, KAMPALA, September 19- Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on Friday sacked the east African nation’s prime minister, a former ally who has emerged as a potential challenger to the veteran leader.
The sacked prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, had been a long-term ally of Museveni, aged 69 and Uganda’s leader since 1986, but in March he was ousted as party head of Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement amid signs of tensions.
A government spokesman confirmed that Mbabazi had now also been sacked from the position of prime minister.
“Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda is the new prime minister. The reshuffle in cabinet only affects Amama Mbabazi,” said the spokesman, Ofwono Opondo.
In a letter to parliament announcing the sacking, Museveni only thanked Mbabazi for “the contribution he has made to his country” but gave no further explanation.
Earlier this year Museveni was yet again chosen as the NRM’s candidate for presidential elections due in 2016, which will be his 30th year in power, but there had been widespread speculation that Mbabazi had lobbied against Museveni being allowed to stand for yet another term in office.
There were also unconfirmed reports that Mbabazi was poised to resign but that Museveni, a former rebel chief and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, pre-empted such a move by sacking him.
The sacking also comes amid speculation that Museveni has been grooming his son, special forces commander Muhoozi Kainerugaba, as a possible future successor.
New Prime Minister Rugunda is one of Museveni’s closest allies, and has in the past served as minister for health, the interior and foreign affairs.