Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said he needs more time to develop the country as he looks to enter a fourth decade in power, urging voters to re-elect the “old man.”
As a younger man he said leaders who “overstayed” in power were the root of Africa’s problems, but 30 years later he is still in charge and hoping to win a fifth term in elections next month.
“Those who say, ‘let him go, let him go’, they need to know that this is not the right time,” President Museveni said at an election rally in the western Ntungamo district.
“This old man who has saved the country, how do you want him to go? How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”
Seven opposition candidates are vying to end Mr Museveni’s 30-year rule in the February 18 poll.
“We must concentrate on development, my time will come and I will go,” he added.
Mr Museveni, who is thought to be at least 71 years old, successfully changed the constitution in 2005 abolishing a two-term limit.
Mr Museveni, in power since 1986, will face his stiffest opposition from Dr Kizza Besigye, a three-time loser for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), and Mr Amama Mbabazi, a former prime minister and ruling party stalwart now running for the new Go-Forward party.
RESTORE TERM LIMITS
Mr Mbabazi has said if he wins he would restore term limits to the presidency.
“When he (Museveni) told me that he will not retire and requested me to support his continuity, I said ‘no’ and here I am,” Mr Mbabazi said at a rally on Saturday.
“In the first 100 days of my presidency, we shall restore term limits in the constitution - and we will lay everything possible to make sure that in the first five years we do whatever it takes to prepare the young generation to take over power in Uganda.”
Meanwhile, the candidates have raised fears Saturday of violence ahead of presidential polls next month, with accusations of police brutality and claims opposition groups are organising militia forces.
All sides are accusing each other of arming militias to press their claim to political power.
“We are following up reports that a small group of the radical opposition are talking and planning violent actions during and after the election,” Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda warned.
“Government has established that some of these groups, under the guise of training agents to protect their votes, are raising semi-militia groups,” he said.
“These groups, we have learnt, are being prepared to incite provocation and violent confrontations, starting on polling day until the swearing ceremony in case they lose the elections.”
But opposition leaders have dismissed the claims, and in turn accused security forces of backing the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) to harass Mr Museveni’s rivals.
“The trend of violence has left us worried,” Dr Besigye told AFP, calling on Mr Museveni to “stop using police and other state apparatus to intimidate, harass, arrest our supporters.”
“We have seen acts of violence wherever we have been. Police has used teargas and live bullets to stop our rallies,” Mr Mbabazi told AFP.
“We ask President Museveni to stop these acts. If he does not act, then people will be forced to rise up and who knows what comes out. We have seen such situations elsewhere turning violent and Uganda is no exception.”
Police have recruited around a million civilians as “crime preventers”, police chief Kale Kayihura said, describing them as “part of the police effort to enforce community policing.”
Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) has sent a team of election observers to Uganda ahead of the February 18 presidential, parliamentary and local council polls.
The Election Observation Mission (EOM), according to a statement issued at the weekend comprises of 120 observers who will be deployed in different parts of the country.”
I am honoured to lead a mission that will observe the 2016 Elections, which will be pivotal for the country’s future,” said Mr Eduard Kukan, head of the EOM.