Museveni Fears a Rival Unlike Any Other He Has Faced in Uganda

Museveni Fears a Rival Unlike Any Other He Has Faced in Uganda
Ugandan pop star Robert Kyagulanyi, better known as Bobi Wine, center, wearing a beret, is hugged by a supporter as he gets into an ambulance after leaving a courthouse in Gulu, Uganda, Aug. 27, 2018 (AP photo).

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni knows how to take down a rival. The wreckage of various careers are scattered across his 33-year rule—politicians and military officers, unwilling to bend to his will or accept his largesse, who were derailed by well-timed scandals, arrests or worse. But with the detention and apparent torture this month of 36-year-old pop star-turned-politician Robert Kyagulanyi, better known to Ugandans as Bobi Wine, has Museveni finally overreached?

Over more than three decades, Museveni has faced only one legitimate political challenger. Kizza Besigye was part of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement, or NRM, during the Bush War that brought him to power in 1986 and served in the early days of the subsequent administration. Accusing Museveni of slipping into dictatorship, Besigye challenged him for the presidency in 2001 and in every election since. He lost each time, often under the shadow of questionable vote-counting.

When not manipulating elections, Museveni’s regime has turned to violence and intimidation to control Besigye and limit his activities. Security forces have beaten him and shot him with rubber bullets. He has been arrested countless times and is under constant surveillance. And while the treatment has sparked outrage and international censure, it has essentially worked for Museveni by helping prevent Besigye from galvanizing a movement that could upend his regime.

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