In Uganda, “People Power” is Different

Museveni wields incredible leverage with the international community. His well administered and responsive military are part of the backbone of security in Uganda and greater East Africa, an important asset for foreign missions of the United States, the UN and others. With these cards in his hand, Museveni is willing to gamble that the international community won’t come out in support of “People Power,” Bobi Wine’s movement.

Writing for The Guardian, Patience Akumu begs to differ.

Three-quarters of Uganda’s population are under 35. Kamwokya’s residents support 36-year-old Kyagulanyi because he is, like them, young, hungry and angry that the only president they have known is Museveni, 74. They realise the man they sang nursery rhymes in praise of is not indispensable, and that their poverty is not inevitable. Kyagulanyi’s journey from the ghetto to Magere – a middle-class area of Kampala – is an inspiration. Unlike previous opposition leaders, Kyagulanyi does not have links to the establishment or a military background. His wealth, unlike that of most of Uganda’s rich, is traceable. He was born in the ghetto: a life of crime and drugs beckoned. But, through music, he rose above it, made money and changed his life. So when he talks about transformation, his supporters believe he can do for the nation what he did for himself.

Yet Uganda has been in this state of hope before – in every election since Museveni took power in 1986. Kizza Besigye, who has run and lost against Museveni four times – twice in elections the courts found to be flawed (but not flawed enough to justify the nullification of the entire election) – also seemed to have support. Crowds followed him, and people lined up for hours to vote.

But in Uganda popular support – and, indeed, people power – mean nothing, and Museveni knows it. Why? Because beyond angry social media posts and insulting memes, most Ugandans will not dare leave the comfort of their keyboards and risk being killed in the name of change. Museveni knows all he has to do is remind the international community that without his army – which is always available for peacekeeping missions, wherever the UN and US want them – the region could combust into conflict, leading to another refugee crisis. So governments around the world continue to fund various Museveni projects, including Uganda’s military.

But people power supporters are not ordinary Ugandans, content to make a noise in the safety of the internet. Kyagulanyi’s most ardent supporters have experienced the poverty that lies behind the statistics. They have gone to bed hungry many times. They have known hopelessness. The rea l freedom from their daily malaise is yet to be won but they will not let hope go


Read the full article in The Guardian here.