http://www.www.theeastafrican.co.ke/image/view/-/3075084/medRes/1255727/-/1dn9ee/-/UG+decides.jpg

News

Region on the watch as tight Uganda race enters last mile, with regional relations at stake

Share Bookmark Print Rating

Uganda goes to the polls on Thursday February 18, with President Yoweri Museveni in a narrow lead according to recent polls, but with opposition candidate Kizza Besigye taking the race down the wire, the region is watching closely for an outcome that could fundamentally alter the geopolitics of East and Central Africa. PHOTOS | FILE 

By DANIEL K. KALINAKI

Posted  Sunday, February 14   2016 at  08:39

In Summary

  • Uganda goes to the polls on Thursday February 18, with President Yoweri Museveni in a narrow lead according to recent polls, but with opposition candidate Kizza Besigye taking the race down the wire, the region is watching closely for an outcome that could fundamentally alter the geopolitics of East and Central Africa.
  • Victory for Museveni would mean continuity in Uganda’s foreign policy and with relatively new governments in Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania, maintain Kampala’s influence in the region.
  • An unlikely victory for Amama Mbabazi, who has been third in all public opinion polls so far, is likely to see a continuation of Museveni policies as the former prime minister and NRM secretary-general has run a “more of the same, but better” campaign.
  • If, however, Dr Besigye were to win the election, it would be a break with the past three decades and a real shift of power domestically, with spill-over effects on the region.

Uganda goes to the polls on Thursday February 18, with President Yoweri Museveni in a narrow lead according to recent polls, but with opposition candidate Kizza Besigye taking the race down the wire, the region is watching closely for an outcome that could fundamentally alter the geopolitics of East and Central Africa.

President Museveni, who marked 30 years in power last month, has, in that time, become not only the region’s longest-serving leader, but also a key player in economic and political integration as well as military conflicts in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Burundi.

The Ugandan leader, who signed the Protocol to re-establish the East African Community (EAC) in 1999 with then presidents Daniel arap Moi of Kenya and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, has made the evolution of the regional economic bloc into a political federation the main goal of his presidency.

“I am here to see whether we can help you get the East African Federation so that we have a critical mass of strength that can guarantee your future, our future and our children’s future,” Museveni said in a radio interview in Kampala, echoing a campaign message from the 2006 election when he had term limits lifted from Uganda’s Constitution to allow him to run again.

“The other time, we almost succeeded in forming the East African Federation, Mzee Moi was committed, Mzee Kibaki was committed, Uhuru is committed, we have been having some issues with Tanzanians but even [former president Jakaya] Kikwete had agreed that we move. This is the number one target that we should aim at.”

Victory for Museveni would mean continuity in Uganda’s foreign policy and with relatively new governments in Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania, maintain Kampala’s influence in the region.

“Our relationships are institutional, in the EAC, in Inter-governmental Authority Development (IGAD), and in the regional infrastructure programmes we are working on,” a foreign affairs official in Uganda told this newspaper. “These are things that have been ratified and localised and whoever comes in will have to continue with most of them, unless there is a very good reason to change. It can’t be change just for the sake of changing.”

An unlikely victory for Amama Mbabazi, who has been third in all public opinion polls so far, is likely to see a continuation of Museveni policies as the former prime minister and NRM secretary-general has run a “more of the same, but better” campaign.

Foreign policy shift

If, however, Dr Besigye were to win the election, it would be a break with the past three decades and a real shift of power domestically, with spill-over effects on the region.

He would inherit a foreign policy with an expansive military footprint that has at least once in the past seen Uganda with active combat troops in four countries at the same time.

The opposition leader would also inherit Uganda’s mediation role in South Sudan and the Burundi conflicts, a relationship with DR Congo that has been thawing over the past two years, and as host of the Nile Basin Initiative Secretariat, a key role in the more strategic contest between downstream countries on the one hand and Egypt and Sudan on the other over use of the Nile waters.

The FDC manifesto does not propose any major foreign policy shifts apart from noting that a strong EAC and African Union “can never be built on the basis of imperial presidencies and the magnanimity of strongmen but rather on the basis of strong states and nations where the citizen is central to that agenda.”

1 | 2 | 3 Next Page»