How Uganda’s presidential aspirants are more colourful than those vying to replace Obama

Former Makerere University Vice Chancellor Prof Venansius Baryamureeba who transformed the university from 20th position to 9th in the Africa universities table. Can he repeat the same for his beleaguered country or is his move into politics a mistake?

With so many candidates in the mix for the 2016 Uganda general elections, some announced, some soon to announce, and some still on the fence, it’s tough to keep track of who is a serious contender against Uganda’s incumbent President, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni. To help out with that, The London Evening Post’s Kampala Political Correspondent Ruth Namatovu takes a closer look at the state of the field of Uganda’s presidential aspirants and discovers some bewildering characters.

On Monday, former Prime Minister and Secretary General of the ruling party the National Resistance Movement (NRM), John Patrick Amama Mbabazi picked nomination forms as an independent candidate, something that irked the NRM. According to Justine Lumumba, the new secretary general of the NRM party, Mbabazi’s candidature as an independent is a violation of the NRM’s code of conduct and therefore, the former premier risks being sued.

“Mbabazi cannot stand as an independent because he has not returned [his] NRM card” said Lumumba while addressing NRM cadres at Katikati restaurant along Lugogo by-pass in Kampala. She added that Mbabazi had abused the NRM’s code of conduct of the party for which he registered as a member and therefore risked being dragged to the courts of law. “Our lawyers are looking into this matter and when they conclude their findings, we will let the entire nation know of the outcome,” Lumumba said before urging all NRM cadres to stay calm as they sort out that jig–saw-puzzle.

Last month, Mbabazi went to the NRM headquarters on Kyadondo Road in Kampala to pick up his nomination forms to stand against his former master, the current President of the Republic of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in the party primary elections. But he abandoned the idea after discovering that the party rules of not allowing them to stand as independents after losing in the party primaries was a violation of the constitution of Uganda that gives the people the right to vie for any post in the country.

President Museveni picks up nomination papers for 2016 presidential race.

On 31st July 2015, as President Museveni picked nomination forms to stand as NRM’s party flag bearer, Mbabazi did the same at his home in Kololo by announcing that he will stand as an independent on the NRM ticket. While announcing his presidential bid, Mbabazi said: “The NRM has distracted my intentions and therefore I will stand as an independent in the 2016 general elections.” Responding to Lumumba’s utterances on him breaking the law, Mbabazi, a lawyer by profession responded: “The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda says that any person can stand as an independent of which I fall under that category of ‘any person’. At the same time as Mbabazi was picking up his nomination papers, the former Vice chancellor of Uganda’s leading public tertiary institute, Makerere University, Prof Venansious Baryamureeba, whose announcement took everybody by surprise, also picked nominations forms as an independent candidate.

Baryamureeba, whose reign at Makerere brought the university’s rankings back to top in Africa from about the 20th position to about 9th in his first year as vice chancellor, joins politics from a no political background. Most Ugandans view him as an excellent educationist and many believe joining politics could prove to be the greatest mistake he has ever made in his life. “That man Baryamureeba should be vying for a ministerial post as an education minister. He did us well when he took over Makerere University which had lost its glory. What is he doing with this useless politics?” asked a former information technology student at Makerere University who preferred to stay anonymous. He added that Prof Barya, as he’s popularly known amongst students, built the only state of the world IT suite in the East African region. “Going into active politics is a waste of his time after all he can’t win an election,” the former IT student added.

Last Tuesday, Uganda’s Electoral Commission (EC) witnessed one of the most annoying exercises that seemed full of mediocre presidential aspirants. A one little known Elton Joseph Mabiriizi claiming to be a business man, also picked nomination forms and vowed to reduce Uganda’s bloated parliament of over 380 members of parliament by half. At the same time, another man, also unheard of and claiming to be a lawyer, turned up at the EC’s offices saying that he wants to unseat President Yoweri Museveni to end dictatorship.

As if that was not enough, a man, who arrived to pick nomination forms on foot walked into the EC’s courtyard claiming to be a teacher from some unknown school in Wakiso District. He said he wanted to fight for the plight of teachers when he unseats Museveni. Before all this ended, another aspirant, one William Mwesigye claiming to be an auditor by profession, stunned the EC staff when he bitterly attacked an EC policeman that was taking his pictures. “I want to know when you, a policeman, took up a job as a journalist. Why are you taking my picture? You’re the type of people that I want to get rid of when I take over power from Museveni,” the angry man shouted.

Dr Abed Bwanika of Peoples Development Party, is a four-time loser in the presidential race who has never given up his dream of leading Uganda.

Mwesigye said that now was the time to end Museveni’s 30 year rule. “I want to stand against my grandfather who will definitely collapse when he understands who I am,” Mwesigye joked to journalists he entertained with empty threats. He added that the last 30 years had been a menace to some Ugandans. As the afternoon closed in, there came Dr Abed Bwanika of Peoples Development Party (PDP), a four-time loser in the presidential race. He has never given up his dream of leading Uganda even if his ratings in the presidential races are a no mention at all. This man has always had a sound manifesto but this time round he came up with an idea of shortening school hours of all students from nursery to university so that the students could spend some time doing other things.

Analysing last Tuesday’s presidential candidates, EC spokesperson Jotham Taremwa said: “I know that the presidential seat is very sweet but people should not take this as a mediocrity.” He added: “You don’t have to be passing along Jinja Road (where the EC offices are located) and then pass by our offices for forms. This is public money that is being used to print the nomination forms and those of the 100 signatures that have to be collected from at least 75 districts of Uganda by each aspirant.” By the end of last Tuesday, over 13 candidates had picked nomination forms.12 of them as independents and just one of them as a party leader. Those expected to pick forms in the coming days or weeks before the 21st September will include mostly party flag bearers after they have gone through party voting processes that would normally choose a flag bearer. The party primaries of some parties are done while others are due before the beginning of next month.

Let’s take a look at two of the most prominent aspirants we have mentioned above, starting with Prof Venansious Baryamureeba. He was born in Kasharara Village, Kagongo Parish, Ibanda District, in the Western Region of Uganda. He holds a Bachelor of Science in mathematics, obtained in 1994 from Makerere University. He also holds a Master of Science and a doctorate in computer science both from Bergen University in Norway which he were awarded in 1996 and in 2000 respectively. In 1997, he was awarded the postgraduate Diploma in the Analysis of Linear Programming Models by the University of Trondheim, also in Norway.

His career in academia began soon after his first degree, when he worked as a teaching assistant in the Institute of Statistics and Applied Economics at Makerere University, from 1994 until 1998. He then worked as an assistant lecturer at the Institute of Teacher Education Kyambogo, which is now part of Kyambogo University, from 1995 until 1996. While pursuing postgraduate study in Norway, he worked as a teaching assistant in the Department of Informatics at Bergen University from 1997 until 2000. He also worked as a research fellow, in the same department and institution, from 1995 until 2000.

Former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has been told he may be breaking NRM laws to contest against the party’s official representative, Yoweri Museveni.

Beginning in 1998 until 2000, he worked as a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Makerere University. He was a senior lecturer in the Institute of Computer Science at Makerere from 2001 until 2006 (which was transformed into the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Computing and IT (FCI)). He then became an associate professor, and, in November 2006, he was made a professor, continuing to teach until August 2012 at FCI. From October 2005 until June 2010, he served as the dean of FCI. From November 2009 until August 2012, he was vice chancellor of Makerere University. At Uganda Technology and Management University, he has served since September 2012 as the vice chancellor and as a professor of computer science in the School of Computing and Engineering.

Former Prime Minister Patrick Amama Mbabazi was also born in western Uganda, in Mparo Village, Rukiga County, in present-day Kabale District on 16 January 1949.  He attended Kigezi College Butobere for his highschool education. Mbabazi earned a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University  in 1975 and received a postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Centre in Kampala in 1976. He is an Advocate of the Courts of Judicature of Uganda and has been a member of the Uganda Law Society since 1977. Before joining politics, he worked as a state attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers from 1976 to 1978, rising to the position of secretary of the Uganda Law Council from 1977 to 1979.

Between 1986 and 1992, he served as head of Uganda’s top spy organisation, the External Security Organization popularly known by locals as ESO. He has also served as Minister of State in the President’s Office, in charge of political affairs. Between 1986 and 1992, he was Minister of State for Defence. Subsequently, he served as Minister of State for Regional Cooperation from 1998 to 2001. In 2004, he was appointed as Attorney General and Minister of Justice. He held that portfolio until he was appointed as Minister of Defence in 2006, a position he held until he was appointed as Minister of Security where he served from February 2009 until May 2011, when he was appointed Prime Minister.

In 1994, he served as a delegate to the Constituent Assembly that drew up the 1995 Ugandan Constitution. He became secretary of the NRM caucus in the Constituent Assembly and was Secretary General of the NRM from November 2005 to January 2015. Mbabazi has represented Uganda in international fora, including the United Nations Security Council where he argued for the international community to allow the Uganda People’s Defense Force to pursue the Lord’s Resistance Army fighters into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He also represented Uganda at the signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement that resulted in the resolution of the Second Congo War.

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