Walt Disney’s latest fairy tale has the added virtue of being based on a true story. Directed by acclaimed Indian filmmaker Mira Nair, The Queen of Katwe — which is scheduled for release early next year — follows the life story of Phiona Mutesi, an AIDS orphan who grew up in a slum in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, and rose to international fame as a chess prodigy.

The movie’s producers seem to be betting that American audiences will recognize it as a familiar rags-to-riches tale, an East African version of Slumdog Millionaire. But audiences in Uganda will likely see a parable that hits closer to home. Mutesi is a so-called “Museveni baby,” one of millions of Ugandans born after 1986, when President Yoweri Museveni took power. It’s a demographic group that has become an unpredictable majority in Uganda and the principal battleground for next year’s general elections.

After nearly 30 years at the helm, Museveni is facing his toughest race yet. On the ballot will be the president’s longtime political ally, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who also served as the secretary-general of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) until he was fired last year. Museveni also faces a challenge from Kizza Besigye, who was the president’s personal physician during the Bush War that brought him to power. Besigye has run unsuccessfully against Museveni in the last three elections. The strategies of all three candidates have focused on recruiting young voters by exploiting the main crisis facing Museveni babies — a lack of jobs and economic opportunity for young people.

Angelo Izama
Foreign Policy Magazine

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