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Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Uganda campaign reaching climax
President Museveni at campaign rally
President Museveni is taking nothing for granted
By Cathy Jenkins in Kampala

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni began the last week of election campaigning with a strong defence of his 16 years in power.

According to opinion polls Mr Museveni has a sizeable lead over his only real opponent, former close associate Dr Kizza Besigye, but he is taking nothing for granted.

President Museveni came to power in 1986 after fighting bush wars against the dictatorial regimes of Idi Amin and Milton Obote.

This is the second time that he is asking the electorate to vote for him, the last time was in 1996.

On Wednesday, there was a three-hour build-up to President Museveni's arrival at a rally in the small eastern town of Iganga.

Dance troupes and traditional drummers entertained the crowd who waited patiently under a blazing sun.

The president's campaign team think that in Iganga Mr Museveni is trailing slightly in the polls.

The rally was obviously meant as a spectacle to woo voters to him.

Presidential address

When he finally addressed the people through a crackly loudspeaker system, he was wearing his trademark wide-brimmed hat and sporting a garland of paper flowers.

Dr Besigye on the campaign trail
Dr Besigye is the president's only serious rival
He emphasised that he had brought unity to Uganda and that a vote for him now meant a vote for modernisation.

Several people in the crowd said they liked the president because he had brought them peace and because of his efforts to introduce, for example, universal primary education.

But even among some of his supporters, there were those who said they were not happy with their lives because they did not have jobs.

President Museveni has become known as a regional power-broker. But many Ugandans have been unhappy at Uganda's involvement in the war in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

Recently, President Museveni promised to pull out two battalions and some of those soldiers have just arrived home.

Mr Museveni has also been promising better internal security.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Africa
Ugandan opposition 'intimidated'
11 Jan 01 | Africa
Uganda election fight kicks off
02 Jul 00 | Africa
'No-party rule' wins
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