Uganda Political System

Political system

Short for UG by Abbreviationfinder, Uganda is a republic with strong presidential power. Since the constitution was amended in 2005, the country has a multi-party system, but in practice almost all power lies with Yoweri Museveni, president since 1986 and his power unit NRM. Dissatisfaction with the government has increased in recent years. The justice system suffers from a great lack of resources, and many suspects of crime have to wait a long time to have their cases tried. Although the judges are appointed by the president, the courts have repeatedly demonstrated their independence towards the government.

Uganda’s constitution, which is from 1995, gathers much power in the hands of the president. She is Head of State and Government as well as Commander-in-Chief of the Army and appoints the Vice President, Prime Minister and Government. Presidential elections are held every five years. In 2005, a constitutional change was made, so that the president can now be re-elected an unlimited number of times instead of as once only. However, a presidential candidate must not be younger than 35 years or older than 75 years. The constitutional change also paved the way for a multi-party system.

  • Countryaah: Total population and chart of Uganda for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.

At the end of 2017, the Parliament passed a constitutional amendment which would have abolished the age limit for the president. The Constitutional Court approved the amendment six months later after an attempt by the opposition to get the court to cancel it (see further Calendar).

The number of constituencies in a parliamentary election is determined by Parliament before each election. Since the 2016 election, Parliament consists of 426 members elected for five years. 289 of them were added through general elections in one-man election circles. The voters also appointed 112 female MPs representing the country’s district. 25 members are appointed indirectly to represent special social groups such as young people, the disabled, the military and trade unions. In addition, there are 11 members with high positions within the government or regions, but who, however, lack voting rights.

The voting age is 18 years.

The country’s four regions are divided into 80 districts. At the local level, the political power is held by elected local councils, which are divided into five levels, from village or district level to district level. In addition, the president appoints a kind of governor for each district.

Political parties

There are about forty registered parties. President Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM, often referred to simply as the Movement) have dominated Ugandan politics since the 1980s. In 2003, the NRM was transformed into a political party, with a social democratic focus. The party dominates almost all government institutions and has a network that reaches citizens in larger parts of the country. The party is also favored by the state party support, which is distributed according to how many members a party has in parliament. Voting in the elections also occurs, not only from NRM’s side, but it is the party that has the most money, some of which is believed to come from influential investors from India and China.

The NRM, and not least Museveni in person, has long managed to maintain widespread support among the population, especially in the rural areas of the south, the region that has benefited most from government policy. In the north and east, regime criticism has been much harsher. In recent years, the government, and even Museveni, have lost popularity, especially among the middle class in cities where more and more people are starting to demand increased democratization of the country. The widespread corruption, high unemployment and housing shortages have diluted the dissatisfaction with the government.

Several people, who previously belonged to Museveni’s inner circle, are now active in the opposition. Among them is the most famous opposition politician Kizza Besigye. Another changed page is John Patrick Amama Mbabazi, who in 2014 was forced to resign as prime minister (see Current policy). The opposition is being harassed in several ways, among other things, Besigye has been arrested several times and charged with both rape and treason and corruption. So far, all charges against him have been discontinued after some time. It also appears that semi-military forces linked to NRM threaten voters.

For the main opposition parties include the Forum for Democratic Change (Forum for Democratic Change, FDC), the Uganda People’s Congress (Uganda People’s Congress, UPC), Democratic Party (Democratic Party, DP), Fair Forum (Justice Forum of Uganda, called Jeema) and the Conservative Party (Conservative Party, CP).

The FDC, which is Besigye’s party, was formed in 2004 by several smaller opposition parties. In the 2001, 2006 and 2011 presidential elections, Besigye was the leading opposition candidate. The FDC is divided into factions, where some think that Besigye has been given an overly dominant role within the party. Since 2012, former Major General Mugisha Muntu, party leader. The FDC mainly seeks voter support in the north and east as well as in the larger cities.

Jeema, founded in 1996, has its strongest base among Ugandan Muslims and has been led by Asuman Basalirwa since 2015.

The DP, founded in 1954, has been headed by lawyer Norbert Mao from Gulu in the north since 2010 but is nevertheless considered by tradition as a party for Catholics and with a voter base in Buganda in the south. A power struggle is ongoing, especially between Mao and Samuel Lubega, who in 2011 ran in the presidential election as an independent candidate. DP is the party that pushes hardest for the electoral system to change, among other things, the party wants to reintroduce restrictions on how many terms a president may sit for.

UPC was the president of Milton Obote’s party with a foothold in the north. Since 2015, the party has been led by Obote’s son Jimmy Akena, who is considered to be close to Museveni. CP struggles to give power to the traditional monarchy of the Bugan people.

To have a greater chance of winning the 2016 election, FDC, DP, CP, Jeema and several smaller parties and organizations formed in June 2015 the Democratic Alliance. But after a few months it was clear that the parties could not agree on a joint presidential candidate.

The number of independent members, most with sympathies for the NRM, has increased and in the 2011 election they together won more seats than all opposition parties.

From 2017, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, best known as singer Bobi Wine, was one of Museveni’s top critics. He entered Parliament as an independent candidate after winning a general election in June that year.

During the protests in 2011 and 2012 played Activists4Change (A4C) consisting of FDC, two factions of the Democratic Party and Justice Movement (Justice Movement) play an important role (see Current policies).

A new law from 2013 makes it harder for the opposition to reach out, as police permits must be sought for meetings that gather more than three participants. The police also have greater powers to intervene to stop them, although it does not always. The opposition has appealed to the Constitutional Court to have the law repealed.

A bill has also been tabled which will make it easier for the authorities to control and gain access to the work of NGOs, especially those dealing with issues that may be politically sensitive. According to this, a new body will be formed that will be given the right to blacklist organizations.

rebel Movements

Of the rebel movements that fought Museveni’s rule in the 1990s (see Modern History), no longer poses any military threat to the government, but they still commit serious abuses in neighboring countries. Best known is the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), founded in 1987, which is a continuation of the Holy Spirit’s movement (see Modern History). The leader Kony presents himself as a kind of spokesman for the Holy Spirit. The LRA is often described as a Christian fundamentalist movement, but the religious motives are considered to be of secondary importance. The political line is also not clear, apart from opposition to Museveni’s rule.

In 1987–2006, the LRA fought a guerrilla war from bases in northern Uganda and southern Sudan. The violence was at its worst in the years 1993-1998 when the LRA was accused of killing up to 10,000 people and driving 220,000 on the run. At least 25,000 children were also kidnapped by the guerrillas.

The guerrillas have been militarily fought, with support from the United States and in cooperation with neighboring countries, but in 2005 peace talks were also initiated between the government and the LRA. Since 2006, guerrillas have not carried out any attacks in Uganda. A peace agreement between the LRA and the Ugandan government was finalized in 2007, but it was never signed by Kony (see Modern History). A year later, guerrillas were expelled from Uganda. Since then, it has instead targeted its attacks on the civilian population, mainly Congo-Kinshasa and the Central African Republic. In 2008–2011, according to relief organizations, the LRA killed at least 2,400 people and kidnapped approximately 3,500 children. In recent years, the violence has decreased and the LRA was estimated to consist of only 200–300 men in 2015, divided into several smaller groups.

Also the Islamic Allied Democratic Forces-Nalu (ADF-Nalu), founded in 1989, initially aimed to overthrow President Museveni and introduce an Islamist regime in Uganda. It consists of Ugandan Islamists, former members of the Unla rebel movement, Obotetian soldiers, and Rwandan hutumilis and former soldiers of the Congolese army. In the mid-1990s, the group carried out a number of terrorist acts in western Uganda. After a military offensive, ADF-Nalu fled across the border to Congo-Kinshasa in 2002. There, the guerrillas have carried out several massacres in villages and towns in the country’s northeastern part. After that, Uganda has also participated in several operations against the group in the neighboring country. ADF-Nalu is suspected of having contacts with Somali al-Shabaab, and should, at least in the past, have been backed by Sudan and the al-Qaeda terrorist network. ADF-Nalu was estimated at the beginning of 2015 to consist of 800–1400 men.

The judiciary and human rights

Uganda’s judiciary is built on a British model. The Supreme Court is the Supreme Court. The judiciary cannot be said to be completely independent of the state, since the president has a great influence over the appointments of judges. At the same time, both the Constitutional Court and the High Court (High Court) have repeatedly opposed the government in important cases, such as when opposition leader Kizza Besigye was arrested and prosecuted for obvious political reasons but eventually acquitted. Corruption is a major problem throughout the justice system.

In the country, serious violations of human rights are regularly committed. Since the expulsion of LRA from Uganda (see special chapter on LRA), the situation in the north has improved.

Although the law does not allow arbitrary arrests of opposition politicians, protesters and journalists, many more or less secret police forces have been charged with torture and other abuses against criminals and opposition supporters. A rapid response force, which was suspected of serious human rights violations, was dissolved in 2011. At the same time, more and more police officers are being trained in human rights.

The conditions in the overcrowded prisons are poor. In 2013, there were nearly 38,000 prisoners in prisons built for 15,000. In many prisons, there is a shortage of food, and the prisoners also do not receive the medical treatment they need. More than half of the prisoners are incarcerated, awaiting trial, many as long as two, three years.

Uganda still has the death penalty, but no one has been executed since the mid-00s.

There is an official human rights body: the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHCR), which can act independently but whose board is appointed by the president.

In 2000, the government granted amnesty to people who had participated in armed uprisings against the government on condition that they put down their weapons. Of the nearly 27,000 who had been granted amnesty by 2013, about half had belonged to the LRA. However, the Amnesty Act does not include the LRA’s senior leader, who has been prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) following a request from Uganda. Over the years, Museveni has become increasingly critical of the ICC. First, the criticism was that the ICC’s calls for the LRA leaders complicated the peace talks with the guerrillas. Later criticism has been that the court has so far only prosecuted Africans, and then also sitting heads of state.

Uganda Urban Population



Protests against constitutional change

The decision triggers popular protests, which are fought off with the help of riot police. During the year, Norway, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Ireland, Sweden and the EU Commission will reduce their direct assistance to Uganda due to concerns over political developments.

Limitation of terms of office is removed

After a referendum, the constitution is changed: a multi-party system is introduced and it becomes possible for the president to be re-elected an unlimited number of times.


Requirements from donors

As the suffering of the civilian population in northern Uganda is increasingly attracted to international media, the donors’ demands on the Museveni government to resolve the conflict are also growing.

ICC calls for guerrilla leaders

In October, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a warrant for five LRA leaders, including Supreme Leader Joseph Kony and Second Lieutenant Vincent Otti. They are charged with murder, torture, mutilation, forced recruitment of children and sexual violence. The ICC decision helps to make the guerrilla more willing to negotiate, while at the same time making it difficult to design a solution that gives the LRA leaders the personal security they need to lay down the weapons.

Opposition politicians return to stand in presidential elections

In October returns opposition politician Kizza Besigye to Uganda from exile in South Africa (see Modern History) to be a candidate in the presidential election of 2006. Besigye and his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) accused soon of the regime for a series of crimes: guerrilla activity, high treason, terrorism, illegal weapons possession and rape. When arrested, violent clashes erupt between Besigye’s supporters and the police.

At the same time as Museveni announces that he intends to run for re-election, Besigye applies from the detention center to run for president in the presidential election.