, KAMPALA, Nov 9 – Uganda’s presidential campaign season opened Monday ahead of a vote due February 2016 pitting the country’s veteran leader against a longtime challenger and a sacked prime minister.
Eight candidates are running in the February 18 poll, seeking to end President Yoweri Museveni’s 30-year rule.
Museveni, in power since 1986, will face his stiffest opposition from Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister running as an independent candidate.
The Electoral Commission has urged candidates “to conduct peaceful campaigns and comply with the law” including a dusk curfew on rallies and campaigning to end two days before the polls.
Pressure group Human Rights Watch (HRW) called for free and fair elections.
“This campaign period is a critical opportunity to avoid the repression, violence, police brutality, and recriminations of past campaigns,” said Maria Burnett, senior Africa researcher, in a statement.
Other candidates are university professor Venansius Baryamureeba, Abed Bwanika of the People’s Development Party, — who vowed to “rehabilitate homosexuals” if elected — evangelical pastor Joseph Mabirizi, retired general Benon Biraaro and lawyer Faith Kyalya, the only female candidate.
At the head of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, Museveni is widely-expected to win another five-year term with opposition leaders so far failing to field a joint candidate as promised.
Besigye and Mbabazi have agreed to field a joint candidate in a bid to unify opposition to Museveni, under The Democratic Alliance (TDA) party.
But efforts so far to select the candidate have collapsed, as all want to be leader.