Country Report Uganda March 2010

Outlook for 2010-11: Domestic politics

The president, Yoweri Museveni, and his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party will face serious opposition from regions agitating for autonomy. Buganda, an area with a constitutional monarchy and a local parliament, which was previously a bedrock of NRM support, will be at the centre of this. Mr Museveni will try to placate local sentiment by throwing his full support behind a regional governments bill that would create an elected assembly for each region, although this could cause further problems. Buganda is opposed to the bill, as it falls far short of its aim of federo (an independent Buganda within a federal Uganda). The bill could also prove divisive nationally, especially in the kingdom of Bunyoro, where it could provoke disputes over the control of oil resources. Regional pressures will be compounded by conditions conducive to civil unrest; high food inflation during the past two years has led to a drop in living standards, and the combination of urbanisation, a youthful population and a shortage of jobs is open to exploitation by militant opposition parties.

Nevertheless, Mr Museveni is an astute political operator and looks likely to remain in power over the forecast period. Living standards are unlikely to deteriorate further and could even improve slightly, as inflation is expected to fall and economic growth has remained strong, even during the worst global downturn for decades. Reforms in local government should appease those looking for devolution of powers, and the government may try to sweeten the Baganda people by making promises that a re-elected NRM would direct more resources to the kingdom. If Buganda is not persuaded by this, Mr Museveni has total control of the Ugandan army and has strengthened his grip on the police force. This makes wider political instability unlikely, although further outbreaks of violence are expected in Buganda.

The opposition remains fragmented, and its ability to pose a serious threat rests on the success of the Inter-Party Co-operation (IPC), a coalition of opposition parties. The parties in the IPC have agreed to field a single presidential candidate in 2011, but the agreement could collapse under the refusal of ambitious presidential hopefuls to stand aside for a cross-party candidate. The fractious opposition will need to win over large swathes of uncommitted voters or form a coalition if they want to present a serious threat to the hegemony of the NRM. However, they are more likely to contribute to their own downfall, and more defections to the NRM are expected. The Economist Intelligence Unit therefore expects Mr Museveni to be re-elected for a fourth term in the 2011 election. However, much will depend on his ability to mollify the Baganda in what will be a contentious-and perhaps bloody- process, and there is a slim possibility that a serious leadership rival could emerge from within the NRM to take advantage of popular dissatisfaction with him.

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