Museveni’s win in Uganda spells trouble ahead

People in Uganda went to the ballots this week amidst reports of fraud, media censorship and government intimidation. President Yoweri Museveni has been in office since 1986, and is expected to be re-elected – an outcome that many observers fear could lead to instability.


Government professor Nicolas van de Walle researches the political economy of development, with a special focus on Africa. He says Museveni’s failure to retire increases the chances of political and economic drift in Uganda.



Van de Walle says:

“The outcome of this week’s presidential election in Uganda is almost certainly not in doubt. Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni will almost certainly be comfortably reelected, as the electoral playing field has long been highly tilted in his favor.”

“The larger story is that President Museveni’s 30 years in power have followed a descending arc. Initially, his rule was welcomed by a large majority of Ugandans – as he restored peace and a degree of prosperity to the country. While never condoning democracy, his early years in power were characterized by a real degree of tolerance for dissenting views, and a real attempt to instill pluralism in the country’s political institutions. As he has become entrenched in power, however, his rule has become more dictatorial, more rigid and less tolerant. Corruption levels among the regime’s elite have exploded, and the state’s ability to drive economic growth has declined.  

“It is probably time for Museveni to retire, after thirty years in power, and to secure his legacy by overseeing a peaceful and legal secession. His failure to do so increases the chances that Uganda continues his current political and economic drift and that his eventual exit from power brings another period of instability to Uganda.”




Olufemi Taiwo studies African political thought at Cornell’s Africana Studies and Research Center. He says that though Museveni might win again, this election will indicate that he and his party have overstayed their welcome in the country.



Taiwo says:

“One can say with confidence now that the shine has worn off the presidency of Yoweri Museveni, especially with the international community and the foreign aid bureaucrats and intellectuals who used to try to make the rest of us believe that he – among others – represented the new leadership that Africa needs in the aftermath of the one-party and dictatorial rule of the last century. 

“These elections will serve to indicate how much Ugandans are convinced that Museveni and his party have overstayed their welcome. He may win again, but I think the ultimate lesson is to be found in whether he realizes that the longer he stays in office the more difficult it will be for his legacy to endure after he passes on.

“Personalizing leadership and not building resilient institutions guided by impersonal rules cannot be a measure of success in the long run. As Yugoslavia has shown, these features actually represent signal failures that are likely to herald chaos on the demise of the ‘Big Man’.”



Rebecca Valli

O: 607-255-7701

M: 607-793-1025


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