Uganda opposition coalition collapses, as joint presidential bid fails
The effective collapse of the coalition divides the opposition between competing candidates and means that Museveni — who has led the east African nation since 1986 and who was already widely expected to return to power — faces little challenge to another term.
The Democratic Alliance (TDA) had been expected to select either Kizza Besigye, leader of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and a three-time challenger, or ex-prime minister Amama Mbabazi.
Both men will now run against Museveni – and each other.
“Everyone is going to stand on his own,” TDA spokesman Wafula Ogutu said. “We have decided that each of the two stands on his own, we did not get a consensus on one candidate.”
Besigye, once Museveni’s personal doctor, had previously said he would not contest elections again after losing in 2001, 2006 and 2011, claiming free and fair polls were impossible.
After losing in 2011, Besigye led repeated anti-government protests, at which he was regularly arrested and held for hours before being released while his supporters were also chased, tear-gassed, beaten and arrested.
Police have repeatedly warned against holding public rallies without permission, with organisers required to submit details to them at least three days before any meetings.
Both Mbabazi and Besigye have already been arrested and then released by police for planning campaign rallies without permission.
Museveni, in power for almost three decades, has already been endorsed by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to represent it in the vote scheduled for February.
With the main opposition leaders being influential former members of the ruling party, they struggle to offer a convincing alternative or to effectively criticise a system they benefitted from, or in some cases helped create.
Mbabazi’s bid has sparked criticism from those who point out that many of political failings he speaks of happened when he was the ruling NRM party secretary-general.
Conservative party leader Ken Lukyamuzi, a member of TDA, said his party would back Besigye.
“How can we support Mbabazi, who has up to recently been in the same camp with Museveni?” he said, adding Besigye “has been all the time suffering in the opposition.”
But FDC president Mugisha Muntu claimed that two opposition candidates would in fact offer a greater challenge to the president.
“It was not because of selfishness that we failed to come up with a single candidate,” Muntu said. “It is because of the new way we look at the politics in the country.”