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State structure

On 28 July 2005, a change took place in Uganda's constitution. Until then, President Museveni's "African democracy" had been called a no-party system. The so-called National Resistance Movement had replaced the various political parties: in principle, all Ugandans belonged to the Movement. While political parties were not banned, party political activities at the decentralised level were severely restricted and conditioned at the national level. Under this system, however, anyone, regardless of political affiliation, could stand for election and present themselves to the people. The candidates were elected 'upon personal merit', and not for or on behalf of any political party. All elected leaders, from local to central level, automatically became members of the Movement.

The idea behind this was that political colours of leaders should disappear. According to President Museveni, Uganda's history had taught that the multi-party system leads to tribalism and chaos, because parties in Uganda are organised on an ethnic and religious basis. Elections on a party-political basis would only exacerbate ethnic divisions. According to Museveni, the Western multi-party system was not adapted to the African reality. The 'winner takes all' principle had already done Uganda a lot of harm in the past: when one party/ethnic group was in power, the others were violently suppressed. During this period of "African democracy", the opposition in Uganda claimed that the Movement was in fact a political party and that Uganda was therefore a one-party state. Unfortunately, the opposition parties generally did not present themselves as serious actors with a well-considered programme, which largely negated the strength of their often justified criticisms of the Movement.


The first free elections were held in 1996, when Yoweri Museveni was elected President for a five-year term. Presidential elections were held again in 2001. With a turnout of 70%, President Museveni was re-elected with a large majority of 69.3% of the votes. However, the main opposing candidate, Dr Besigye, managed to secure 27.8% of the votes. His appeal for annulment of the election was rejected by the Supreme Court by three votes to two, on the grounds that the irregularities found were not of such a magnitude that the final result would have been completely different. Since then, Besigye and his wife, Member of Parliament Winnie Byanyima, have been regularly "harassed" by the government; reason for Besigye to leave Uganda "illegally" in August 2001 and seek refuge in the United States. The elections were characterised by intimidation, violence and (administrative) irregularities. Observers and international donors agreed, however, that the results reflected the will of the people. The donors also felt that the level playing field was insufficient.

In 2002, a law on political parties was presented, the Political Parties and Organisations Act. Again, the possibilities of establishing political parties were restricted. This created the necessary resistance among the political parties that refused to be officially registered. This struggle came to an end on 28 July 2005 when a referendum was held in which the vast majority of voters voted in favour of a return to the multi-party system. The turnout was low, however, which was probably due to a lack of knowledge about and interest in the referendum. Despite the low turnout, the result can be seen as positive.

On 18 August 2005, the new Constitution was adopted by Parliament. This abolished the provision in the old Constitution which allowed the President to serve two five-year terms. This paved the way for President Museveni to stand for a third time in the presidential elections in March 2006.

Despite the fact that the elections were characterised by international observers as free and fair, there is opposition opposition to the re-elected President Museveni. The main reasons for this are that during the campaigning period the main opposition candidate, Kizza Besigye, was arrested several times, and lawsuits were filed against him that hampered his campaign. In addition, the opposition parties did not have the same means to campaign.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


The macro-economic policies of the Ugandan government are sound and are praised by the international donor community. The budget process is transparent and economic growth has hovered around 5% for several years. In 2017, growth was 4.8% GDP per capita was $2,400 in 2017. The inflation rate has been quite low for many years (5.6% in 2013) and the Ugandan shilling is stable in value.

The Achilles' heel of the Ugandan economy is the high dependence on the agricultural sector and especially the coffee sector. The share of coffee in the total export is about 40%. This, together with the drop of the coffee price on the world market in the last few years, largely explains the increasing deficit on the trade balance. Diversification of agriculture is one of the top priorities of the Ugandan government in the coming years.

A major problem for the Ugandan government is also the lack of own income. Government income as a percentage of GDP is less than 12%, which is extremely meagre, even from an African perspective. Approximately 50% of government expenditure is financed by donor funds. This import of hard currency in turn creates major problems for Uganda's export position, as it appreciates the Ugandan shilling above average (Dutch disease). Increasing the country's own tax income is high on the finance minister's agenda, but turns out to be difficult to realise in practice.

Since 2001, after the lifting of an export ban to the EU because of traces of cholera and pesticides, the export of fish fillets is the second most important sector (after coffee). However, fish stocks in Lake Victoria are not expected to be able to withstand the current level of fishing for long, so this sector is in danger of collapsing within a few years. The release of fish larvae planned by the Ugandan government to avert this scenario will not have any effect, according to experts.

A start has been made on reforming the financial sector in Uganda. Several banks have been closed because of mismanagement. At the end of 2001, the largest state-owned bank, Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB), was sold to the South African Stanbic Bank after an earlier unsuccessful attempt at privatisation.

There are serious problems with the electricity supply that are having a negative impact on the economy. The power generator capacity that has been installed will not provide enough energy in the future. In short, rising oil prices, falling coffee prices and increasing imports are causing the budget deficit to widen.

In the districts of northern Uganda affected by the conflict, there is virtually no economic activity, which may have long-term repercussions for the entire economic development of Uganda.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
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