Book Reviews

Aili Mari Tripp “Museveni’s Uganda: Paradoxes of Power in a Hybrid Regime”:

Lynne Rienner Publishers, London: UK, 2010

Aili Mari Tripp’s book is essential reading for anyone wishing to understand Uganda under the National Resistance Movement of Mr Yoweri Museveni. Tripp’s well researched book examines the regime from 1986 when the NRM came to power to 2010. This review is written shortly before the February 2016 general election whose result will determine whether Museveni is returned to power for yet another term after 30 years as President.

There have been some significant recent changes such as the fall out between Mr Museveni and two other powerful men in the party: first Mr Amama Mbabazi who was regarded as the most powerful man in the party after Museveni and who decided to run against his boss and second General David Sejjusa (formerly Tinyefuza), former head of Military Intelligence who is undergoing trial in the military court for various offences including insubordination and engaging in politics. But these changes only serve to underline the book’s characterisation of the regime.

Museveni came to power following a bloody guerrilla war in which an estimated 300,000 people, mostly civilians, lost their lives. The discipline and near asceticism of his National Resistance Army and his resolve to bring “a fundamental change” in Uganda’s politics gave rise to hopes both inside and outside the country that his administration would be different from the authoritarian regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

Tripp observes that to achieve national unity, Museveni suspended political parties, which were associated with sectarianism and blamed for unprincipled divisions in the body politic, and formed a “no-party” broad-based government involving leaders from the old parties and other fighting groups. But in time the broad-base began to falter as Museveni showed signs of clinging to power instead of transiting to multiparty politics and as nepotism undermined the principle of individual merit.

Tripp’s thesis is that Museveni’s government has been riddled with contradictions. She defines the regime as neither democratic nor authoritarian, but as hybrid and semi-authoritarian. Semi-authoritarian regimes “deliberately combine the rhetoric of liberal democracy with illiberal rule” (p. 14). That might explain why, while Museveni opened up political space, placed women in key government positions and allowed for relative freedom of the press, both police and army sit uneasily with civil society and the opposition.

Tripp says that Museveni’s regime is not unique, but is similar to many semi-authoritarian regimes in Africa and the developing world that are emerging from totalitarianism and authoritarianism, but cannot actually be regarded as democratic. She focuses attention not just on the character of individual actors such as Museveni, but on structure and institution. For this reason, quite apart from the historical detail of the Museveni regime, the book is significant.

Revd Amos Kasibante

We have also received notice of two books by UCA member John Morris, who taught in Uganda from 1963-1971 and numbers Archbishop Sentamu among his former students!

Suffering: if God exists why doesn’t he stop it?

Contemporary Creed: reasonable pathways through the problems of Christian beliefs and ethics

Further information is available at