The main candidates in Uganda’s presidential election


Ugandans vote on 14 January in a presidential election that pits Yoweri Museveni, Africa’s fourth-longest ruling head of state, against ten other candidates, including reggae-star-turned-lawmaker Bobi Wine.

Here are details about the main candidates:

Yoweri Museveni, National Resistance Movement: 

The 76-year-old seized power in January 1986 after a five-year guerrilla struggle to oust Milton Obote. Ugandans initially cheered him for ending cycles of bloodletting under both Obote and Idi Amin.

Museveni started to revive the economy with statist policies but he adopted a more liberal approach in the early 1990s, signing up to the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programmes and securing foreign investment.

In 1998, Museveni was embraced by US President Bill Clinton as one of a “new generation” of African leaders committed to democracy and economic reforms.

Museveni presided over economic growth of about seven percent in the late 1990s and 2000s as foreign investment flowed into sectors from telecoms to banking to infrastructure.

He has won every vote since the first election under his presidency in 1996, a decade after he took power.

Parliament changed the constitution in 2005 to allow multi-party democracy, ending the monopoly of his National Resistance Movement (NRM). It also removed the two-term presidential limit.

In 2017, parliament changed the constitution again to remove the age limit of 75 for presidential candidates, allowing Museveni to run in 2021.

He has faced growing criticism over corruption, nepotism, a sluggish economy and the longevity of his rule. Museveni’s wife Janet is education minister and his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba commands the military’s special forces.

Opponents have complained about vote rigging and intimidation of opposition candidates during the last four presidential elections, charges Museveni denies.

His main challenger in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016 was Kizza Besigye, Museveni’s physician during the guerrilla war. He has been arrested on several occasions since deciding to run against Museveni. Besigye is not standing this time.

Bobi Wine, National Unity Platform:

Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, known by his stage name Bobi Wine, was born in a slum in Kampala. Wine, who was three years old when Museveni come to power, studied music, dance and drama at Uganda’s oldest and most prestigious university, Makerere.

His singing career, a genre he describes as “edutainment”, took off in the early 2000s. His lyrics decry urban poverty and political oppression, backed by catchy, feel-good beats.

“What was the purpose of the liberation when we can’t have a peaceful transition? … Freedom fighters become dictators,” he sings in the 2018 song “Freedom”.

He was elected member of parliament in 2017 after running as an independent in a by-election. Last year, he joined the National Unity Platform, founded in 2004, and became its leader.

His star power quickly got him widespread attention among opposition supporters and he helped at least three opposition contestants win parliamentary by-elections.

Wine has been arrested repeatedly and his rallies have been broken up by security forces using tear gas. Police have said his rallies contravened a ban on large gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Patrick Amuriat, Forum For Democratic Change:

Patrick Oboi Amuriat, 57, is running for the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), the party formerly headed by Besigye which has the largest number of lawmakers after the NRM.

A former government engineer, Amuriat served as a member of parliament for 15 years from 2001. He was a key mobiliser in Besigye’s 2016 campaign and became FDC president a year later.

Amuriat has been arrested on multiple occasions, blocked from campaigning in some areas and roughed up by the security services. He was detained briefly on the day he was nominated.