Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party delegates have unanimously endorsed incumbent president Yoweri Museveni, as the flag bearer in the next year’s general elections.
Museveni who has been in power in the East African country since 1986 was endorsed by over 15,000 party delegates at the ongoing meeting here, about 10 km east of the capital Kampala.
“I thank you for having chosen to push Uganda and our party forward with your continued trust in me,” said Museveni.
Museveni will have to tussle it out with several presidential aspirants, including his former long term ally and the party’s former Secretary General, Amama Mbabazi.
Uganda’s Independent Electoral Commission will conduct the nominations for the presidential candidates on Tuesday and Wednesday for the elections are slated for early next year.
Museveni, Mbabazi, Charles Lwanga Bbaale of Ecological Party of Uganda and independent, Venansius Byamureeba will be nominated on Tuesday.
Kiiza Besigye of the Forum for Democratic Change, Abed Bwanika of People’s Development party, retired army officer; Benon Biraaro of Farmers Party of Uganda and independent, Joseph Mabirizi will be nominated on Wednesday.
Observers argue that the next year’s elections slated for February or March will be the most contested elections in the country, as Museveni faces strong and stiff competition from Mbabazi who has been his close ally for over four decades.
Mbabazi, a seasoned lawyer who was fired by Museveni in September last year as Prime Minister, served in various cabinet, government positions and intelligence security cycles.
Mbabazi over the weekend appealed to thousands of his supporters countrywide to turn up for his nomination on Tuesday.
He will hold a public rally at Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium in downtown, Kampala.
“I look forward to seeing all of you at my nominations as a Presidential Candidate. I am truly looking forward to launching the campaign and engaging voters across the country,” said Mbabazi.
There are ongoing negotiations by the opposition to field one presidential candidate instead of dividing the vote while they face off with Museveni.
The ruling party is not taking chances.
The delegates after endorsing Museveni on Sunday proceeded to elect top party officials.
“We are ready to proceed with the campaigns and win the next year’s polls,” said Justine Lumumba, NRM’s Secretary General.
The ruling party last week held primaries to elect official flag bearers for the parliamentary, local and municipal council seats in the 2016 polls, with over 15 cabinet ministers and number of incumbents losing in the elections.
Museveni has been in power for the last close to 30 years.
He took power in 1986 after leading a five year rebellion. In 1996, he stood for election and has subsequently won the following ones.