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date: 15 January 2021

Uganda: A Perspective on Politico-Military Fusionlocked

  • Jude KagoroJude KagoroInstitude for Intercultural and International Studies, University of Bremen

Summary

Uganda is among the African countries characterized by high levels of politico-military fusion. In 1986, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), led by President Yoweri Museveni, assumed power after winning a five-year guerrilla war. NRM’s takeover was a continuation of an established tradition in which military means such as coups d’état, guerrilla wars, and military schemes had been used to effect regime changes since Uganda’s independence from the British in 1962.

From its inception as a guerrilla force, the NRM’s military commanders, including Yoweri Museveni, doubled as political leaders, and Uganda is the only country in Africa where the military has official representation in the national assembly. Additionally, several military officers serve in the executive while others have been appointed to head numerous government departments that are ideally of civilian pursuit. Moreover, many significant political decisions, including constitutional amendments intended to facilitate Museveni’s presidency for life, were in essence determined in the context of a military atmosphere at the National Leadership Institute in Kyankwanzi (central Uganda).

The military, the police, and other paramilitary structures are the bedrock of the NRM’s long-term grip on power and have played profound roles in President Museveni’s “victories” in the five presidential elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016) in which he has competed. Thus, the presidency, the ruling party, and the military essentially function as a single entity.

The wider society equally attaches high sociopolitical value to military culture, sustaining the shared mentality that military credentials are crucial in politics. Ultimately, an analysis of Uganda’s politico-military fusion contributes to our understanding of the militarization of politics and the general character of governments that emerged out of guerrilla wars in Africa and beyond.

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