UGANDAN police arrested some supporters of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi after he announced his bid for the presidency in 2016 elections, his spokeswoman said.
Lawyers are negotiating the release of Mbabazi’s backers, who were detained in various areas of the country, Josephine Mayanja-Nkangi said by phone Wednesday from the capital, Kampala. They’re waiting for details on the number of people arrested and the accusations against them before deciding whether it’s political persecution, she said.
Police spokesman Fred Enanga didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.
Mbabazi, 66, held a private meeting with his former ally, President Yoweri Museveni, after his announcement earlier this week, Mayanja-Nkangi said, without giving further details.
Museveni 30 years at helm
Museveni, 70, has ruled Uganda for three decades and hasn’t yet said whether he will seek another term.
The country is on the cusp of becoming an oil producer, with companies including London-based Tullow Oil Plc, China National Offshore Oil Corp. and France’s Total SA jointly developing resources estimated at 6.5 billion barrels of crude. It’s also Africa’s biggest coffee exporter.
“I will be seeking your vote, first within my party the NRM (National Resistance Movement) as its flag bearer, and later on in the whole country for president in the 2016 presidential elections,” Mbabazi said in a five minute video released in Kampala by his press team early Monday.
Though opinion is divided on the strength of his challenge, some analysts think Mbabazi now becomes one of the strongest contenders against incumbent Museveni, with whom he has worked for over 40 years.
Fired from post
Museveni fired Mbabazi from the post of prime minister last year after reports from the NRM that Mbabazi was running for the top post in the country.
Mbabazi was also ejected from the post of secretary general of the ruling NRM party.
“The coming election is about the future, about making Uganda work for everyone. It is about reinvigorating our country and making it fit for the 21st century and beyond,” Mbabazi said in his declaration.
“We need to revive our mission to improve education, health and public services and ensure that they are delivered fairly and to high standards,” he added. Uganda will hold its general elections in February next year.
The legislators of the ruling NRM have already chosen Museveni to run as the party’s sole candidate for the presidency. Museveni has been in power since 1986.
The opposition has also formed an alliance, the Democratic Alliance to compete in the elections.
Museveni, upon returning from the African Union summit in South Africa early in the week, immediately held a press conference to push back against Mbabazi, saying he must share blame for the failings of the government which he criticised, because he was a top leader in it for decades.
Mbabazi is studious and abstemious, and outside his political life, keeps a low social profile.
However, he is frequently portrayed as abrasive, and an aloof and arrogant politician. Also the fact that he was linked to several corruption scandals might hurt him, although his personal culpability in most of them was not indisputably established.