Uganda’s Mbabazi to run for president as independent candidate

Amama Mbabazi

Amama Mbabazi

Former Prime Minister of Uganda John Patrick Amama Mbabazi has finally declared he will contest next year’s presidential election as an independent.

Mbabazi’s declaration ends weeks of legal limbo he was in given his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has been holding on to clear the longtime party stalwart to compete with President Yoweri Museveni for the party’s nomination.

Ever since he declared his presidential bid in June, the founding member of the NRM has found himself in trouble as neither his party leadership nor the country’s Police could clear him to officially campaign.

Laying out the rationale for his highly anticipated independent candidacy, the former NRM Secretary General says over the past several weeks “unfortunately, my declaration has been met with great hostility by the top party leadership of NRM.”

Amama Mbabazi, adds in a press statement “similarly, the use of some elements of the Police in internal party affairs is indicative of the extent to which the top party leadership is willing to go in order to stop me from contesting.”

Mbabazi, along with his daughter, were arrested and detained by the police on July 9, en route to Eastern Uganda town of Mbale to “consult” with voters. That same day the police arrested and detained Dr. Kizza Besigye, the main opposition figure in Uganda with the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

Kizza Besigye addressing supporters

Kizza Besigye addressing supporters

In Mbabazi’s case the Uganda Police said the arrests were “preventive” in nature to avoid what would have been a serious confrontation with the police in Mbale town, where police were tightly patrolling every street and shop.

Mbabazi and the NRM have since tried to reach a consensus on how the former could carry on with his campaigning in vain.

He recently declined to pay the party nomination fee of Ugsh 20 million and questioned the ruling party’s nomination process and rules and regulation. NRM Electoral Commission Chairman Tanga Odoi has accused Mbabazi of flouting and criticizing the very rules and regulations he put in place.

“The former prime minister drafted the constitution which I am using, I want to thank him for testing the waters,” Odoi was quoted as saying.

In Friday’s statement, Mbabazi said “even the rules and regulations, full of all sorts of snares and illegalities, were obviously created with my candidacy in mind.”

Mbabazi today announced “And so I have decided that I will not stand in NRM as a flag-bearer but I will carry on with my intentions; and when the time comes, I Will Be Nominated as a presidential candidate for 2016 by the National Electoral Commission.”

Mbabazi however, maintains he is still an NRM member urges the entire party to reexamine itself and right the wrongs.

His declaration to run as an independent comes the same day the Chairman of the NRM and President of Uganda for 29 years, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has picked up forms to contest for his party’s nomination for president. He is unopposed in the NRM and is the favourite to win the forthcoming presidential poll.

Meanwhile Dr. Kizza Besigye and Former Army Commander, General Mugisha Muntu are fighting for FDC’s nomination. Col. (rtd) Besigye, Museveni’s former personal doctor during the 1980s liberation struggle, and three-time presidential candidate is drawing huge crowds across the country.

“I have been to the East and Western parts of the country. In all these areas everybody is ready for change.” Besigye, who has lost to Museveni in the last three elections told supporters in Mpigi Town.

Below is the full statement by Mbabazi

Press Statement by the Rt. Honourable Amama Mbabazi 

Members of the Press 

Good Morning. 

Six weeks ago I came before the Ugandan people to declare my intention to stand for President in the 2016 Presidential election.

I did so with the full understanding that the matter of the presidency is not one to be taken lightly. It is not merely a great privilege but a profound responsibility. For that reason, I took some time to ponder this issue: where I wanted Uganda to go as opposed to where we are today.

 

These are questions I began to ask myself decades ago as a student and whilst much has changed, much remains the same. For me what is as alive today as it was back then is a desire to serve my country and a hunger for justice, for fairness and for true prosperity. These things are unyielding and it is in this vein that I address you again today. 

My reasons for standing are simple. I believe it is time for two changes: a change in governance and a change of guard. A peaceful transition with no bloodshed. My deepest desire is to restore good governance and steer that peaceful transition of power from one generation to the next. 

The coming election is not simply about a change of leader, but about changing systems in Uganda for this generation and generations to come. Never has the truth of this matter been more apparent to me than in the last six weeks in which, unfortunately, my declaration has been met with great hostility by the top party leadership of NRM. 

The fact of the matter is NRM has sought to obstruct my intentions completely. The party’s pressuring of the National Electoral Commission was evident in the EC’s attempt to renege on their initial position regarding my consultations by requesting me to “harmonise” my schedule with the party.

Similarly, the use of some elements of the Police in internal party affairs is indicative of the extent to which the top party leadership is willing to go in order to stop me from contesting. Even the rules and regulations, full of all sorts of snares and illegalities, were obviously created with my candidacy in mind.

But this obstruction is not the only unlawful thing that has taken place. The arrests, torture and in some cases near week-long disappearances of my supporters, as well as the arrest of Dr. Kizza Besigye, are an obscene violation of the basic human rights guaranteed by our Constitution. The arrest of my daughter, as well as my own, was simply illegitimate and only served to illuminate the lawless forces at work in this nation; the lawless forces whose intentions we, united and strong, will defeat. 

Sadly, that the top command of the party has chosen to boldly disregard the National Constitution means that it cares nothing for NRM’s legacy of peace, freedom and stability. More importantly, it means that the top leadership of NRM is no longer the keeper of democracy and rule of law. In this, I cannot be an accomplice.

And so I have decided that I will not stand in NRM as a flag-bearer but I will carry on with my intentions; and when the time comes, I Will Be Nominated as a presidential candidate for 2016 by the National Electoral Commission. 

I remain eternally committed to the core values of our struggle. In everything I do, I will continue to embody the true objectives and identity of the National Resistance Movement. The principles of NRM are noble and just; they were and are still based upon a desire for a better Uganda but as a founding-member, lawyer and patriotic citizen I will not bind myself to illegalities. 

This is a personal choice, one that we are all free to make. 

Now, what does this mean for NRM? It means that NRM must re-examine itself and that the top leadership must decide whether to continue on this path or whether the NRM party, its reputation and the enduring principles upon which it was founded are ultimately more important than the singular political dreams of some. 

I say this to my NRM comrades, we have achieved so much in the last thirty years. Let’s not reverse our gains. It is my hope that the NRM I have given decades of my life will self correct and return to true form in the near future. 

To everyone who has asked for clarity in the last few weeks: I am going to start a journey. At the end of this journey I will be the president of Uganda. I call on everyone who dares to believe, all those without hope and all who feel fear I call on all those who know in their hearts that it’s time to take this country forward: join me.