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Uganda opposition co-operation agreement

16 May 2019 Jordan Anderson

Leading Ugandan opposition figures Kizza Besigye (the second-place finisher in the last four presidential elections) and musician-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi (popularly known by his stage name "Bobi Wine") announced on 8 May an agreement to co-operate with the eventual aim of ousting President Yoweri Museveni from power. Ugandan media reported that the agreement included planning joint rallies and resistance when security forces confront them. A special session of Uganda's National Security Council was held on 9 May following the announcement.

Significance

Both Besigye and Kyagulanyi have large bases of popular support, especially in cities, and consequently this agreement increases the likelihood of anti-government urban protests causing major traffic and business disruption for up to a day at a time. Turnout will be especially high when both politicians are physically present. Security forces are likely to attempt to disperse such gatherings (which are unlikely to receive official permission) using tear gas and live fire, resulting in localized rioting in the immediate vicinity (especially if protesters are killed), with looting (targeting retail assets), and arson and vandalism (particularly targeting nearby vehicles and government and ruling party-associated assets). However, such rioting is likely to remain limited to the immediate vicinity of the gatherings, and security forces are unlikely to lose control of entire neighborhoods or towns.

The political groupings backing Besigye and Kyagulanyi have had a difficult relationship since the latter's entrance into politics in 2017, and consequently the duration of this agreement will indicate the likelihood of a joint opposition candidate in the 2021 presidential election. Both politicians have indicated an intention to run, and local media reported that the recent agreement did not select a unity presidential candidate. Previous joint opposition candidacies have broken down ahead of elections.

Towards 2021, a sustained opposition alliance behind either Besigye or Kyagulanyi as a joint opposition candidate, and defections of politicians from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to back this alliance, would indicate an increasing probability of the opposition seriously contesting President Museveni's (highly likely) bid for re-election.

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Posted 16 May 2019 by Jordan Anderson, Analyst, Sub-Saharan Africa, Country Risk, IHS Markit

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