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remembering Uganda’s massacre of the opposition three years on

November marks a sombre anniversary in Uganda’s contemporary political historical past. In 2020, the east African nation’s main opposition flesh presser, Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, was once arrested. He was once at the marketing campaign path forward of the 2021 presidential elections.

Mass demonstrations not easy the discharge of the popular musician-turned-presidential-candidate broke out in and across the capital, Kampala. Over two days, safety brokers of the regime of Yoweri Museveni – in energy since 1986 – cracked down at the protests.

They fired live ammunition into crowds of protesters, killing at least 54 people and injuring many extra. The regime arrested over a thousand folks. Hundreds more have since been reported disappeared.

3 years on, the consequences of the bloodbath loom huge over Uganda’s fresh politics.

The Ugandan Human Rights Fee lately introduced it was once closing the files of 18 opposition supporters who stay lacking. This has renewed calls for for justice and executive responsibility in reference to the 2020 killings.

In my research, I’ve charted Kyagulanyi’s unlikely political rise from his landslide victory as an impartial candidate in a 2017 parliamentary by-election to his 2021 run for the presidency in opposition to Museveni.

Kyagulanyi and his supporters were topic to arrest, abduction and unlawful detention. They have got been tortured and a few were killed.

Given this historical past, it’s no longer unexpected that the Kyagulanyi-led opposition birthday party, the Nationwide Solidarity Platform, has been on the centre of requires justice.

Over the past month, the birthday party has spearheaded a boycott of parliament in protest of the Museveni regime’s worsening human rights violations. The opposition has demanded that the state take full accountability for the November 2020 killings and tell Ugandans of the whereabouts of those that stay lacking.

With just a bit over two years to the following presidential election in 2026, I hint the fallout from the November 2020 bloodbath to spotlight its implications for each the Museveni regime and the Kyagulanyi-led opposition.

Requires responsibility

The preliminary impetus for a parliamentary boycott got here on Uganda’s independence day on 9 October 2023. This adopted safety officials storming the Nationwide Solidarity Platform’s headquarters. They broke up a prayer assembly of birthday party leaders and households whose family members have both died or been disappeared. Within the raid, 14 people had been arrested.

Along with the boycott, the Nationwide Solidarity Platform has launched a listing of 20 Ugandans who’ve been disappeared, 19 of them because the November 2020 protests. The birthday party robotically posts briefs of the lacking on its social media platforms in commemoration of what it calls “Black November”.

The Museveni regime hasn’t budged. Then again, this drive has led to a couple motion. In step with the chief of the opposition in parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, the human rights fee has started to re-contact the households of the lacking to get statements.

Global repercussions

The 2020 killings and next arrests and disappearances have had contemporary world repercussions. On the finish of October 2023, for instance, US president Joe Biden introduced his goal to finish Uganda’s participation within the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) business programme. Agoa offers exports from qualifying African nations duty-free get entry to to the USA marketplace.

In justifying this determination, the White Space pointed to the Museveni regime’s “gross violations of internationally recognised human rights”.

This professional censure was once moreover impressed via Uganda’s lately handed anti-homosexuality law. The White Space branded it in Might 2023 “a tragic violation of universal human rights”.

There had additionally been earlier warnings from the USA Bureau of African Affairs amid emerging ranges of state repression throughout the 2021 election marketing campaign. The bureau mentioned

there might be penalties for individuals who are proceeding to undermine democracy (in Uganda).

Museveni is thought of as one of the most United States’ closest and most reliable military allies in Africa. He has been a “donor darling” of the west for many years. In a New York Occasions op-ed in 2020, Kyagulanyi labelled Museveni “America’s Favorite African Strongman”.

Certainly, in spite of the Museveni regime’s worsening human rights file, the USA has supplied Uganda with hundreds of millions of dollars in building and army support. This has helped fund the Museveni state’s robust militarisation.

Time will inform if the Biden management’s Agoa determination is the rest greater than a slap at the wrist. There are certainly reasons to be sceptical that it’s. However for the reason that Uganda lately trades roughly US$200 million in exported items to the USA yearly, the determination could have actual financial affect.

The Museveni succession

So the place does all this go away Kyagulanyi’s birthday party, with simply over two years till the rustic’s subsequent presidential election?

Political rumours a couple of imaginable Museveni succession are rife. Some recommend that his son is being groomed to be his political inheritor.

Regardless of the Ugandan president “officially” turning 80 next year, opposing him gifts the opposition with acquainted stumbling blocks.

First, they will have to deal with unceasing state repression. In September 2023, for example, Kyagulanyi was once gained warmly by massive crowds throughout his excursion of Uganda to drum up grassroots make stronger. This marketing campaign, on the other hand, was once minimize brief via the federal government, which accused him of the usage of the rallies to “incite violence (and) promote sectarianism”.

2nd, since securing a sixth consecutive victory in elections in 2021, Museveni’s executive has co-opted, infiltrated and divided the rustic’s fragmented opposition.

The rustic’s second-largest opposition birthday party, the Discussion board for Democratic Alternate, for example, has been mired in a political scandal. It’s been alleged that a few of its best management approved marketing campaign price range from Museveni to foil a imaginable electoral alliance with the Nationwide Solidarity Platform in 2021. Kyagulanyi lately conceded that his birthday party isn’t “really safe from Museveni’s infiltration”.

After all, Museveni’s grip over Uganda’s army remains strong. Because of this any switch of energy thru electoral approach from Museveni to a Kyagulanyi-led opposition turns out not likely – without reference to how Ugandans in fact vote in 2026. Certainly, Kyagulanyi has little connection to Uganda’s tough army status quo.

All this means that as Ugandans memorialise a sad a part of their contemporary previous, their post-Museveni political long term stays deeply unsure.


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