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Former Ugandan Prime Minister: Time for Leadership Change

FILE - Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi.

Former Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi said it is time for a peaceful transition in Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni and the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) have been in power for 29 years.

Mbabazi has announced he will challenge Museveni for the ruling party’s 2016 presidential nomination.

Mbabazi, who is in Washington, told VOA that while the NRM has done good things for Uganda, he believes it’s time for a new leadership to do even better things. He said he wants to be the engine of that change.

“The NRM has performed very well in the last 30 years. We’ve had the leadership which has led this very well during this time, but the Bible says there always time for everything. In my view and in light of the successes that we have had, it is reasonable to expect the continuation of that success even as it deserves change. So, my offer will be to lead that process of change,” he said.

Mbabazi said the change he envisages will make Uganda a better country by reviving its democracy and institutions, transforming the economy, attracting local and foreign investment, and promoting equitable development. He said he’s willing to associate with everyone, including the opposition, if it will bring about unity.

“My point all along has been that Uganda now is at a stage where we need the effort of everyone. Nobody should be left behind for us to achieve the objective of takeoff, things we can do together in order to achieve that high objective,” he said.

Mbabazi said he has been holding discussions with people in the opposition because he doesn’t consider himself an enemy to anyone, and so, too, the opposition should not see him as an enemy.

“We are Ugandans who espouse maybe different ideas about how to run country. It only means that we have different approaches. And this should not really stop us from cooperating with each other,” Mbabazi said.

Uganda’s opposition parties have been advocating electoral reforms, including a call for an independent electoral commission whose members are not appointed by the president, and an end to government control of the media. Mbabazi said he has for long been an advocate for electoral reforms, even when he was Prime Minister.

“Obviously, we need reforms in our electoral laws. These are necessitated by the experience we’ve had from previous elections. We’ve had challenges in the courts of law. We had observers from all over the world. We have observers locally, and they made some observations, and we needed to take all these into account in order to do everything that was necessary to be done to have a better election this time around than we did the last time,” he said.

He said any democrat should be willing to support the idea that, where the law is lacking, it should be made better.

Mbabazi said he thinks he and Museveni are in agreement on the need for a peaceful transition of power in Uganda. But, he would not say if Museveni would be willing to step aside in the name of a peaceful transition.

“Well, peaceful transition may be via stepping aside, meaning resigning, or it may mean through a democratic process,” he said.

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