Uganda’s 2016 Presidential Election

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

Elections in Uganda are coming up in February and March. Since I joined the US State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) I’ve received several election-related security messages. The safari doesn’t reach Uganda until March, so we will miss most of the election hubbub.

Ugandan general elections are held on February 18 and local elections between February 24 and March 10. During Uganda’s general electoral period from February through March, the State Department is urging US citizens to exercise “caution”. As usual they recommend avoiding political rallies, polling centers, demonstrations, and crowds.

Nine candidates are running for president, but there are three main contenders:

  • Kizza Besigye
  • John Patrick Amama Mbabazi
  • Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni
Dr. Kizza Besigye

Dr. Kizza Besigye

Kizza Besigye

For the last 15 years Kizza Besigye challenged the Uganda’s incumbent president but declared defeat. This year the physician and retired colonel is running on the ticket of the largest opposition party, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Besigye spent time in jail after he was arrested and charged with multiple criminal offenses committed during previous presidential campaigns. In 2006 he rejected the outcome of Uganda’s presidential election. The Supreme Court upheld Museveni’s re-election, despite finding electoral irregularities including bribing, threats, violence, and preventing citizens from voting. In the run-up to February 2016 elections, Besigye has been prevented from addressing political rallies.

Dr. Kizza Besigye Human Right Activist

Dr. Kizza Besigye Human Right Activist

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi

Former Ugandan Prime Minister John Patrick Amama Mbabazi is another political rival of President Museveni.  Mbabazi calls his movement for the presidency “Go Forward” and asks the Ugandan people “Do you want a change, or do you want more of the same?” A familiar political tactic….

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi

After he announced he would run against President Museveni, Mbabazi was fired from his prime ministerial role. Like Besigye, he is not allowed to speak at public rallies and was arrested at least once in the run-up to the election polls.

“Electoral change is the message of Amama Mbabazi’s campaign, which has attracted much interest, locally and internationally. For years, Mbabazi was at the heart of the National Resistance Movement (NRM) that has ruled Uganda since 1986. He’s served in the government for more than 20 years and was prime minister between 2011 and 2014. In 2015, Mbabazi made a dramatic break with President Museveni by announcing his intention to run against him in the February 2016 election.”

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi

John Patrick Amama Mbabazi

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni

During the last two months, President Museveni has spent $7 million on his re-election campaign. President of Uganda since January 29, 1986, if he wins the 2016 election it will be his fifth term in a row giving him over 30 years as Uganda’s president. Museveni is no stranger to political turmoil. He was involved in rebellions that toppled Ugandan leaders Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni

Six key issues identified for Uganda’s next government include:

  1. Job Creation
  2. Improved Services
  3. Debt Reduction
  4. Trust Building
  5. Disbanding Militias
  6. Managing Federalist Demands


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