Uganda’s former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, said he will run as an independent candidate in the country’s 2016 presidential election after the ruling party allegedly blocked his nomination for its ticket. The popular opposition politician is the second to announce a presidential campaign against Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s bid for a sixth term.
“I have decided that I will not stand in [National Resistance Movement] as a flag-bearer but I will carry on with my intentions,” Mbabazi said, according to Reuters.
Mbabazi said he was forced to join the presidential race as an independent after what he called “the obscene manner” in which Museveni’s ruling political faction undermined his constitutional rights and obstructed his ambitions, according to local station NTV-Uganda. The ex-premier accused the National Resistance Movement of using security services and other measures to illegally prevent him from standing on its ballot, which Mbabazi said was “indicative of the extent to which the top party leadership is willing to go in order to stop me from contesting,” according to Reuters.
However, Museveni’s spokesman, Don Wanyama, warned that the former prime minister was playing “victim” and denied the accusations. He said Mbabazi had switched to an independent ticket because he knew he could not defeat Museveni for the ruling party’s presidential candidacy.
“He’s trying to play the victim because he’s seeking an international audience and sympathy,” Wanyama told Reuters on Friday.
The Ugandan president sacked Mbabazi from his premier position last year amid a deepening power struggle. Ugandan police arrested Mbabazi in July along with Kizza Besigye, the second opposition candidate, and accused them of violating the East African country’s electoral and public order management laws. The pair was released without charges 12 hours later, but their arrest sparked violent protests in the central town of Kasangatia.
Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for nearly 30 years, is widely expected to be elected to another five-year term, even as opposition against him grows. Last month, Uganda’s largest opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change, threatened to block next year’s presidential polls if the government rejects its call for an independent electoral commission. Following the 2011 elections, Besigye, the opposition group’s former leader, led anti-government protests and accused Museveni’s administration of corruption, ballot rigging and voter intimidation, Reuters reported.