Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Uganda Presidential candidates
John Patrick Amama Mbabazi announced in June this year that he would compete for the position of chairman of the National Resistance Movement and party flag-bearer in the 2016 presidential elections. This brought to an end months of speculation triggered by first his dropping from the Cabinet in September 2014 and his ouster from the position of secretary general of the NRM in January 2015. While still maintaining he is a member of the NRM he forwent his right to challenge his long-time ally President Yoweri Museveni for the party’s leadership by declaring at the end of July, he would run for the presidency as an independent. Born in 1949 in Rukiga County of the present day Kabale district, Mbabazi decided early in life to study law when his family was disposed of their land for lack of representation in court. He did his secondary school at Kigezi College Butobere and Ntare School before joining Makerere University to study law in 1972. He served as a state attorney in the Attorney General’s office during Idi Amin’s regime after which he became the director of legal service of the Uganda National Liberation Army (UNLA). In 1981, he fled to Nairobi and then onwards to Sweden, where he helped set up the external wing of the National Resistance Movement. In 1986, he returned to Kampala after the NRA had overrun Kampala. He was the External Security Organisation’s (ESO) first Director General. He was a delegate to the Constituent Assembly in 1994 before going on to become a State Minister in charge of the presidency and the first substantive defence minister under the NRM government. He later became security minister before he was appointed prime minister in 2011. Mbabazi may have had his eye on the presidency for a while having famously admonished Dr. Kizza Besigye for “jumping the queue” when he broke away from the NRM to run for the presidency in 2001
Dr. Col. (rtd) Kizza Besigye will always be remembered for leading a party that became the first real opposition of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) just when multiparty democracy had been re-introduced in Uganda in 2005.He has stood against Yoweri Museveni three times, and lost every time. The first time he contested was in 2001 under the no-party (Movement system) era, the second time was in 2006 under the first multiparty election and the third in 2011. Besigye is married to former politician but now executive director of Oxfam, Winnie Byanyima and they have one child, a son called Anselm. Besigye was born in 1955, the second child in a family of six, whose parents died when he was still in primary school. He had his primary education at Kinyansano Primary School and Mbarara Junior School. Then he joined Kitante High School for his O’levels and Kigezi High School for his A’levels. In 1975, he joined Makerere University and graduated with a medical degree in 1980. He worked briefly at Mulago and Aga Khan hospitals in Kampala and Nairobi, before he joined Museveni’s liberation struggle. Besigye was a member of the Uganda Patriotic Movement (UPM), formed to contest the 1980 elections with Museveni as party leader and presidential candidate. He had just graduated with a medical degree from Makerere University. When Museveni rejected the election results, formed the Popular Resistance Army (PRA), and started a guerrilla war against the Obote II government, Besigye joined them after he was detained and tortured by security agents of the day. After the NRA came to power in 1986, Besigye, then 29 years old, was appointed state minister for internal affairs, and later state minister for defence and the National Political Commissar. Between 1991, when he became Commanding Officer of the Mechanised Regiment in Masaka, and 1999 when he retired from the army at the rank of Colonel, he had also served as the chief of logistics and engineering, and a Senior Military Adviser to the Ministry of Defence. Besigye who became increasingly critical of the Movement’s workings had a run in with army authorities before he was allowed to leave the army in 2000. After the 2001 elections, Reform Agenda was merged with a number of smaller pressure groups that had emerged opposing the government, to form the political party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC). Headquartered at Najjanankumbi, FDC has gone on to become the country’s largest opposition party, with the biggest number of opposition MPs in Parliament since 2006. After his loss in 2011 Besigye swore he would never compete again, stepping down as President of FDC. But in 2015 he had a change of heart and is canvassing for support to become FDC’s presidential flag bearer yet again -.
Museveni has matured into a shrewd political operator and wisened statesman since he took power in 1986. Inheriting a shell of a country the NRM suspended partisan politics to concentrate on reviving the economy and ridding the country of insecurity. An adoption of donor prescribed liberal economic policies in the late 1980s, despite previously held convictions to the contrary, the government broke up state owned produce marketing monopolies, liberalised the trade in foreign exchange, privatized state enterprises and invited competition in the key sectors of telecommunications, banking and electricity generation and distribution. The net effect of these reforms was to see the economy growing at an annual average rate of six percent during the NRM’s tenure, a reduction in donor dependency as revenue collections have jumped a thousand fold and a more diversified export base and economy. The economy has recovered and surpassed its peak period in the early 1970s. In every economic sector – commerce, industry and infrastructure development there has been an exponential growth in capacity in the last three decades. Similar progress has been mirrored in the social sectors – school enrollments, access to health care and general institutional development. In addition there has been a major overhaul and expansion of key infrastructure like roads and telecommunications. Twenty years of no-party rule gave way to a return to multi-party politics in 2006, which has seen the NRM’s hold on power increase rather than diminish as infighting in the newly resuscitated parties has meant they have failed to muster a credible challenge to Museveni and his party’s hold on power. The ruling NRM has enjoyed a revival of its own as the older players have left the stage or broken off to challenge it and newer players have been incorporated. But a key political development has been the institutionalisation of regular elections at every level of political life. Between 1962 and 1986 there had been two general elections but under the NRM 2016 will be fifth general election. Born in Ntungamo in southwestern Uganda in 1944 to Amos Kaguta, a cattle keeper, and Esteri Kokundeka, Museveni in his book “Sowing the Mustard Seed”, he was given his name in honour of the Seventh Regiment of the King’s African Rifles, the British colonial army in which many Ugandans served during World War II. At the time of Museveni’s birth, many of them were returning home. He attended Kyamate Primary School in Ntungamo, Mbarara High School and Ntare School. In 1967, he went to the University of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, where he studied economics and political science. While at university, he formed the University Students’ African Revolutionary Front, an activist group whose membership included Eriya Kategaya, James Wapakhabulo and Martin Mwesiga. He also led a student delegation to the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) territory in Mozambique, then under Portuguese rule. At the time, Museveni was an admirer of the Argentine revolutionary, Che Guevera. After his university education in 1970 at the age of 26, Museveni joined government service. Working in government helped Museveni gain insights and knowledge in running a government. When Maj. Gen. Idi Amin seized power in a January 1971 military coup, Museveni fled to Tanzania. There, he started organising clandestine squads to try and overthrow Amin’s government. With major groups in Mbale, Gulu, Kampala and Mbarara, he in 1972 took part in an attack against Amin that went horribly wrong. In October 1978, Amin ordered the invasion of Tanzania in order to claim the Kagera province for Uganda. By this time, Museveni had already trained a significant number of fighters in his Front for National Salvation (FRONASA). In 1979, just after the war that overthrew Idi Amin, Obote dismissed Museveni’s contribution under his Front for National Salvation (FRONASA) as ‘small’ and irrelevant. However, somehow Museveni ended up as the country’s Minister of Defence after the fall of Amin. When Museveni went to the bush in 1981, Obote’s government dismissed the move as ‘stupid and bound to fail’. “I have heard that some people have gone to the bush, we shall find them there and leave them there,” Obote said of Museveni’s less than 100 fighters. Obote’s functionaries called the rebels ‘bandits’ who would be defeated soon. The second overthrow of the Obote in July 1985 and the ascendance to power by the General Tito Okello military only weakened rather than strengthened the government. Peace talks in Nairobi between the government and the Museveni’s National Resistance Movement proved ineffective with the NRA taking over Kampala soon after their collapse.