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Uganda’s Opposition Alliance Fails to Choose a Single Candidate

  • James Butty

Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meeting at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

Uganda opposition leaders, from left to right: Forum for Democratic Change, Dr. Kizza Besigye, former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Democratic Party President Norber Mao meeting at the Democratic Alliance office in Kampala, Sept. 18, 2015.

In Uganda, the opposition Democratic Alliance (TDA) has failed to choose a single candidate to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 presidential election after nearly a week of deliberation.

The two main candidates for the alliance’s leadership were Dr. Kizza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), Uganda’s main opposition party, and former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi of the Go Forward Team.

Mao Nobert, president of the opposition Democratic Party and a supporter of Mbabazi’s candidacy, said the alliance could not reach a consensus because Besigye has not conceded even though 7 out of the 9 entities that make up the alliance support Mbabazi as the consensus candidate.

On the other hand, Besigye’s supporters believe he should be the alliance’s candidate because he has the most popular appeal in the country.

Nobert said Besigye and Mbabazi will address the Ugandan people Friday at separate news conferences apparently to announce they are going into next year’s election independently.

“We have not been able to reach a consensus because for us those who dissent declare that they will live with the majority position. In fact out of the 9 entities in the TDA, you can say 7 have chosen to support Honorable Amama Mbabazi,” he said.

Nobert said he expects the alliance will continue with or without Besigye and his supporters. At the same time, he suspects Besigye and his supporters will begin to put in place their own strategy for the 2016 election while Mbabazi’s team will do the same.

“We will discuss whether we can agree on how to cooperate, but the truth is we have reached a fork in the road and each group has chosen a different path. We hope the destination is the same because the goal of the alliance is to unite the democratic forces and win in 2016,” Nobert said.

Nobert said the most likely challenger who can defeat President Museveni is Mbabazi.

“First and foremost I think being a newcomer to the opposition he (Mbabazi) brings the most recent information about Museveni, the man, the machine and the mindset. Secondly, I do believe sincerely that the public respect novelty. In every society the people respect something new, they gravitate around it, especially when the old has not made a lot of traction, Nobert said.

Besigye was elected earlier this month as his party’s candidate to challenge President Yoweri Museveni in the 2016 presidential election. This will be his fourth time trying to unseat Museveni who has been in power for almost 30 years.

He has said he lost the three previous elections in which he was a candidate (2001, 2006, and 2011) because all three were marred by major irregularities. Besigye has therefore made electoral reform in Uganda his mission.

His supporters believe he should be the alliance’s candidate because he has the most popular appeal in the country.

Nobert said without disregarding the claim of vote-rigging, Besigye’s vote share has been declining in recent years.

“Opinion polls have been more in favor of Mbabazi. So, Col. Besigye can talk about change, but I think Honorable Mbabazi can cause that change,” Nobert said.

He denied the TDA’s inability to agree on a single candidate will most likely lead to President Museveni’s reelection. Nobert said the answer to defeating Museveni is opposition unity.

“Obviously Mr. Museveni is also capable of fishing in troubled waters. So he’s definitely undermining the opposition unity through negative propaganda and pressure on some of vulnerable members of our team. We should not give him the opportunity, and the answer to that is unity. We have to unite. We cannot afford to be in disarray,” Nobert said.

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