Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye on Tuesday made the need to transit from President Museveni’s 30-year rule the central theme of his campaign as he combed Iganga District for votes.
He repeatedly referred to Uganda’s East African Community partners of Kenya and Tanzania, in which the two five-year term rule has been abided by in recent years and presidents have handed over power to others, as examples Ugandans should emulate.
“Mr Museveni came to power when Hassan Mwinyi was president in Tanzania.
‘‘Mwinyi handed over power to (Benjamin) Mkapa and Mkapa later handed over to (Jakaya) Kikwete, who last year handed over to (Pombe) Magufuli,” Dr Besigye said in Idudi town.
He said a similar thing happened in Kenya, where Daniel arap Moi handed over to Mr Mwai Kibaki, who in turn passed the baton to current president Uhuru Kenyatta.
“These two countries remained stable as presidents peacefully changed (so) do not believe those who say we will have chaos if Museveni leaves,” Dr Besigye said.
Against a background of many African leaders of the immediate post-independence period staying in power for long and many becoming dictators, Uganda followed other African countries by inserting in its 1995 Constitution a clause for presidents to serve a maximum of two five year terms.
This clause, however, was deleted from the Constitution in 2005, clearing the way for Mr Museveni, who was due to retire in 2006 having served the maximum two elective terms, to vie for leadership again.
He is now seeking a fifth straight elective term in the elections set for February 18.
Support for the restoration of term limits has since gained traction, even from former prime minister Amama Mbabazi, who was one of the key advocates for lifting them in the first place.
Mr Mbabazi, who is also running for president, has promised to restore term limits within 100 days of becoming president should he be elected.
Dr Besigye reiterated his pledge to restore term limits, which his party has spelt out as one of the key political reforms they intend to implement.
Dr Besigye also pledged to deconcentrate power from the centre and set up regional governments, including one in Busoga, which he said will “work on regional development without necessarily having to consult Kampala”.
Flanked by Maj Gen Mugisha Muntu, his party president, Dr Besigye was accompanied by MPs Paul Mwiru from Jinja West, Abdu Katuntu from Bugweri and FDC aspirants from different areas of Busoga.
Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago and FDC spokesperson Ssemujju Nganda were also in attendance.
As Dr Besigye made his way into Iganga town, he was greeted with fanfare as his supporters treated him to a procession, which was made even more colourful by the “FDC Mamba” brigade that had driven in from Mr Mwiru’s nearby Jinja.
Mr Mwiru’s “brigade”, who were dressed in black and drove an open vehicle akin to the ones driven by police escorts, were joined by the “brigade” belonging to Mr Mudiobole Abed Nasser, the FDC legal secretary seeking a parliamentary seat in Iganga.
Iganga, the second most populous district in Busoga after Jinja, voted with the rest of Busoga to Mr Museveni, with the incumbent garnering 70 per cent of the 108,168 votes cast, with Dr Besigye polling 28 per cent.