It's No Picnic Being the Political Opposition in Uganda

Former Ugandan Prime Minister presenting a gift to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Mbabazi intends to challenge president Museveni. Public Domain photo by  US Federal Government.

The former Ugandan prime minister presents a gift to former US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. Mbabazi intends to challenge president Museveni. Public domain. Photo by the US Federal Government.

When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni took office in 1986, he declared plainly that Africa's problems were mainly the result of leaders clinging too long to power. However, 29 years later, Museveni still hasn't gone. Now he's seeking a sixth presidential term.

Every year Museveni remains in office, the space in Uganda for political engagement contracts a bit more. In 2001, Colonel Kizza Besigye, a former military officer with the Uganda's People's Defence, declared his intentions to run for the presidency. Ever since, Besigye has been in and out of prison.

There are signs that Museveni's grip on power is waning. Several old guards from his own National Resistance Movement have come out openly to oppose him. Most recently, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi declared that he will run in the 2016 presidential election. (Last year, Museveni sacked Mbabazi.)

While he was prime minister, Mbabazi engineered the Public Order Management Act, a law later used against him. On 9 July 2015, as he was beginning regional consultative meetings, Mbabazi was arrested and detained for 10 hours for supposedly violating this new law. Kizza Besigye, a leading opposition figure, was also arrested at his home in Kasangati.

Online, Ugandans have speculated about the reasons for the arrest:

Grace Natabaalo couldn't hold back her sarcasm:

The national and international media were also buzzing about the arrests:

Uganda Radio Network reported:

The BBC tweeted:

In solidarity with Ugandans, Kenyans launched the hashtag #FreeBesigye:

(The EAC is the East African Community.)

Some Ugandan Twitter users soon started showed signs of fatigue:

In Uganda, many observed, only President Museveni is allowed to hold events that look like rallies:

As long as you are for the President, Internet users joked, you can freely shake your posterior and the police won't lift a finger:


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