Looking Ahead To The 2021 Ugandan Elections And The Threat Of Climate Change to Development Ambitions

Uganda, located in East Africa, aims to become a middle-income country by 2040. Located in East Africa this nation has high ambitions to elevate the 1/3 of its 38 million people out of severe poverty, above the World Bank threshold of $1.90 per day. However, these national aspirations are drifting further out of reach as the 2021 elections signify that Uganda is beginning to fall towards a fixed autocratic government. Here, political opposition to President Museveni’s government is being systematically quashed as he is set to increase the age limit for a President to prolong his rule above the age limit of 75. This is greatly increasing tensions in the capital city of Kampala. Compounding this political situation are recent shifts in climate conditions which have disrupted the two regular wet seasons in Uganda and increased the likelihood of devastating droughts and floods. This has raised the vulnerability of the national economy, as well as local smallholder farming production, both dependent on natural resources and agriculture for stability. These political and environmental challenges may boil over and stunt the previously identified ambition of social and economic progress over the next two decades.

Paul Collier, an economic-development expert from the UK, cites that ‘40% of post-conflict situations, historically, have reverted back to conflict within a decade.’ Notably, in Uganda, there has been unrest following the post-colonial civil war (1981-1986). Since then President Museveni has been in control of a nation marked by continued violence. Significantly, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which gained international attention through the heavily criticised humanitarian KONY 2012 project. Whilst this has destabilised the Karamojong region many believe that the LRA, known for its prolific use of child soldiers, has allowed Museveni to increasingly militarise Ugandan civil society. The International Crisis Group reports that despite and Museveni’s growing unpopularity ‘few Ugandans believe political change will take place via the ballot box.’

Furthermore, with elections just around the corner, aggressive government tactics have been put in place to discourage opposition meetings and rallies. Oryem Nyeko, a researcher for African Division, cites that “the arrest of Uganda’s Bobi Wine [leader of the opposition] spells trouble for the 2021 election.” With the police on his side, Museveni’s underhand tactics fail to open up the debate to the people of Uganda and promote positive political discourse to bridge deep divides in Ugandan society. Rather than constraining political spaces in Uganda the Organisation for World Peace advocates for open elections, foregrounding democratic processes, which is in the best interests of all citizens.

Nonetheless, as political discontent grows, the average temperature of Uganda continues to rise. This political situation further exposes Uganda to the detrimental effects of global warming. The UN has identified Uganda in a Collaborate Adaptation Research Initiative as one of the 30 most vulnerable countries to climate change. Particularly vulnerable are 80% of the population who reside in rural areas and depend on these delicate ecosystems for subsistence and income. The Guardian UK reported that increasing temperatures in East Africa will only raise the likelihood of detrimental weather and natural disaster. Evidence of these dynamic conditions are exemplified by a highly destructive swarm of locusts, measuring 60km long by 40km wide, which has been recently decimating crops in neighbouring Kenya and Somalia. As political freedoms continued to be diminished this growing political and environmental crisis represents a dire threat to Ugandan society. Without adequate democratic processes, the capacity for Uganda to adapt to cope with more aggressive and unpredictable climatic conditions is severely diminished.