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Obama Urged to Back Up Africa Democracy Call With Action

FILE - Uganda's main opposition leader and Inter Party flag bearer, Dr. Kiiza Besigye, addresses his supporters at Masaka Lyantonde, about 200 kms west of Kampala capital Uganda. Saturday, Nov. 6, 2010.

The former leader of Uganda’s opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) said U.S. President Barack Obama’s criticism of African leaders clinging to office beyond their terms is not backed by concrete action.

Speaking Tuesday to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Obama warned the continent’s democratic progress is at risk from leaders who refuse to step aside when their terms end.

Kizza Besigye said that if Obama is serious about encouraging democracy in Africa, then there must be consequences for those who don’t embrace it and encouragement for those striving to adhere to democratic principles.

“I think what is most prominent in his engagement with the political process in Africa is that his words are not backed by action. If you are talking about encouraging democracy, encouraging peaceful change of leadership in Africa, then there must be action that encourages that, there must be consequences for those who don’t follow that kind of direction [and] there must be encouragement for those who strive to bring that to happen in Africa," he said.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been in power for nearly 30 years. Besigye said Museveni has kept himself in power since manipulating a 1995 constitution which had placed limits on presidential terms.

“Unfortunately, it was removed on the very test it had because, in 2005, President Museveni was completing the second term under that constitution. But, unfortunately, he being the only person in Uganda affected by that provision did everything to cause its removal from the constitution,” he said.

Besigye who unsuccessfully contested in three consecutive presidential elections (2001, 2006, and 2011) is seeking the nomination of his party for the 2016 election. He said that because all three elections were marred by irregularities, every Ugandan who believes in democracy must work for a free and fair electoral process.

“There has been a very strong demand throughout the country for fundamental electoral reform to be undertaken ahead of the next election, and I am coming into this process primarily to pursue that demand, to rally the population so that it’s not just a demand that remains on paper, but that the whole control can put the force of the people’s will behind it, and that we force reforms to be undertaken ahead of the next election,” Besigye said.

Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi is seeking the nomination of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM). The deadline for filing nomination forms is July 31.

Besigye, who himself was once a member of the NRM, had been quoted in the local media as saying that Mbabazi was no different from Museveni. He said he will support anyone who recognizes the government has failed the people.

“I strongly support Mr. Mbabazi in taking a firmed stance of saying you know the regime I have been serving was on the wrong path and I would like to join my fellow citizens who are challenging this wrong path in correcting it. Then, obviously, I will embrace him and work together with him,” Besigye said.

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