Uganda has had a difficult time establishing a truly functional state. Being controlled by the British Empire as a protectorate left Ugandans without a system of government or a set of laws. The British focused mainly on Buganda, a large central region in Africa, because of its coffee and cotton production capabilities. The rest of Uganda was left largely untouched by the British, although they claimed the current boundaries and shape of modern Uganda. Thus, as in the case of many African nations, Uganda shares many ethnicities under one government. After achieving independence in 1962, Uganda quickly formed three political parties: the UPC, DP and KY. These parties were split with the UPC representing northern and western ethnic groups, the DP representing Catholics and the KY representing the Buganda.
The early formation of political parties was impressive, but instantly turned upside down after the UPC President suspended the constitution and established a one-party tyrannical system. Uganda then experienced a military regime led by Idi Amin for most of the 1970’s. Amin’s government though was somehow internationally recognized and showed some hope. This hope again did not last when in 1972, Amin decided to deport 50,000 Asians living in Uganda. This decision crumbled Uganda’s future economy and set Uganda back an estimated 20 years in economic growth. Amin’s rule was ruthless, but stable. His overthrow led to six new presidents in as many years.
Today, Yoweri Museveni, who has been in charge since 1986, leads Uganda. Uganda is seen as a Western ally and receives as much as $750 million in US aid annually. Citizens feel free, or at least freer than citizens of other African nations. Uganda has free democratic elections (which have openly criticized for ballot stuffing and corruption. Uganda’s economy is growing, construction is booming and crime is low. Poverty on the other hand is high. Many also claim Uganda’s know their elections are rigged so they do not even bother knowing the candidates, but rather just vote for Museveni. Democracy is often pillared by free and fair elections. Uganda’s Electoral Commission claims to be apolitical, but is claimed to take bribes. As Uganda’s constitution states: the judicial branch was created to enforce a separation of powers. Yet, all justices are chosen based on their preference and loyalty to the ruling party, not their commitment to the rule of law.
Uganda maintains that it is a multi-party system, yet Museveni has been in power for over thirty years. But, with its accusations of torture and unjust arrests of political dissidents, no one is fighting for the prospect of democracy. The issue here as seen in many other African nations, such as Egypt, is the power of the executive branch and the lack of separation of powers. Uganda’s political institutions are corrupt puppets of the ruling party and its leader. The ruling government has found ways to discredit and obstruct opposing parties from running for office and organizing events. Ugandan’s cannot even legally protest the patrimonial system as they continue to watch its empowerment.
In the international world, Uganda is forced to go where Museveni takes them. Uganda is often criticized for its poor human rights record, but praised for its support of the African Union. Uganda’s support across multiple presidencies for the case the people of Southern Sudan is a prime example of the Ugandan’s universal belief of Pan-Africanism. So, although it is a de facto one-party system, Uganda is developing and mending relationships with its African counterparts in hope for a greater African nation.
- “Synthesis Report of the Proceedings of the 5thState of the Nation Platform” Bernard Tabaire & Jackie Okao
- Democracy in Uganda after 50 years of Independence. Julius Byarunhanga.