The arrest this month of a 35-year-old legislator who calls himself “Ghetto President” has sparked fierce street protests in Uganda. Musician-turned-MP Robert Kyagulanyi represents a new challenge to President Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986.
Museveni has won praise in the West for his support against militant Islam and his role as power broker in the volatile Great Lakes Region. Uganda has also welcomed foreign investors such as France’s Total, China’s CNOOC and Britain’s Tullow as part of a plan to start pumping oil from 2021.
But the 74-year-old leader’s move to sign a law scrapping a 75-year age limit has prompted many Ugandans to believe he wants to remain in power indefinitely.
Opposition to him has been galvanized by Kyagulanyi, who according to his backers was beaten and tortured after he was arrested on Aug. 14 for his role in the stoning of Museveni’s convoy.
He was unable to stand without help when he appeared in a military court last week to face charges, subsequently dropped, of illegal weapons possession. He was then charged with treason in a civilian court before being granted bail.
Though many Ugandans have long complained of worsening government services, rising crime and widespread corruption, there has not been a politician broadly popular enough – especially among the young – to challenge the status quo.
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