During his 28-year stint in power Yoweri Museveni has increasingly come to rely on patronage networks to shore up his position, combined skilfully with the odd flourish of populism and targeted acts of repression. However, the need to balance aid suspensions, salary demands from public sector workers, and large infrastructure-financing requirements for key national development projects is demanding ever more careful management, as speculation regarding his intention to run in the 2016 presidential election mounts.

With the first discovery of commercially viable oil made in 2006, Museveni might have reasonably expected that he, or his anointed successor, would be able to draw on oil revenues to sustain his extensive patronage networks in the run up to the 2016 elections. No such luck. Current figures from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development estimate the country’s reserves to be approximately 3.5 billion barrels, revised up from the 2.5 billion estimates for which analysts forecasted a boost to government revenues of up to USD2bn annually for a twenty year period. However, debates and disagreements concerning licensing processes and refining requirements have seriously delayed developments in the sector, meaning a tentative start date for production of 2016/17 is a best case scenario.

Another piece of bad news for the treasury or campaign-chest (the two are of course closely connected) was the suspension of aid by several donors in late 2012 following evidence of the misuse of donor funds through the Prime Minister’s Office. Ireland and Denmark even asked for a return of the missing sums. Estimates of the amount of aid lost equate to 7% of the FY13 budget or 1.5% GDP, seriously hampering the government’s infrastructure development plans and investment in public services. The recent cut off in aid could well be what’s fuelling recent developments in oil governance. Recent months have seen some progress with the passing of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act and the Petroleum (Refining, Conversion, Transmission and Midstream Storage) Act earlier this year, and the recent issuance of Uganda’s first production license to China’s CNOOC Ltd. However, in the short term the political elite will need to locate alternative funds or fall-back on other strategies for maintaining its position.

Museveni is nevertheless prepared as always. The President has a range of other means at his disposal to secure his place at the top. Top of the list is quickly and deftly seeing off potential opponents as they emerge. Recent concessions made to the Buganda (a large subnational Kingdom which yields influence given its three million voters, in which the government returned long lobbied for assets served to reduce the traction that ex-Vice President Professor Gilbert Bukenya and General Sejusa were finding. Second, the government continues to use a strong hand with the media and civil society protestors – intimidation, threats and closures have become commonplace in recent years. The recent Public Order Management bill has also strengthened the police’s hand by giving them the discretionary power to break up any meeting of three or more people that they believe might be political. Finally, we can always expect Museveni to fall back on some populist measures when elections draw closer – whether it’s releasing another rap or the more traditional hand-outs at public or youth rallies

Article was written By  Kathryn Brooks for http://www.africapractice.com