How old is Museveni

Uganda's long-term president Yoweri Museveni is still firmly in the saddle after the elections. But the boys in the country are increasingly frustrated, reports Simone Schlindwein from Kampala.

The otherwise so lively Kabalagala pub district in southeast Kampala on a Saturday afternoon at the end of February: When the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections are announced, very few people here care. Hardly anyone is on the street, most shops and bars are closed. There is an eerie silence. Policemen in protective armor and soldiers from the army patrol heavily armed along the main road. They fear riots after the election results are announced. But nothing happens, there is resignation.

On the TV screen in a bar, dozens of men are not watching the vote count, but a football game: "We've known for a long time who won the election, I'm more interested in how Arsenal London is playing today," explains one of them.

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for 30 years - he won the election again in February. "The old man in the hat" is called Museveni teasingly. Because the 71-year-old likes to act as the grandfather of the nation, indeed all of East Africa. He was the first guerrilla leader in Africa to seize power, weapon in hand, at the head of a rebel army. In 1979 he took part in the overthrow of the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and took over the presidency in 1986.

Museveni wanted to sweep away incompetent and corrupt politicians, rebuild the country without party disputes and tribalism, and unite Africa. He was the model for many African liberation fighters. They are all watching intently whether he will manage to save his legacy. Because that crumbles a lot.


Capital: Kampala

Surface: 241,040 km²

Population: around 37 million, of which around 80 percent are under 30 years of age

Life expectancy: 55 years

GDP per capita: approx. 1,477 US dollars (IMF 2013 estimate, according to purchasing power parity)

In 1962 Uganda gained independence from the United Kingdom. In 1966, Milton Obote ousted the first president and introduced a one-party system. In 1971 Idi Amin came to power. He established a dictatorship that killed hundreds of thousands of people. In 1980 Obote came back to power. His despotism even surpassed that of Idi Amin's brutality. After a guerrilla war, Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Army (NRA) captured Kampala in 1986. Museveni became president: he initiated democratic processes and was able to record successes in the fight against poverty and AIDS in the years that followed.

Until 2006, there was a civil war between the army and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that lasted for a total of 20 years in northern Uganda. The LRA has not been active in Uganda for a few years.

A bill that increased penalties for homosexual acts caused international excitement. The “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was signed by Museveni, but declared null and void by the Constitutional Court in August 2014. Sol

Political standstill. Although the economy has grown steadily in recent years, unemployment is high in Uganda. Statistics from 2012 state 64 percent, and there are probably many more. About 80 percent of the population are under 30 years old. Uganda's population is one of the fastest growing in the world: four out of five Ugandans know no other president than Museveni. They experience the politics of their country as a standstill.

Police arrested challenger Kizza Besigye from the FDC (Forum for Democratic Change) party six times around the election. It surrounded the home of the independent candidate Amama Mbabazi. On election day, the military police and army special forces had to deploy to quell protests.

In some of the electoral districts of Kampala, the electoral commission delivered the ballot boxes up to six hours late. Around 40 polling stations had to reopen the next day. In about a dozen polling stations, there was ultimately no vote at all.

Just in time for the start of the election, the government blocked the social networks Facebook and Twitter. The official result: 61 percent for Museveni and his NRM (National Resistance Movement), 35 percent for Besigye.

The FDC calls the results calculated by the election commission a "creeping coup". There was a lot of criticism from local and international election observers: "The arbitrary use of the police is not acceptable," explains Eduard Kukan, chairman of the EU election observation. And: “Elections should take place in a free atmosphere and not in fear.” Museveni waves this aside: he doesn't need any lessons from the EU.

Problem of unemployment

Uganda was able to achieve a significant improvement in the economic situation under Yoweri Museveni. The East African country is currently recording constant growth: in 2014 it was 4.5 percent, in previous years between 6 and 9 percent.

But the population is growing rapidly and the young cannot find jobs - unemployment is over 60 percent. Agriculture is still the livelihood for the majority of the population. Just over half of the gross domestic product is generated in the service sector, including telecommunications, finance and tourism. Uganda is the largest coffee bean producer in Africa after Ethiopia, most of it is exported to Europe. While poverty has been combated in the past 20 years, the inequality of wealth has increased. There are also great regional differences, for example the north of the country is significantly poorer than the south. In recent years, significant oil discoveries have been made (as reported by Südwind-Magazin: cf. SWM 4/2011). However, due to the low world market price for oil and the lack of infrastructure, commercial production is not expected to begin in the coming years. Sol

Militias on the advance. In the early morning they jog through the alleys and sing in lockstep. Driven by police officers in uniform and batons, young men in jogging suits rush up and down the hills. Their singing can be heard clearly everywhere and is intimidating. These youth militias are officially called “crime preventers”, they patrol villages and city districts. They were also seen at the election campaign events in Museveni, such as in Mityana, a district 50 kilometers outside Kampala: the militia stood in rank and file to control the crowds. It was striking how professionally the men clenched their heels in front of the local police commander. "They help us find suspects in their communities," said the police superintendent.

Many questions. The youth militias employ politicians and human rights activists. "They are volunteers who monitor their neighborhood and thus prevent crimes, they should not behave in part," said Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda in a parliamentary question time before the elections. But many secrets are kept about the form of organization, training, specific tasks and payment of the militias.

The opposition accuses the regime of using the militias to intimidate voters. Presidential candidate Mbabazi compared the militias before the elections with the Imbonerakure in Burundi or the Interahamwe in Rwanda. In Burundi, the youth group of the ruling party CNDD-FDD spread fear and terror during the controversial presidential elections in 2015; it had been armed with police uniforms and weapons. In Rwanda, the Hutu youth Interahamwe was responsible for the mass killing of the Tutsi minority in 1994. In both cases, the militias were originally set up as an extension of the police and military to guarantee “security”.

"The secrecy about the militias is a serious problem for our democracy," warns Chrispy Kaheru, director of the Ugandan human rights organization "Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy". People would be afraid to speak their political opinion for fear of being denounced. In response, the opposition candidates formed their own militias. "This increases the risk that acts of violence will occur," said Kaheru.

Chaos on campus. The university director's festive speech echoes across the Makerere University campus high on a hill in Kampala. The educational institution, which was founded in 1922 during the British colonial era, is one of the best universities on the continent. Last year it also took third place in the Africa ranking. Uganda's elite are studying here.

Marquee tents are set up in front of the main building. Thousands of university graduates sit in it on plastic chairs, wearing gowns and hats. Behind it sit parents, siblings, aunts and uncles - all festively dressed. It's a great day for the whole family because education isn't cheap in Uganda. The tuition fees are the equivalent of around 400 euros per semester, exams cost extra. That's a lot of money in Uganda. Even with a well-heeled middle-class family, everyone has to get together to send one of the children to university. A university degree is not a matter of course.

Recently, President Museveni promised more scholarships - in theory for those who pass the Matura with flying colors and whose parents cannot afford to study. But like so much in Uganda, the financial support is usually only given to those whose parents “have a good connection”, in other words: through nepotism. With this, the regime wants to keep the next generation loyal.

Austria & Uganda, historical partners

In 1985, of all places, the current President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, planned the overthrow of the dictator Milton Obote in the “Zum Grünen Jäger” inn in Unterolberndorf in Weinviertel (Lower Austria). A friend of Museveni's was studying in Vienna at the time. He met committed Austrians who were interested in the fate of Uganda. After meetings in other European countries did not work out, the “Unterolberndorfer Manifesto” came about - until today part of the constitution of Uganda.

In 1993 Uganda became a priority country for Austrian development cooperation. Main focus: the water sector. In 1996 a project started in the southwest of the country, on the green alpine pastures at the foot of the Ruhenzori Mountains with their snow-capped peaks. Uganda had to master similar challenges there as Austria: How can water from a spring be pumped up the mountains to where it is needed by the population? With four million euros, this water project is still Austria's largest development project, which now supports the water supply in numerous small towns in Uganda. There is also close civil society exchange: the Austrian-Ugandan Friendship Society has its roots in solidarity with Museveni's NRM. The group sees itself as non-partisan and today connects Museveni supporters and critics. S.S./sol

The Vienna Institute for International Dialogue and Cooperation (VIDC) sends out monthly electronically "News from Uganda". More information: [email protected]

Uganda's education minister takes the lectern and wishes the approximately 13,000 graduates a good start into a prosperous future. But he does not get any applause for it. Fear of the future is mixed with frustration about the course: "Often the professors did not show up and when they did, they came too late, were unprepared or had no literature to hand," complains the 24-year-old architecture graduate Miriam Luanga.

Aside from the festivities, hundreds of students jostle in front of the administration building. It is discussed loudly. The reason: Over 5,000 graduates miss the celebration because their certificates were not issued. The administration said the notes were lost. Sloppiness or a tactic to take a bribe?

Pius Kizera shrugs his shoulders, he can imagine both. “The others are celebrating their graduation and we are left here,” complains the computer science graduate. He can't find his name on the bulletin board. “That means we have to complain and then take the exam again, like losing a semester. And out there - there are no jobs waiting for us anyway, ”says the 27-year-old. “At job interviews you are told that you learned the wrong thing at university. They teach here completely bypassing reality. "

Mood at the brink. It's getting heated around the bulletin board. Dozens of police officers are armed with tear gas cartridges in the parking lot, ready to intervene. Makerere University is notorious and mass protests can start from here. The campus as a symbol for the Ugandan state apparatus. "Every day at the university we see how the whole system goes down the drain," says Kizera. “Our president talks about 'continuous progress'. But that is not progress that we are experiencing! ”.

Simone Schlindwein is a freelance journalist in the Great Lakes region. She has lived in Uganda for eight years.