East Africa: What Museveni’s Win Means for EAC

When Kenya’s fifth president is elected in 2022, the victorious candidate will have to deal with a familiar face in the region who has been around for nearly four decades.

Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni secured a fresh presidential term in the elections held on January 14, amid complaints of electoral fraud by the leading opposition candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine.

For millions of Ugandans and the rest of East Africa born in or after 1986, they have known only one Ugandan president: Yoweri Museveni.

While the opposition in Uganda raises questions about the integrity of the January 14 elections, the implications of the just concluded polls will be felt across East Africa.

For starters, President Museveni’s re-election ensures continuity especially in the area of trade. Of all the EAC member states, Uganda has been the biggest trading partner of Kenya. It remains the biggest buyer of Kenyan goods.

The Economic Survey of 2020 shows that Kenya exported to Uganda goods worth Sh64.1 billion in 2019, accounting for almost half of the value of Kenya’s exports to the East African Community partner states.

Kenyan officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Sunday Nation that they were vigilant of the elections but hoped the post-election situation would be calm based on fears that violence could jeopardise cooperation on trade and other common interests.

For Kenya, it is not just about trade as Mr Museveni could be a major behind the scenes player in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s succession campaigns.

Deputy President William Ruto, who will be on the ballot in 2022 elections ,has emerged as a close friend of the Ugandan leader and has even campaigned for him in the past.

With President Kenyatta retiring, Mr Museveni could see an opportunity to retain his influence in the regional politics by rooting for Dr Ruto while also seeking to prove his disdain for ODM’s Raila Odinga.

Election chaos

President Museveni in 2019 directed the establishment of the William Ruto Institute of African Studies at Makerere University and pledged $100,000 (Sh11 million). The Ugandan leader has also hosted the deputy president on a number of occasions win Kampala.

Mr Museveni’s re-election means the status quo in East Africa is preserved. Internally, the crackdown on opposition leaders and those opposed to his government will likely continue.

Along with likely limitation of civil liberties, his re-election which is coming amid rigging claims follows the election chaos in Tanzania and Burundi.

It, therefore, looks to normalise bad elections in the region. In Kenya, despite having the Supreme Court nullify the presidential polls in 2017 still ended up with a one-sided retake.

“What the latest victory of Museveni show is that democracy is in decline in the region. The region should address challenges of good governance as EAC partner states. If we are to have meaningful integration, then we must look beyond economic integration to good governance as an important feature before we move to the East Africa political federation in the future. These bad elections are slowing the process to the political federation, making other members sceptical,” said Dr Duncan Ojwang, the Dean of Africa Nazarene School of Law.

According to Dr Ojwang’, the way President John Magufuli of Tanzania used state power against his opponents has been applied in Uganda to intimidate opposition.

“One can see a pattern of use of state power emerging to the advantage of the rulers, not rule of law. Member states should adopt the Protocol on Good Governance as a framework for good governance in the member states,” he added.


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