Opposition activists in Uganda last Thursday held an unusual, creative protest in downtown Kampala that got the international media’s attention. They threw a mock surprise birthday party for President Yoweri Museveni – who has ruled the country since 1986, and was just “re-elected” in February for another four years – with a cake and presents, including doughnuts and mangoes. As Reuters reports:
The group says President Yoweri Museveni is 73, not the 67 that is officially claimed, which would make him ineligible to run for office again. Under Ugandan law, candidates must be under 75 and the next presidential election is due in 2016.
As they sang “Happy Birthday, Museveni” they were confronted by about 200 heavily armed riot police, witnesses said. The police quickly snatched the cake and gifts.
Three activist leaders were taken away. They were questioned and released on bond after a file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, police said.
Whether the activists were aware of it or not, they created a powerful and humorous dilemma action, where the regime would lose no matter what its response was. If the government would have decided to let the protest continue through downtown, they activists would only draw more attention to their cause. Alternatively, if Museveni broke up the action and arrested the cake, which he decided to do, it would make for a great photo op and shine a light on the lack of basic democratic freedoms in the country. Either way the opposition gains ground.