The national executive of Uganda’s National Resistance Movement endorsed President Yoweri Museveni as the party’s candidate in an election set for February as he looks to extend his 24-year rule of the East African nation.
“He was unopposed as the presidential candidate,” Lindah Nabusayi, the deputy president’s press secretary, said today by phone from the capital, Kampala.
Museveni has ruled Uganda since January 1986, when he seized power following a five-year guerrilla war against the regimes of former presidents Apollo Milton Obote and Okello Lutwa. Under his leadership, the country’s economy has expanded sixfold to 34.2 trillion shillings ($15.1 billion) over the past 24 years, Finance Minister Syda Bbumba said in her budget speech in June.
The 66-year-old leader has also been lauded by donors for combating HIV/AIDS, cutting prevalence levels among Ugandan adults to 6.4 percent from about 18 percent in the early 1990s, according to the Uganda AIDS Commission.
Museveni won elections in 1996, 2001 and 2006, though the country’s Supreme Court ruled that the last two votes were marred by irregularities. He was backed by 75 percent of the population in 1996, 69 percent in 2001 and 59 percent in 2006.
“Museveni is still popular in rural areas, although the winning margin will be smaller than previous elections,” said Simon Peter Rutabajuka, executive director of the Center for Basic Research, a Kampala-based group that analyzes democracy in Uganda. “His popularity in urban areas continues to decline with his prolonged stay in power.”
Museveni’s main challenger will be Kizza Besigye, leader of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, who was on Aug. 31 named as a joint candidate by a coalition of four parties. Other members of the coalition, known as the Inter-Party Cooperation, are the Conservative Party, the Social Democratic Party and the Justice Forum.
An opinion poll by the Daily Monitor newspaper in May showed Museveni leading with 43 percent of the vote, while Besigye had the support of 35 percent.
This will be the third time that Besigye, 54, has challenged Museveni in an election. He was Museveni’s physician during the 1981-1986 guerilla war. The two fell out in 2000 after Besigye alleged corruption in the government and ran for the presidency the following year.
Uganda is Africa’s biggest grower of robusta coffee and is set to become an oil producer when London-based Tullow Oil Plc begins production at the Kasamene field next year. The country has an estimated 2.5 billion barrels of oil, with 1 billion barrels already discovered, according to Tullow.
To contact the reporter on this story: Fred Ojambo in Kampala via Johannesburg at firstname.lastname@example.org.