all deconstruct the validity of one's underlying conceptions of what is a just political order, and secondly, to acknowledge that any reconstruction on the grounds of including a plurality of alternatives will always require a political intervention. Such considerations, it is argued, would open up the debate on improving EU democracy support to concerns of how such democracy support itself can become more democratic.
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This report addresses the rise of Shadow States in Africa, with case studies of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as a comparative introduction by Nic Cheeseman. To do this it maps the emergence of shadow states – networks of unelected businessmen, civil servants, political fixers, and members of the president’s family who wield more power than legislators – and how this varies across countries. By mapping how these networks are organized across different groups and countries, the report reveals just how influential and resilient these groups have become, and the way in which many shadow states – but not all – have become integrated into transnational financial and in some cases criminal networks. In addition to the obvious negative impact on democracy and accountability, the influence of shadow states tends to undermine inclusive development through three related processes. The first is the creation of a culture of impunity that facilitates corruption and diverts resources away from productive investments. The second is the manipulation of government expenditure and other public resources and opportunities to sustain the patronage networks of the shadow state and ensure its political survival. The third is the creation of monopolistic or oligopolistic conditions that increase prices and enable companies with links to the shadow state to make excessive profits. The authors argue that unless these networks are challenged and reformed, they will continue to keep citizens in poverty while those connected to the shadow state become increasingly rich.
The changing character of the political settlement in Uganda since independence has closely shaped the character and performance of the institutions and actors responsible for delivering development. Successive political leaders sought to establish 'dominant ruler' forms of political settlement, with little sustained effort to depersonalise public institutions or build stable and inclusive ruling coalitions. This seemed to change in 1986, as Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement (NRM) sought to establish a new settlement, based on a broad-based coalition and an ostensible commitment to development. However, the NRM's record of generating the commitment and capacity required to deliver development has been mixed. On the one hand, a mixture of elite commitment, pockets of bureaucratic excellence and external support has enabled impressive levels of economic growth, macroeconomic stability and social expenditure. However, the current settlement – characterised by deepening levels of competitive clientelism, highly personalised forms of public bureaucracy, collusive state–business relations, and a ruling coalition that is (expensively) inclusive at the lower levels while becoming narrower and more nepotistic at the pinnacle – has failed to provide the basis for tackling the more difficult challenges of achieving structural transformation, delivering high-quality public services and challenging social inequalities. The case of Uganda reveals the need to extend the current boundaries of political settlement analysis beyond a narrow focus on incentives at the national level, to incorporate a stronger focus on ideas and transnational factors. Dominant ideas around state legitimacy and development have played an important role in shaping governance and development in Uganda, and this has often involved a role for the shifting sets of transnational actors on which the regime relies to maintain itself in power. This paper includes suggestions for further research on the politics of development in Uganda, including around the extent to which the discovery of oil will both be shaped by and help reshape the political settlement.
This paper is an ethnographic study of the National Resistance Movement Party primaries that took place in the constituency of Rwampara County, Mbarara District, between mid and late 2015. Based on fieldwork carried out during the primary campaigns, it offers a detailed examination of the five candidates’ campaign strategies in the run-up to the polls. It focuses in particular upon the ways in which they all sought to secure votes through making frequent public donations to potential voters. Building upon recent insights from a nascent anthropology of corruption, the paper argues that it is crucial to understand how these gifts were conceptualized, both by their givers and their recipients. It finds that although these donations generally made sense to everyone involved in terms of long-standing cultural logics regarding the ‘proper’ operations of power (amaani), this is not to say that they simply reflected cultural continuities. On the contrary, over the course of the campaigns, both the practices of gifting, and the meanings that attached to these, changed significantly. This helps to explain how and why, in the context of all of this gifting, the donations of one candidate – and one candidate only – came to be seen as illegitimate (i.e. as ‘corrupt’).
A dominant narrative exists in the literature concerning the financial strategy of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime of President Yoweri Museveni in recent Ugandan elections. This posits that the regime relies on public or state-linked resources sent from the centre of government to the rural periphery so as to materially influence voters to support its candidates. While it is certainly true that the NRM collectively takes advantage of its access to state resources to finance its quintennial re-election campaign, this paper will challenge the exclusivity of this representation by presenting two findings from the 2016 polls. The first is that while the structures of centre-to-periphery clientelist distribution have grown significantly over the past decades, the popular expectations among the electorate of what politicians can and should distribute – during both term time and election campaigns – have grown yet faster than this expanding system can service. Second, following from this conclusion, the burden of funding this patronage deficit has fallen on rural elites themselves at election time, who mobilise personal resources into their campaigns to satisfy the growing norms of entitlement among citizens – norms sustained by the extreme competitiveness of intra-NRM local politics. Candidates from across the spectrum face intense pressure to meet these campaign costs, often after saving for years, mortgaging properties, and taking on enormous personal debt. This paper investigates the cause, structure, and extent of self-financed campaigning, building on evidence from three traditionally pro-NRM rural districts in southern Uganda – Kyenjojo, Kayunga, and Bugiri. It concludes that the systemic sourcing of private campaign finance within this rural periphery is more than just a by-product of the NRM’s collective electoral renewal: it is a structural pillar of it on par with the much-discussed abuse of public funds.
This book provides a theory of the logic of survival of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), one of the most resilient autocratic regimes in the twentieth century. An autocratic regime hid behind the facade of elections that were held with clockwise precision. Although their outcome was totally predictable, elections were not hollow rituals. The PRI made millions of ordinary citizens vest their interests in the survival of the autocratic regime. Voters could not simply ‘throw the rascals out of office’ because their choices were constrained by a series of strategic dilemmas that compelled them to support the autocrats. The book also explores the factors that led to the demise of the PRI. The theory sheds light on the logic of ‘electoral autocracies’, among the most common type of autocracy, and is the only systematic treatment in the literature today dealing with this form of autocracy. © Beatriz Magaloni 2006 and Cambridge University Press, 2009. All rights reserved.
Why do strong opposition party organizations emerge in some democratizing countries, while those in others remain weak or quickly fragment on ethnic lines? This book offers an explanation for why opposition parties vary in organizational form, cohesion, and mobilizational reach. The book draws upon an in-depth analysis of three countries in Anglophone Africa: Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Kenya. Though these countries share similar institutional frameworks, including electoral rules, party development has taken a different route in each. The explanation emphasizes the ways in which historical legacies interact with strategic choices to produce different trajectories of party development. In terms of the role of history, the book argues that strong opposition parties are more likely where authoritarian states relied on alliances with corporate actors like labor. In these contexts, ruling parties armed their allies, providing them with mobilizing structures and political resources that could later be used to challenge the state. Secondly, opposition parties are more likely to maintain their organizational cohesion and the commitment of activists when they use strategies and appeals that escalate conflict and reorient social boundaries around the lines of partisan affiliation. Polarization forges stronger parties, but it also increases the likelihood of violence and authoritarian retrenchment. The book provides an explanation of why democratization in the hybrid regimes of the late Third Wave may prove more conflictual and more protracted than earlier transitions to democracy.
Communism, or as Ken Jowitt prefers, Leninism, has attracted, repelled, mystified, and terrified millions for nearly a century. In his brilliant, timely, and controversial study, "New World Disorder", Jowitt identifies and interprets the extraordinary character of Leninist regimes, their political corruption, extinction, and highly unsettling legacy. Earlier attempts to grasp the essence of Leninism have treated the Soviet experience as either a variant of or alien to Western history, an approach that robs Leninism of much of its intriguing novelty. Jowitt instead takes a 'polytheist' approach, Weberian in tenor and terms, comparing the Leninist to the liberal experience in the West, rather than assimilating it or alienating it. Approaching the Leninist phenomenon in these terms and spirit emphasizes how powerful the imperatives set by the West for the rest of the world are as sources of emulation, assimilation, rejection, and adaptation; how unyielding premodern forms of identification, organization, and action are; how novel, powerful, and dangerous charisma as a mode of organized identity and action can be. The progression from essay to essay is lucid and coherent. The first six essays reject the fundamental assumptions about social change that inform the work of modernization theorists. Written between 1974 and 1990, they are, we know now, startlingly prescient. The last three essays, written in early 1991, are the most controversial: they will be called alarmist, pessimistic, apocalyptic. They challenge the complacent, optimistic, and self-serving belief that the world is being decisively shaped in the image of the West - that the end of history is at hand.
Though peace and a new inclusive form of politics were promised, Museveni's Uganda has been plagued by a series of civil wars. This article explains the continuation of and propensity towards conflict by focusing on the country's ‘elite bargain’, defined as the distribution of positions of state power between contending social groups. Analysing Uganda's elite bargain in terms of political, economic, military, and territorial power sharing, the article argues that it has been only partially inclusive. Political, military, and economic power have remained ethnically biased in favour of groups from western and central Uganda, and this in turn has been a major driver of recurrent civil wars. Increased territorial power sharing since the late 1990s helps explain the recent decline in violent conflict, and may also help prevent new civil wars.