Uganda is a country that many people seem to have heard of, but barely anyone except the locals knows anything about. Nestled near the divided but resource-rich Central African region, yet still technically part of the integrating and market-focused East African one, Uganda could serve as a critical bridgehead in linking together two dynamic areas of the continent, but as of now it presently functions as a solid buffer in preventing the former’s militant problems from undermining the latter’s economic growth. China wants to change all of that by turning Uganda into the ultimate infrastructure juncture, building upon its mighty military sway to turn the “African Prussia” into the “African Kazakhstan”, or in other words, a transregional land bridge of unparalleled geostrategic significance.
This commendable vision isn’t without its obvious shortcomings, however, since Hybrid War tension has been continuously building under the surface in Uganda for the past twenty years or so. The threat of a ‘conventional’ Color Revolution or a EuroMaidan-like outbreak of urban terrorism is ever-present in the country, and this asymmetrical danger is perhaps the security services’ most pressing challenge. Aside from that, however, are other less-recognized risks that could prove to be equally challenging for the Ugandan leadership, such as the potential for a manufactured “Clash of Civilizations” and Identity (“Kingdom”) Federalism. Upon closer examination, Uganda’s strategic situation isn’t as clear-cut as one might initially think that it was, and despite President Museveni’s legacy dream of guiding his East African Community peers towards an EU-like federation, it might ironically turn out that his country is the one that the US uses to undermine the entire project.
The Infrastructure Juncture In The Jungle
All (Rail) Roads To The Northern Congo Run Through Kampala:
Uganda is uniquely positioned by virtue of its geography to serve as the connecting platform for linking together the East African Community (EAC) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to say nothing of the broader role that this would have in facilitating bicoastal trade between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. China is helping to finance the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which begins at the Kenyan Indian Ocean port of Mombasa but will extend to Uganda en route to potentially connecting with the DRC’s northeastern river port of Kisangani, from where the Congo River smoothly flows to the twin capitals of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, after which a short rail ride circumventing the riparian rapids leads to the Atlantic Ocean.
As can be seen from this description, Uganda is the geographic middleman in actualizing this vision, thereby making it an indispensable partner in China’s transoceanic infrastructure plans for Africa. That’s not all, though, since Uganda is also poised to connect the SGR to South Sudan, thus facilitating international market access for Africa’s newest country and complementing the LAPSSET Corridor. Due to its location, Uganda is also the object of Tanzania’s rival Chinese-financed Central Corridor project as well, which in a typically Chinese fashion could play the role of a well-thought-out backup plan in reaching the DRC and the Atlantic Ocean just in case a Hybrid War disruption sabotages Kenya’s SGR.
This given initiative aims to spearhead a southeast-to-northwest rail corridor across the East African country that would eventually link up with Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda, with the Kigali apparently having foregone its original choice of the SGR in favor of the Central Corridor in May 2016 (though it later walked back its statement). In this proposed construction, both Uganda and Rwanda would serve as components of China’s “geo-infrastructure insurance policy” in accessing the northern DRC via Tanzania’s Central Corridor, thus cushioning Beijing from some of the disruptive shocks that could occur if Kenya descends into American-induced chaos.
Balancer Or Disruptor?:
Taking stock of the strategic situation whereby China is simultaneously financing two rival rail routes in the EAC, it’s salient to note that both of these projects intersect in Uganda a lot more realistically than they would in Rwanda, which thus gives Kampala an impressive importance in regional affairs. If Uganda was ambitious enough (and such a quality surely isn’t lacking when it comes to Museveni), then it might try to position itself as the balancing force that keeps the competition between Kenya and Tanzania at a civil and friendly level, since neither neighboring power has an interest in upsetting the status quo there to the point where they both lose out on accessing the gateway to the northern DRC.
While Uganda does seem to be presently tilting towards Tanzania ever since it decided to redirect its prospective oil pipeline route from Kenya’s Lamu port to Tanzania’s Tanga one (or in other words, export its resources along the Central Corridor instead of the SGR), and the SGR plans through the country have stalled in the past few years, it would be a major geopolitical mistake if Kampala turned its back on Kenya, which is its largest export destination and fourth-largest import source.
Museveni thankfully doesn’t seem to have these sorts of calculations, with his Minister of Works and Transport refuting allegations that the SGR had been delayed and the government finally stating that it is ready to sign a loan with China for financing its portion of the project, but that doesn’t mean that a successor government led by a fully pro-American “opposition” candidate couldn’t change the country’s course. If Uganda abandons its balancing role between Kenya and Tanzania in favor of publicly rejecting the former to the full benefit of the latter, then it could generate a security dilemma between the two that would play right into the US’ hands by sowing the seeds of deep-seated mistrust between the EAC’s two most fundamental and only maritime-accessing economies, likely sabotaging the entire integration project for everybody before it ever has a chance to ripen and bear its multipolar fruit.
Museveni’s Legacy Planning:
Analyzed from this angle, Uganda is a key component in ensuring EAC unity in the coming years, as not only would a destabilization here disrupt the strategic intra-organizational balance/rivalry between Kenya and Tanzania, but it would also abandon any hopes that their projects would link together in the country and thus deepen the complex interdependence between all three of these important players. From the reverse perspective, a stable and multipolar Uganda – such as the one that China is banking on — would glue together its two larger neighbors by strengthening the trust between them and interlocking their economies through the shared focal point of interest that each of them would have in Uganda’s stability and consequent forthright access to the northern DRC (which is in their self-interests just as much as it is in China’s).
To return to what was said earlier, Museveni is staking his entire legacy on guiding the EAC along its previously stated federalization plans, which happens to perfectly align with China’s desire to see its regional partners integrate more closely with one another in order to streamline six multilateral interactions into a much more efficient bilateral one between Beijing and the forthcoming federalized bloc. The means through which Museveni aims to substantially achieve this goal is through having his country function as the infrastructure juncture between China’s complementarily competing Kenyan and Tanzanian projects, which would give the two largest economies a common ground for enhanced cooperation and allow Uganda the opportunity to leverage its balancing position with the hope of possibly emerging as the East African Federation’s de-facto ‘compromise’ leader.
The Ugandan President might also have a more cynical reason for wanting to foster the federalized integration of the EAC other than the pursuit of win-win geopolitical goals, since if the East African Federation ends up being a success, then it might “whitewash” Museveni’s controversial history of foreign interventionism by redirecting focus away from his divisive military decisions and towards his peaceful parting gift of infrastructural and institutional connectivity.
The “African Prussia”
When speaking about Uganda’s militant past, it’s important to understand that every foreign war that the country has fought in aside from the failed 1978-79 one against Tanzania was ordered by Museveni. His supporters claim that Uganda’s involvement in each conflict was predicated on enhancing the country’s regional position and safeguarding its national interests, but his detractors allege that they were aggressive and unnecessary interventions that caused much more harm than good. No matter how one normatively assesses the wisdom of Museveni’s foreign military calculus, it’s irrefutable that one of the consequences has been that the Ugandan Armed Forces have flexed their muscles before the eyes of the world and solidified their country’s reputation as a regional military power (for better or for worse) in a manner that’s somewhat reminiscent of late 19th-century Prussia.
In spite of Uganda’s geographically limited size and status as a landlocked country, Kampala has impressively managed to exert military influence across a broad and varied continental space, stretching from the northeastern corner of the DRC (and prior, during the First Congo War, all the way up to Kinshasa), the eastern Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and even Somalia. To map everything out as a means of putting it into a larger perspective, it’s evident that Uganda’s military reach punches well above its assumed geographic weight, underpinning just how pivotal of an institution the military has been in shaping the country’s international image and relations with some of its neighbors:
South Sudan: active participation in the decades-long Cold War-era Sudanese Civil War, 2012-present African Union-participating anti-Kony force, unilateral deployment from 2013-2015 in the South Sudanese Civil War, suspected 2016 redeployment
Reshaping The Neighborhood:
Uganda’s interventions in the First and Second Congo Wars were carried out unilaterally, although in close collaboration with allied Rwandan forces. The intention was to install a proxy leader in the neighboring country who would allow Uganda unhindered access to the DRC’s rare earth minerals along the Great Lakes border region, but this plan miserably backfired when a hodgepodge of anti-Kampala militias took advantage of the Congo’s chaos in order to entrench themselves in the area and set up bases of operations. Instead of a safe buffer region through which to indefinitely exert strategic influence, Uganda ended up with an enduring security vulnerability that continues to plague the state to this day.
Following the early-2000s withdrawal of Ugandan troops from the DRC, Kampala’s next military adventure was in Somalia, although this time it was carried out under a multilateral aegis organized by the African Union. Museveni’s interest in this non-neighboring and extra-regional country in the Horn of Africa was to demonstrate his commitment to his US ally’s “War on Terror”, make ‘positive’ and ‘reputation-repairing’ use of his military abroad, and portray Uganda as an active anti-terrorist state that deserves multilateral normative support for its own struggle against Islamist militants, the DRC-based “Allied Democratic Forces” (which will be expanded on later). Due to its leading frontline role in AMISOM, Kampala fell victim to a series of bombings by Al Shabaab in July 2010 that were the deadliest terrorist attacks in the region since the 1998 dual Al Qaeda attacks on American diplomatic targets in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Central African Republic
In 2009, Uganda ordered its military forces to chase Kony through the northeastern DRC and eastern CAR in an operation that would foreshadow the much more highly publicized “Kony 2012” social media-intelligence agency campaign that prompted an Ugandan-led multilateral African Union and US mission in the same area. From Museveni’s perspective, not only did the African Union mission lend his government critical global support in its international operations against the rebel/terrorist group, but the emotional pull of the operation’s marketing was a convenient ruse for distracting from the soft attempt at symbolically reimposing Ugandan military leadership (however quantitatively limited) over the largely hitherto under-policed area. The Ugandan President’s problem, though, was that just like before, his country was unable to translate its military presence and perceived strategic gains into tangible results that could sustainably promote his vision.
Perhaps because of his relative failings at expanding Uganda’s physical influence in northeastern DRC and eastern CAR, Museveni invested a lot of effort into his country’s military deployment in South Sudan on behalf of embattled President Salva Kiir. Uganda’s strategic design in this conflict is to position itself as the predominant foreign player in South Sudan’s affairs, which would thus give Kampala indirect control over the country’s natural resources and market potential. Whereas Museveni ceded control (whether direct or indirect) over the northeastern DRC and never really had much sway in the eastern CAR to begin with, South Sudan provides infinitely more chances for Uganda to finally lay claim to some tangible examples of regional influence outside of its characteristic military sphere. Its decades-long involvement in the Sudanese Civil War on behalf of the southern rebels and now its defense of Kiir’s government have provided a groundswell of institutional support for Uganda in Juba’s halls of power, though all of this could theoretically be reversed if the implementation of Identity Federalism in South Sudan leads to a geographic containment of Kampala’s influence in the country.
In light of Uganda’s consistent failure at using its military forces to generate sizeable strategic gains abroad, Museveni appears to have finally wised up to some of the shortcomings of his decades-long militant policies and has recently ordered that the Uganda People’s Defence Force withdraw from South Sudan and the CAR, with the former having officially occurred by the end of 2015 (despite rumors of a secret redeployment in May 2016) and the latter being planned for the end of 2016. As for Somalia, while Uganda did declare in late-June 2016 that it would pull out by the end of the year, Museveni clarified at the beginning of July that this would be conditional on whether the African Union provides serious support to the (re-)formation of the Somalian Armed Forces, meaning that his country’s soldiers would stay in the country if progress was made in this regard or would leave if none was observed after their 9-year deployment.
Taken together, this series of pullback announcements represents a dramatic rethinking of Museveni’s foreign policy calculus, in that he seems to have resigned himself to accepting that Uganda cannot rely on pure military force alone in advancing its national interests. It’s not to suggest that the Ugandan military is incapable of doing its job, it’s just that the pursuit of military objectives and the utilization of related instruments are only part of the statecraft toolkit available at Museveni’s disposal, and however impressive or ‘prestigious’ he might believe that it is to employ such means, they don’t represent the only solution to advancing Uganda’s interests. As such, they must typically be paired with other measures in order to be enduringly effective. It could be that Museveni truly believes that Uganda’s military mission is completed in these given theaters, or that he’s simply calculating on a strategic withdrawal in order to return to fight under more opportune conditions in the future, but it would be best if he impartially took stock of the policies that he promulgated and came to the conclusion that they need to be fundamentally rethought.
The final explanation for Uganda’s decision to withdraw its forces from CAR, South Sudan, and possibly even Somalia is that they could be much more effectively used at home in deterring or dealing with an expected intensification of Hybrid War challenges. Be it in quelling Color Revolution crowds, responding to terrorist attacks, or putting down a rebellious regional-kingdom uprising in favor of Identify Federalism, the Ugandan People’s Defence Force might be much better attuned to promoting the state’s interests inside the country than outside of it. Furthermore, while it’ll later be explained how and why external players have an interest in destabilizing Uganda, it can’t be discounted that some of the country’s domestic discontent lays squarely at the foot of the government, with Museveni having previously concentrated too much time on external affairs as opposed to pragmatically (key word) dealing with internal issues. Last but not least, there’s also the possibility that the President is now contemplating his lasting legacy and has a personal interest in cultivating a ‘peaceful’ persona for which he can be remembered, which would also align with his invigorated focus on federalizing the EAC.
No Longer An Ally, But Not Yet An Adversary
The US’ attitude towards Uganda has been conditional on its relations with its leader, Museveni, so ties between the two states have accordingly ebbed and flowed throughout the decades as a result. 1998 was a high point in the bilateral relationship with Bill Clinton included Museveni in his exclusive list of the “next generation of African leaders”, likely in a bid to boost his partner’s ego in preparation of fully co-opting him into the US’ unipolar world order and allowing Washington to capitalize off of his country’s stunning military gains in the Congo.
When Uganda couldn’t translate its prior military successes into tangible strategic results and ended up withdrawing from the Congo “empty handed” in 2003, American support for Museveni began to slightly lessen and it was no longer publicly paraded around like it used to be.
It’s not entirely clear what the US’ intentions were in implicitly stepping back from promoting Museveni as part of the “next generation of African leaders”. One partially attributable reason could be that it had a desire to distance itself from Uganda’s controversial activities in the Congo amidst the US’ sincere disappointment in Museveni for failing to capitalize off of his on-the-ground military successes and become the US’ “Lead From Behind” proxy in Eastern and Central Africa.
This approach is unlike the one that the US takes towards Museveni’s former Rwandan protégé Paul Kagame, and is likely explained by the Tutsi leader prevailing in the careful cultivation of a far-reaching “guilt” complex, though one that’s steadily losing its potency. It’s important that the reader understand that the US’ strategy in this part of the continent isn’t fully dependent on Uganda, and that Washington could still flexibly adapt its policies in the event that an executive decision was made to overthrow Museveni and/or spread unrest throughout his country.
NGO Registration Act And AMISOM Deployment:
As a response to the blatancy with which the US exploited “NGOs” to engineer regime change scenarios in the Color Revolution-victimized states of Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan, Uganda took the brave step of enacting the 2006 NGO Registration Act as a means of partially defending against this new form of asymmetrical warfare. Museveni should be commended for undertaking proactive steps in countering this post-modern scourge, and it’s very likely that he came under tremendous American pressure as a result. Whether as a reaction to unspecific threats from the US as a response to this legislation or as a means of promoting his country’s own interests against the “Allied Democratic Forces” and other terrorist groups, Uganda announced that it would be joining the African Union Mission In Somalia (AMISOM) in 2007, thereby carrying out the US’ ‘outsourced’ military interests in the Horn of Africa and having the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces de-facto function as the Pentagon’s personal ‘contract army’.
In a clear demonstration of cause and effect, this palpable demonstration of pro-American loyalty (no matter what ‘national security interests’ were relied on in explaining it to the Ugandan people) served to restore Museveni’s strategic relevance to the US and once more portrayed him as an indispensable partner for advancing Washington’s regional vision. As a result, despite whatever misgivings the US may have had about Museveni personally and the differences in outlook that they held about his NGO policy, the Ugandan President prevailed in his mission to neutralize whatever regime change plots the US might have begun contemplating during that time. Although having failed to construct a regional sphere of influence after his two Congo interventions, and falling behind his former Rwandan protégé in terms of his importance to American grand strategy in this part of Africa, Museveni would soon make a second bold attempt at hegemonic leadership by experimenting with the convenient casus belli of “chasing transnational terrorists” like Kony and his “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA).
In December 2008, Uganda launched a cross-border military operation against the DRC under the pretenses of eliminating the LRA. The operation failed in its stated objective of destroying he group and the Ugandan military soon withdrew after only a couple of months, but the allure of abusing the Kony narrative of chasing an ‘international bogeyman’ as a means of pursuing ulterior geostrategic regional motives would soon prove too tempting for the US to ignore. Not only is the LRA suspected of operating in the under-governed border region between the DRC, CAR, South Sudan, and Uganda, but the group’s alleged stomping grounds are far from the prying eyes of independent journalists who could monitor the on-the-ground military activity for signs that it was advancing unstated goals other than the ones that were publicly proclaimed. Although Uganda failed to reap any strategic dividends from its brief military adventure, the US identified the scenario template of a cross-border campaign against Kony as being an ideal situation that they could exploit sometime in the future, provided of course that there was a reason to do so and the public could be preconditioned into accepting such a far-flung deployment of American military personnel.
These two situational imperatives were soon met with a set of tangible ‘solutions’. Regarding the motivation for limited American military intervention, it soon became abundantly clear that CAR President Bozize was rapidly accelerating his mineral– and energy-rich country’s relations with China, and seeing as how this policy trajectory could have predictably led to Beijing establishing a strategic foothold in the heart of the African continent, the US intelligence services felt an impetus to stop it at all costs. The complicating factor was that the US did not have any special forces units deployed in the nearby countries from where they could train anti-government insurgents, nor did any regional government have the stomach for allowing this to happen on its territory even in the event that they did allow some sort of covert American military presence within their borders (albeit for different purposes, of course). Therefore, the only feasible workaround that would allow the US the cover for deploying insurgent-training special forces units for this purpose was to exploit the international mystique around Kony and his LRA in order to engineer the circumstances whereby American forces would be allowed to directly operate within the CAR’s own borders.
Key to manufacturing the ‘plausible’ context needed for ‘justifying’ this deployment was the “Kony 2012” social media campaign that was ‘coincidentally’ kicked off by the American government–linked “NGO” “Invisible Children”. Having assembled the ‘viral’ pretext for ‘legitimizing’ its anti-Chinese proxy mission in the African Heartland, and working hand-in-hand with its more-than-willing Ugandan allies, the US committed 100 special forces troops to “advise and train” the soldiers searching for Kony in the quad-state region between the CAR, DRC, South Sudan, and Uganda. Although no direct evidence can be procured, it persuasively appears in hindsight that these units were also training the Muslim Seleka rebels in the eastern CAR who fortuitously just so happened to be based in the same overlapping area of operations as the American troops. Within almost exactly one year after the introduction of US military personnel to the region, this hitherto little-known umbrella group previously composed of ragtag militiamen and undisciplined mercenaries somehow managed to centralize all of the rebels’ previously disparate military operations under a centralized authority and suddenly sweep across the entire jungled country and overthrow the Chinese-friendly president, setting off a chain reaction of civil war that turned the CAR into the failed state that it remains today.
Uganda’s role in all of this was in providing the (witting or inadvertent) cover for inviting the US troop deployment under the shared aegis of killing the “human rights terrorist” Kony. Whether Museveni was aware of the US’ true intentions to spark chaos in the CAR, or he thought that the US was solidly behind him in helping Uganda stamp out one of its last remaining anti-government enemies, the Ugandan President cooperated with the US out of the belief that Washington would help his country finally carve out its cherished sphere of influence in the region. Museveni seems to have misread the US, though, since it didn’t enthusiastically share his vision enough to the point of providing the non-military assistance that would have been essential to actualizing it. The Pentagon was content with giving its Ugandan counterparts weapons, intelligence, and training, but the rest of the American establishment wasn’t on board with Kampala becoming the regional champion and thus eschewed providing the informational, material, and other forms of support that would have brought Museveni’s dreams to life. Instead, it can be said in retrospect that the US preferred to maintain the fragile and unstable status quo in the region so as to disrupt it at a more opportune forthcoming time, whether to harness ‘creative chaos’ like it tried to do in the Mideast or support an aspiring hegemon (be it Uganda or Rwanda) as its Lead From Behind (trans-regional consolidation?) partner.
Museveni’s Traditional Value Mutiny:
Unlike most American partners that contently accept whatever unsolicited “values-based” ‘advice’ (demands) that Western NGOs present to them, Museveni’s differentiating characteristic when compared to many of his American-cooperating peers is that he stoutly refused to bow down before the homosexual lobby. Instead of turning a blind eye to the active promotion of homosexual activity throughout his traditionally conservative country, he reacted by pushing back against this agenda and throwing his support behind a controversial bill that was passed in early 2014 and which made “aggravated homosexuality” punishable by life in prison (as opposed to the original death sentence that was decreed prior to the law’s amendment). Suffice to say, Uganda’s Western donors promptly cut off or redirected their aid to the government and began conducting an intense anti-government information campaign meant at portraying the authorities as African puppets for “extreme Christian fundamentalists” from the West.
Even though the Supreme Court later annulled the law and Museveni himself said that replacement legislation was “not necessary”, the political damage of the President’s defiance to American social liberalism was already done. The promotion of traditional sexual relations and pro-family legislation, no matter how comparatively extreme its iteration may be, is absolutely anathema to the American agenda and instantly galvanizes the US establishment against whatever state it may be that’s sticking up for these conservative principles. Granted, geostrategically important states such as Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Kingdoms admittedly have much more room for maneuverability because of the entrenched investment that the US has in their stability, but smaller countries like The Gambia and Uganda are unable to stand up to the US without reaping some sort of destabilizing consequence such as the failed ‘mercenary’ coup attempt in Gambia at the tail end of 2014. Museveni’s resistance to the US’ homosexuality-promoting interests was predicated on the preservation of traditional values, but also as an indirect way of signaling his discontent with the US’ reluctance to fully back his regional leadership vision, though he epically misjudged the US yet again if he thought that openly opposing homosexuality in as dramatic of a form as he did could allow him to ‘blackmail’ geopolitical support from the US.
Color Revolution Threats, NGO Crackdown, and Multipolar Outreach:
Faced with a wayward ‘ally’ (proxy) that had begun to reassert its independence, the US decided to apply low-intensity Color Revolution pressure against Museveni in the hopes that he’d tweak his attitude accordingly and fall back into line with American dictates. The US’ stance is that if one of its foreign policy underlings (or ‘partners’, in its official parlance) starts a resistance campaign against an element of American policy, especially one as globally high-profile as Museveni commenced with the anti-homosexuality legislation, then it’s much more likely that they’ll oppose the US in other fields as well, possibly even culminating in a full-fledge geopolitical pivot towards the multipolar world if the ‘rebellious’ behavior wasn’t ‘corrected’ in time.
With that in mind, the American information services and their subservient global allies ran a negative campaign against Museveni’s bid for a fifth term in February, reminding their audience that the strongman had been in office since 1986 and strongly inferring that he’s done so against the people’s will. Having learned from the lessons of the “Arab Spring” theater-wide Color Revolutions and the urban terrorism of EuroMaidan, Museveni also signed into law new restrictions against “NGOs” in the weeks preceding the election, thereby ensuring that the vote would be held in as peaceful of circumstances as possible. There were a few minor disruptions before, during, and after election day, and authorities ended up temporarily detaining “opposition” candidate Kizze Besigya as a precautionary measure to prevent him from stirring up disorder before the results were announced, but for the most part, no large-scale unrest was unleashed. Besigya did try to make a last-ditch effort at throwing the country into uncertainty by publicly declaring himself President right before Museveni’s inauguration, but his Color Revolution stunt only succeeded in getting him thrown into jail.
At this point, it’s not clear exactly how committed the US was to overthrowing Museveni during this latest electoral round, and even though it clearly applied some low-level Color Revolution technologies during this time, it may not have intended to carry them out to their typical regime change ends. What the US might have been aiming to achieve was to provoke enough “bottom-up” pressure against Museveni that it would get him to partake in ‘regime tweaking’, or in other words, the enactment of pro-American political concessions by a targeted state in exchange for the US allowing its incumbent leadership to remain to power. This time, though, it was the US that severely misjudged Museveni and not the other way around. Instead of ‘getting the message’ after Besigya’s ill-fated Color Revolution attempt (which was meant to fail all along, whether the “opposition” leader knew it or not), Museveni became even more openly defiant of the US, inviting ICC-wanted Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to his inauguration and consequently prompting an organized walk-out by the outraged Western dignitaries that were in attendance.
Moreover, Museveni’s follow-up remarks after his formal inauguration speech was completed included a firm condemnation of the ICC and praise for Russia and China. Referring to the former, which was represented by Russian Special Representative for Middle East and Africa Mikhail Bogdan, the Ugandan President said that “Those Russians sell to us those spears you have seen (referring to guns and fighter jets) without conditionalities and arrogance. You know we already rejected arrogance. Let everyone rule over his house. Therefore those people (Russians) are our genuine friends”, while in regards to the latter, he proclaimed that “Those people are also our genuine friends. They have no arrogance. If a man has his own house and he goes in another man’s house … what type of fool are you?”
For some useful background information into Uganda’s relationship with the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership and the balancing act that Museveni is playing between the East and West, the reader is urged to refer to Frederic Musisi’s June 2016 analysis about “Why Museveni Is Courting the East”. In short, the President’s recent dissatisfaction with his Western ‘friends’ is due to disputes over development aid and military funding, which in turn is prompting him to rethink Uganda’s foreign policy priorities and balance his previous overdependence on the West with countervailing outreaches to the East. While it’s still possible for Uganda and the US to patch up their differences before they become irreconcilable, Museveni would have to renounce his freshly independent streak and fall back to towing the unipolar line – a self-depreciating decision that he doesn’t seem at all interested in taking now that he has access to China’s no-strings-attached development aid and is such a pivotal transit partner along Beijing’s Northern Transoceanic African Route in connecting the continent’s Indian and Atlantic coasts.
His strident rejection of American “liberal values” (i.e. the aggressively rampant and public promotion of homosexuality) in combination with his latest multipolar outreaches and infrastructure partnership with China have made it easy for the US intelligence establishment to portray Museveni as an unreliable ‘ally’ (proxy) in need of being taught a ‘good lesson’. To put it more plainly, Uganda’s embrace of the multipolar world (China) at the expense of the unipolar one’s (the US’) former influence over the country’s foreign policy has prompted the US to consider various scenarios for destabilizing the government, whether to squeeze concessions out of it, provoke regime change, or federally reformat the state. The Color Revolution template in and of itself isn’t anything too novel and carries with it many of the same tactical commonalities as its predecessors, but it’s the Hybrid War iterations of American intrigue in Uganda such as an artificially generated “Clash of Civilizations” or Identity (“Kingdom”) Federalism that are dangerously unique and worthy of closer study. On account of these prospective threats, it makes more sense why Museveni would be interested in withdrawing the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces from abroad and returning them back to the country to defend the home front.
The “Clash Of Civilizations”
Ugandan society is very cosmopolitan, being composed of a wide range of ethnic-tribal groups and regional identities. These factors are more relevant when discussing the second scenario of Identity (“Kingdom”) Federalism, but what’s also important to note about the country’s composition is that it’s around 84% Christian and 12% Muslim. By itself, this indicator is meaningless in prognosticating about a “Clash of Civilizations”, but after investigating the country’s recent history and casting light on two of the most notorious “rebel”/terrorist groups fighting against the government, it becomes abundantly clear that the potential exists for foreign actors to exploit these insurgents in promoting this sort of outcome.
The “Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA):
The LRA was mentioned a few times before in the research when speaking about Joseph Kony, its renegade leader who’s thought to be hiding out somewhere in the borderland region between the DRC, CAR, South Sudan, and Uganda, and whose capture was the objective of two separate international interventions by Kampala. To speak a bit more about this group, it’s actually a fundamentalist “Christian” terrorist organization that wants to introduce a strict interpretation of the Ten Commandments as the law of the land. The LRA has been operating since the last years of the Cold War, though its influence has ebbed and flowed throughout the decades.
Pushed Out But Bouncing Back?
Pushed out of Uganda in the early 2000s, it now mostly operates abroad in the DRC, where it occasionally carries out brutal killings against local civilians that from time to time rightfully earn it harsh global condemnation. Precisely because of the highly publicized war crimes that it repeatedly commits, the LRA has been exploited by the Ugandan and American authorities to ‘legitimize’ their foreign interventions in the region, the strategic underpinning of which was discussed in the last section. Nowadays there’s a broad consensus that the LRA has more of a phantom presence than an actual one, having been devastated by military losses and defections so that it only numbers an estimated 400 or so militants.
Even with its low number of recruits, the LRA still manages to make it into the news every now and then because of the audacity of its anti-civilian attacks, such as the abduction of 29 people in the CAR in mid-June. With Uganda withdrawing all of its troops from the CAR by the end of the year, there’s already foreign media talk that the LRA is “rising again”, which can be interpreted in one of two ways. The first analysis represents the “conventional” and “mainstream” approach to the topic, which is that the Ugandan forces are making a huge mistake in withdrawing at precisely the time that the LRA is picking up their attacks, with the inference being that the situation will markedly depreciate once the troops have been removed.
Accordingly, these media hints suggest that the LRA might actually be on the upswing and could return as a force to be reckoned with, but this doesn’t take into account that its historical Sudanese patron is no longer at sharp odds with Uganda and that the group is mostly incapable of wielding any significant military influence without an external backer. Sudan and Uganda finally sorted out their differences in the wake of South Sudanese independence and have proven themselves ready to enter into a new era of relations, which was seen most symbolically by Museveni flouting the ICC by inviting indicted Sudanese President Al Bashir to Kampala for his inauguration in May. Considering this, it’s improbable to believe that Khartoum would abruptly reverse course and abandon this new state partnership in favor of supporting a handful of jungled insurgents, so this strongly indicates that another foreign backer might have taken the LRA under its wing, which therein leads to the second alternative analysis about why the group has suddenly returned to the spotlight.
Bearing in mind the up-and-down rollercoaster of American relations with Uganda, and recounting that they’re presently at their lowest comparable point since Museveni entered office three decades ago, it’s worthwhile to contemplate the US’ strategic interests in directly or indirectly using the LRA as an instrument of pressure against Museveni, whether to press him to enact domestic and/or international political concessions (“democracy”, loosening NGO restrictions, curtailing Chinese influence, etc.) or to destabilize Uganda enough to the point where he can be unseated through a Hybrid War or military coup. If this sounds too “conspiratorial” to be true, then the reader would do well to remind themselves of how the US is now collaborating with Kony’s “former bodyguards”, which is possibly a front for openly cooperating with the group. In a broader sense, what the US might be doing with the LRA wouldn’t be much different than what it does with Daesh, which is exploits for similar proxy purposes against Syrian President Assad. Despite not having direct control over all members of the terrorist organization, the US nevertheless endeavors to direct it towards areas of shared interest (e.g. generating unrest in the Syrian Arab Republic that could be used to promote concessions or regime change against the government) and “accidentally” airdrops it weapons and other supplies from time to time.
Even though the US publicly reiterated its commitment to destroying the LRA, it’s also done the same in regards to Daesh, but that doesn’t mean that it was being forthcoming in either of these cases and doesn’t seek to use them to its own advantage before later destroying them. The American strategic interest in an LRA resurgence is that it could force Museveni to rethink his earlier decision to withdrawal the Ugandan forces and thereby keep him distracted by external events at precisely the moment that Washington works to generate domestic disturbances against his government. Additionally, even if Museveni follows through with his withdrawal commitment, the possible outgrowth of renewed LRA attacks from the eastern CAR to the northeastern DRC could soon recreate the late-2008 circumstances whereby Uganda was pressed into a cross-border intervention. Again, this would fulfill the same objective as keeping the troops abroad, which is to divide Museveni’s attention between international and domestic crises in the hopes that these situational pressures will lead to the expected political concessions (be they policy tweaking or regime change).
Most relevant to the “Clash of Civilizations” template which the author suggests the US might try to engineer, cross-border LRA terrorist attacks from the northeastern DRC against Uganda could incite panic within the targeted state and generate large amounts of (internal) refugee flows, which could then be transformed into Weapons of Mass Migration for undermining the government’s stability. Even more alarming, however, would be if the LRA regained a foothold in its traditional area of operations in the West Nile sub-region and “Acholi Land”, both of which are grouped in a larger official government designation as the Northern Region and lay within close proximity to Uganda’s newly accessed oil deposits. The identity separateness that this part of the country exhibits as compared to its more populous and influential southern counterparts will be examined in the final scenario study about Identity (“Kingdom”) Federalism, but what’s salient to understand right now is that this is an area that’s already somewhat predisposed to anti-government sentiment and could correspondingly be inspired to once more rise up against the state if the locals came under the impression that the LRA was advancing at the military’s expense.
Although it’s impossible to accurately speculate on the further course of events that could unfold, it can be generally predicted that the overall population of Uganda is not in favor of living under a fundamentalist Christian dictatorship and would rise up against the LRA if it approached Kampala. Moreover, despite the LRA’s alliance with the Islamist ADF, the complete opposite visions that each of these groups have for a post-Museveni Uganda likely indicates that they’ll fall out almost immediately after the government is toppled, leading to sectarian warfare along the same template as the American-provoked one in the CAR after the fall of Bozize. Therefore, it’s most probable that the LRA isn’t seen by the US as an instrument of regime change and subsequent regime replacement against Museveni, but instead as a semi-controllable and comparatively easily influenced on-the-ground tool for stirring unrest around the DRC-Ugandan borderland and inside of the country itself, though that assessment could of course change if its revealed that the US might have made the more nefarious decision to plunge the country into the depths of destructive identity conflict as the ultimate means of sabotaging China’s Northern Transoceanic African Route.
The “Allied Democratic Forces” (ADF):
The other potential “civilizational disruptor” that will be looked at in the research is the ADF, an Islamist anti-government terrorist group with suspected links to both Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab. Now based in the DRC and thought to currently be comprised more of that country’s citizens than its neighbor’s, it started off in Uganda as a Sudanese-supported insurgent force against Museveni before being pushed across the border and becoming entrenched in the lawless northeastern corner of the DRC. The ADF has been in the DRC for so long, and has established such deep roots there in terms of its communal influence and recruit base, that it’s presently considered to be just as Congolese as it is Ugandan. In fact, the amount of local recruits that it has garnered is thought to have diluted the Islamist influence that its founder Jamil Mukulu had sought to imbibe it with. Additionally, this mastermind was apprehended in Tanzania last year and extradited back to Uganda, thus dealing a severe blow to the organization by undermining its leadership.
Setbacks And Successes
Complementary to that, while it’s not known whether Sudan has fully cut off its ties with the group as part of its détente with Uganda, it can be reasonably inferred that even if some low-level covert contacts still remain, that Khartoum would take efforts to make sure that the group’s focus wouldn’t be directed against Sudan’s new partners in Kampala. Nevertheless, the ADF curiously appears to be unfazed by all of the recent setbacks against it, continuing to carry out its machete attacks and other acts of terrorism such as crucifying civilians. Just like with the LRA, it would appear as though another foreign backer has joined the mix and is replacing the previous support that Sudan is no longer providing, again raising the legitimate question about whether this is the US or not.
The only direct evidence that could be procured of non-Sudanese outside support to the ADF is circumstantial, but it deals with northeastern Congolese locals accusing renegade Tanzanian UN troops of providing supplies to the insurgents, after which the DRC military attacked them in an internationally controversial engagement. Although this doesn’t necessarily implicate the US in any convincing way, the same strategic reasoning that was earlier explained in relation to the LRA also holds true for the ADF, namely that the group’s revived presence and active offensives could serve as geostrategically convenient agents of chaos in further upsetting the already fragile regional state of affairs and distracting Museveni’s attention away from possibly forthcoming domestic difficulties. In another clear alignment with the US’ potential strategy towards the LRA, the ADF’s cross-border attacks against the Ugandan state could either provoke another international intervention into the DRC or seriously jeopardize the stability of internal borderland areas like the restive Rwenzururu region, which could serve as a catalyst for further Identity Federalist tension.
The Pattern Of Attack
A structural pattern is now becoming apparent, whereby the LRA and ADF (both of which are allies) have the unique opportunity to destabilize different parts of Uganda with their cross-border activity. The LRA has some sympathy in the Northern Region (particularly in the West Nile sub-region and “Acholi Land”), whereas the ADF is most likely to be operational in the Western Region (specifically near Rwenzururu). What’s interesting is that while the LRA’s inroads in the Northern Region are mostly due to a shared identity and religious outlook, the ADF’s in the Western Region are largely opportunistic and have nothing to do with its Islamist goals. Actually, the 12% of Muslims that inhabit Uganda live mostly in the Eastern Region and as far away as possible from any prospective area of hostilities along the DRC border, though just like with a possible LRA offensive in the Northern Region, an ADF one in the Western Region (whether unilaterally enacted or done in conjunction with its LRA in the north) could instantly inspire panic and produce internal Weapons of Mass Migration.
To an extent even more pronounced than with the fundamentalist Christian LRA, the perception (not necessarily reality) of a fundamentalist Muslim ADF advance could provoke “civilizational conflict” by encouraging fearful Christian groups to take up arms against the supposed invaders or carry out ‘reprisal’ killings against the supposedly ‘untrustworthy’ Muslim community, such as what happened with the Christian “anti-Balaka” militia in the CAR after the advance of the Muslim Seleka. It’s by no means the author’s intention to suggest that this happen – not at all – but just that when looking at the pattern of regional conflict across the past two decades, sometimes all that it takes for a society to unravel is a carefully directed spark that sets civil relations aflame with identity hatred.
“Narrative Control” And Border Security
The perceived (key word) advance of fundamentalist Muslim insurgents (possibly even hand-in-hand with extreme Christian ones from the LRA) could be the trigger that sets off this destructive chain of events, ergo why it’s absolutely pivotal for the authorities to exercise “narrative control” (restrictions over conventional and social media) hand in hand with military prowess in hedging against this scenario. To add to that, the cross-border dangers that the DRC-inhabiting LRA and ADF pose to Uganda add extra urgency to the need to secure the shared frontier and prevent terrorist infiltration. Ironically, the DRC has become the same type of launching pad for anti-Ugandan activities as Uganda was vis-à-vis the DRC during the First and Second Congo Wars, thus representing the most pressing external threat to the country’s security, though one which pure military force alone has repeatedly proven insufficient in resolving.
From A Unitary Republic To A Federation Of Kingdoms?
Establishing that the greatest external risks to Uganda’s security come from the DRC-based LRA and ADF, it’s finally time to turn towards the country’s domestic front in analyzing how certain trends could be weaponized against the state. Other than the anti-government sentiment that’s already been discussed in the context of Color Revolution technology, the main issue that could serve to destabilize Uganda is the exploitation of the federalism movement by foreign intelligence agencies, chiefly the CIA in this case. In order to get to the point where all of this makes sense to an uninitiated observer, it’s appropriate to begin by describing the present situation with “Kingdoms” in the country and then explain how this relates to the Identity Federalism movement.
The 1995 Constitution of Uganda recognizes the presence of traditional cultural institutions within the country, which in practice became known as “Kingdoms”, and a 2005 amendment clarifies the role of their leaders. The author purposely includes the word kingdom in quotation marks in order to denote that it’s not necessarily the type of monarchy that an unaware outside might think that it is, but is instead more of an apolitical symbolic institution than a tangible element of the state. Still, the “Kingdoms” do have a specific territorial delineation that could be form the basis of future federal boundaries between the various entities, though it must be emphasized that all of Northern Uganda and part of Eastern Uganda lack this institution:
Additionally, the map above does not denote the Rwenzururu Kingdom’s boundaries in the western part of Toro Kingdom, as this entity was only recently created in 2008 and still remains controversial to this day. Also, the mentioning of “Acholi Land” should not be meant to signify that this is a separate Kingdom, but rather an area which some locals believe should have its own separate historical-cultural status on par with the existing recognized Kingdoms. It’s from this part of the country that Kony and his LRA originally hail, and they initially received communal support because of their “Acholi Nationalist” advocacy, which was opposed by Museveni in the years immediately after he came to power. The Acholi affair is actually more complex than it might seem, though the present research doesn’t intend to dive deeper into this topic. Nonetheless, it’s important for interested scholars to be aware that there’s actually a lot more to this issue than is being described in the current text just in case they’d like to carry out their own research.
The North-South And Intraregional Triggers:
Staying relevant to the topic of Hybrid Wars and exploring how Identity (“Kingdom”) Federalism factors in to this stratagem, it can be pointed out that Uganda could be broadly categorized into northern and southern halves based on the “Kingdom” criteria (though exempting the tiny southwestern sliver of the country that doesn’t have one). There are veritably an abundance of socio-political differences within each of these halves which prove that they are far from a uniform bloc, but for the purpose of the scenario investigation, it’s worthwhile to structurally view the country through this simplified perspective. The value in undertaking this exercise is to demonstrate how the country could be split into two separate political categories which coincidentally happen to neatly align along a north-south geographic axis. This in and of itself may or may not be of relevance depending upon how the federalization scenario develops, but it’s still of pertinence to political scientists who might find this overlap to be curious and could be inspired to study it further.
One intriguing set of facts that they might uncover is that the Uganda was ruled exclusively by northerners in the post-independence period before Museveni came to power, with former Presidents Obote and Amin being from that part of the country. Correspondingly, it could be extrapolated that northerners presided over the state for 24 years while the only southerner to hold power so far has been in office for 30. The conclusion that can be reached from this is that the south has been more instrumental than the north in shaping over half of Uganda’s post-independence history, a fact which could be employed by related interest groups in explaining the origins of their regional grievances and galvanizing the support of northerners to their cause.
To continue along with some additional analysis about each of these (almost) clear-cut geopolitical halves, and already accounting for the heterogeneous identity diversity inside of them, what notably stands out are the main trigger points of conflict that each of them have. “Acholi Land” in the North and Rwenzururu in the South are both susceptible to externally influenced destabilization attempts via the LRA and ADF, respectively, to say nothing of the preexisting problems that could “organically” set off unrest there. In regards to the northern trigger, this could take the form of ethnic-tribal (identity) warfare against the state, just as it previously did, while the southern one could see Rwenzururu’s supporters clashing with those from Toro who believe that the former was unfairly separated from the latter and has no historical right to exist. This particular conflict could have even more far-reaching destabilization consequences than the Acholi one, mostly because of the potential that it has for turning some of the cultural-historic “Kingdoms’” boundaries into political-military frontiers, starting with the Toro-Rwenzururu one and possibly setting off an immediate ‘security dilemma’ chain reaction among the rest that in turn leads to an unexpected crisis between the central government and these traditional institutions.
Buganda’s Anti-Central Balancing And The Periphery’s Balancing Against Buganda:
Out of all of the territorial formations in Uganda, whether official political ones such as the regions or unofficial historical-traditional ones such as the “Kingdoms”, the most influential entity apart from the central government is the “Kingdom” of Buganda. This part of the country is home to a significant amount of the population, but most importantly, it also contains the capital of Kampala and a strong share of the country’s economy, thereby giving it substantial prestige in the national framework. This hasn’t been lost on its representatives, who advocate from time to time for their informal unit to have more political-administrative rights. They remember the brief post-independence period from 1962-1967 when Uganda was a federal government, during which time their respective unit was granted considerable autonomy.
It’s this ‘golden age’ of ‘self-determination’ that Buganda’s federal supporters would like to see return, feeling as though they could more properly manage their regional affairs without the interference of the central government, which some believe is just siphoning off the territory’s resources in order to redistribute them to the peripheral regions. If historically compared to other similarly positioned sub-state entities, Buganda would most closely resemble the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR), in that the attitudes that were just described above are very reminiscent of those that were shared by Russians during the late Soviet period. The author is not implying that this necessarily means that the Republic of Uganda is in the last days of its existence, but that there are undeniable similarities between Buganda’s autonomy/federalization quest and the RSFSR’s one for more sovereignty beyond the existing federal privileges that it already had, and that the same fate that ultimately befell that USSR after the RSFSR pursued more independence could also repeat itself with Uganda if Buganda attempts something similar.
Likewise, just as much as the Bugandan elite and their supporters acknowledge their “Kingdom’s” unofficial prominence in national affairs and the role that it could exercise over the country at large, so too is the rest of the population aware of this as well. Even though pro-federalization sentiment isn’t as strong in other parts of the country as it is in Buganda, it’s not something to be blindly discounted. There’s a certain demagogic attractiveness that could be exploited in advocating that the peripheral areas band together against Buganda as a balancing measure, though it’s extremely unlikely that this train of thought would gather any traction unless tangible pro-federalization steps were taken by Buganda first. In any case, it’s very likely that any strong strides towards federalization by either side (Buganda or the periphery, whether only the “Kingdoms” or all of the country) would create a ‘federal security dilemma’ whereby each side races to secure its own interests amid what they believe to be a zero-sum game of domestic reformation at everyone else’s expense.
Museveni’s Calculations In Recognizing The “Kingdoms”:
The conclusions that are being made so far in the research point to the fact that the “Kingdoms” could serve as a trigger for the federalization of the state and possibly thereafter its dissolution, which thus begs the question as to why Museveni permitted the government to legally recognize their existence in the first place. To strategically conjecture about why this might be, and putting aside the possible explanation that it was an ‘unforeseen oversight’ and/or a glaring ‘mistake’, it’s possible that the President thought that he was masterfully mitigating some of the peripheral anti-Bugandan and Bugandan pro-federal sentiments through symbolic decentralization.
While being accused by some of his opponents of supporting “tribalism” in using this constitutional move to supposedly engineer a Machiavellian divide-and-rule structure, these two alleged imperatives are actually contradictory to Museveni’s desire to solidly centralize the state under his control and also clash with his own warnings against the dangers of “tribalism”.
It’s identity separatism as practiced through tribal/”kingdom” affiliations and not patriotic inclusive consolidation as Ugandans that dually threatens Museveni’s rule and risks sacrificing the country’s territorial integrity. Accepting this assessment as valid, then Museveni’s support for the 1995 Constitution’s recognition of the “Kingdoms” can be analyzed as a shrewd proactive gesture designed to placate proponents of anti-Bugandan and pro-federal policies before their demands got out of control and the demagogues began saying public opinion to their side, which could easily have been manipulated in order to incite their followers to carry out violent anti-government activity.
Foreign Interests In A Federal Uganda:
In principle, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a strategic decentralization or devolution of powers that aims to make the state more effective, so long as it’s agreed to by most of the citizens and is a completely domestic process that’s free from foreign influence. Once an outside state develops an interest in this process and begins to advance it within the targeted country, then it’s very probable that the envisioned political reformation from a unitary to a (semi-)federal will encounter some serious internal resistance, sometimes with the foreign actor’s purposeful intention of using the political polarization of this issue to provoke a civil conflict. Even in theoretically ‘pure’ situations where the entire process is endemic to the examined state, the move to decentralize or devolve the country could produce a sharp whiplash of public opposition, especially if it’s perceived as sacrificing the (oftentimes geographically central) majority’s material and/or political benefits for the sake of the (typically geographically peripheral) minority.
Federalization usually entails much more than just political-economic redistribution, as it could also lead to the creation of separate military forces within each newly federalized statelet. In the Ugandan case, no matter how perceptively or normatively equitable it may seem to be in terms of how some proponents might interpret this policy, the commensurate effect would be to fracture the Ugandan state along identity lines, weaken the composite strength of the erstwhile unitary whole (especially in military terms), and dangerously make all of the successor sub-state entities much more vulnerable to foreign divide-and-rule intrigue, to say nothing of the effect that this would have in initiating copy-cat processes all across the region. Just as the US sought to geostrategically transform the entire North African-Mideast region through the theater-wide “Arab Spring” Color Revolutions, so too might it have a plan to do something structurally comparable in Central Africa-East Africa through theater-wide Identity Federalism movements in order to prolong its unipolar hegemony.
Uganda has the exciting potential to link together China’s enterprising plans for spearheading an intermodal Northern Transoceanic African Route, which would connect the Indian and Atlantic Oceans and be the highlight of Beijing’s One Belt One Road policy towards the continent. For this reason, the US has a strategic interest in deepening its sway over Uganda in order to disrupt, control, or influence this multipolar megaproject, but President Museveni has been behaving quite independently lately and appears reluctant to return his country back to the unipolar fold. His chummy relations with Russia and China stand in stark opposition to the his scathing rebuke of the American-controlled ICC and other pillars of the global Washington Consensus, indicating that the decades-serving leader might be serious in finally pivoting Uganda away from its traditional geopolitical allies and rebalancing his country’s relations with multipolar states instead.
After a series of contentious regional military interventions, all of which other than the South Sudanese one have failed to establish a sustainable sphere of influence for Uganda (and by extent, its American ‘partner’), the country is now on the verge of drawing back nearly all of its foreign-deployed military forces to the homeland. While this might be due to apolitical considerations, it still can’t be blindly dismissed that the timing of this move is somehow related to Uganda’s decisive shift towards the multipolar world and its leadership’s proactive defense strategy in offsetting any punitive American intrigue that might result from it. Kampala might be calculating that the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces are better suited to defending the homeland from LRA and ADF cross-border infiltrative attacks if they focused more on internal border security than its external counterpart, having learned the lesson that foreign military might alone is not sufficient in stopping neighboring terrorist threats.
In all fairness, Museveni as a military man is inherently predisposed to an overreliance on military force in dealing with all manner of state challenges, but it seems like even he (belatedly) realized that his country’s western foreign deployments failed to achieve their stated objectives and that a serious strategic rethinking is in order. Time’s not necessarily on his side though, since it’s expected that the US will resort to some sort of destabilization practices in seeking to influence his pro-multipolar pivot and get him to reconsider the ‘benefits’ of his country’s traditional American ‘partnership’ (patronage). Whether it’s through the indirect exploitation of terrorist groups such as the LRA and ADF (in a similar manner as the US is doing with Daesh) or the cultivation of another Color Revolution movement, it seems pretty certain that the US will find an asymmetrical way of responding to China’s relative strategic advances in both the country and the region as a whole.
Concurrent with this, the ultimate move that the US could make would be to throw its full covert support behind the federalization movement in Uganda, knowing full well that its ‘success’ could easily initiate a destructive chain reaction of ‘Balkanized’ fragmentation all across the Central and East African space, making it ripe for a new age of divide-and-rule policies against the “tribalized” successor statelets.
Andrew Korybko is the American political commentator currently working for the Sputnik agency. He is the author of the monograph “Hybrid Wars: The Indirect Adaptive Approach To Regime Change” (2015). This text will be included into his forthcoming book on the theory of Hybrid Warfare.