Foreign Policy Blogs

Prices and politics fuel Uganda protests

President Yoweri Museveni’s government in Uganda has cracked down on the latest “Walk to Work” day organized by his political rivals.  This campaign is designed to protest rising fuel and food prices, putting food purchases out of reach of many of Uganda’s urban poor.

Drought conditions in eastern Africa have driven up food prices and instability in oil markets have added additional costs to food transportation.  These factors may be beyond Museveni’s control, leading to accusations of “political opportunism” by Museveni’s rivals, who have not only highlighted their issues through protest, but seized upon his public statements toward high food prices:

“When food prices go up, yes people in towns suffer. But farmers are very happy,” said Museveni.  Farmers are wondering what [opposition leader Kizza] Besigye is talking about. That prices have gone up is good for them.”

At the same time, as the World Bank estimates that staples like maize have inceased in price by 114% in Uganda, citizens have gone back to raising their own food in home gardens to provide for themselves.  For Uganda’s 1.2 million living with HIV/AIDS, the lack of food and even the exertion of raising food is an extra danger.

As the protests have gathered momentum, Museveni has sought to defuse the opposition momentum saying,  “‘If Besigye demonstrates, will it bring international oil prices down because he has demonstrated? Will it rain because Besigye has demonstrated?” He warned that continued protests would actually drive food prices hire as growers and transporters will fear losing business in the violence.

Posted by Michael Lucivero.