Over the course of three decades, President Yoweri Museveni has constructed a series of formidable obstacles to any legitimate political opposition. Most of these “fortifications”, such as the Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces Act of 2005, incorporate the military’s loyalty to insulate President Museveni from opponents like Bobi Wine.
Needless to say, Bobi Wine’s political movement, although popular, faces a daunting future against a President who’s surrounded himself with the nation’s armed forces.
“Despite his many weaknesses, he has managed to fortify himself in power in a way that gives him absolute control and unquestionable loyalty, which Bobi Wine will most likely fail to break.
One of the main challenges for any politician who eyes President Museveni’s seat is the role the military plays in Ugandan politics. Over the past three decades, the Ugandan president has managed to militarise the state by giving government and legislative positions to top military officers. In 2005 he introduced the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces Act of 2005 giving vast powers to the army.
One of the stipulations of the act provide for 10 acting army officers being elected to parliament by an army council, after being nominated first by Museveni himself. Apart from the obvious problems with the army having a say in legislative affairs, its presence has also invited direct meddling in deliberations, including on occasion thestorming of the parliamentby security forces.
The act has also enabled the army to try civilians in military courts. Bobi Wine himselfappeared before a military courtin August after being charged with illegal possession of weapons.
The military also has a significant presence within the cabinet, with Gen Kahinda Otafire in charge of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Gen Elly Tumwine heading the security ministry.
The people closest to the president are also army men. Museveni’s brother, a retired general, controls “Operation Wealth Creation”, a socio-economic initiative with an enormous government budget, while his son is a top-ranking general who was initially put in charge of the elite Presidential Guard Unit and then appointed Senior Presidential Advisor on Special Operations. There have been some speculations that by promoting him within the army ranks, Museveni is grooming his son to succeed him.
This lack of separation between the military – the men with guns – and the civilian government in Uganda is what is likely to upset Bobi Wine’s attempt to challenge Museveni’s power or that of any other civilian politician.
Even if he manages to rally the majority of the civilian population behind his cause and gets the backing of major international actors, he will still find it difficult to bring down a president backed by the military.
And even if he succeeds, the generals will remain and they will likely do anything to keep the political and economic power they currently enjoy. They are likely to sabotage any effort to introduce major economic and political reforms that could take away their privileges.“