Special Reports

Game on between Uganda’s former liberation war allies


This 2016 election in Uganda is likely to be closely contested, with personal animosity seeping into the bigger political questions. Having removed presidential term limits in 2005 and, over 30 years, engineered a system in which he sits at the apex of decision-making, President Yoweri Museveni is not keen to leave. But the 'Old Man' will have to beat out his former doctor, Kizza Besigye, and former prime minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi to cling onto power.

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi (known as JPAM), the former prime minister and secretary general of Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM), is tired. He had an early meeting and then, indignity of indignities, he got stuck in traffic. We’re in Crested Towers, the high office block from where he used to run government business. Now it’s home to his nascent presidential campaign. The cause of the traffic jam was his estranged political partner, President Yoweri Museveni, whose convoy has the habit of causing chaos on the streets of the capital, Kampala. This is just one thing that Mbabazi, who recently switched from regime stalwart to opposition insurgent, is going to have to get used to.

When I last visited Uganda in March 2014, Museveni and Mbabazi were at each other’s throats. Mbabazi, the second-most-powerful man in the country, had been accused of developing parallel support structures within the ruling party to become its flag-bearer in the 2016 presidential election (he still denies this). Museveni, having removed presidential term limits in 2005 and, over 30 years, engineered a system in which he sits at the apex of decision-making, was not keen to leave. (His favoured eventual replacement would be his son, Muhoozi.)

Museveni responded to Mbabazi’s ambition by sacking him as prime minister, appointing a new secretary general of the NRM and announcing a plan for a 'Single Candidacy', that is, no one would stand against him for the party leadership. Click here to read the full report.

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