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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 15:56 GMT
Museveni's election test
Man walks past Museveni election posters
President Museveni has a homely image
By East Africa correspondent Cathy Jenkins

Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni will face the first real challenge to his power in presidential elections on Monday.

Of the five candidates standing against him, one has had a significant impact on the campaign.

Besigye campaign poster
Dr Besigye is a strong challenger
Retired colonel and medical doctor Kizza Besigye has fought a fierce battle to win voters' hearts and has tapped into the discontent felt by those who have not benefited under the current leadership.

The election period has been marred by incidents of violence, and international human rights groups say Dr Besigye's team has suffered the brunt of the intimidation.

President Museveni, with his National Resistance Movement, has ruled Uganda since 1986, after fighting a five-year bush war to rid the country of the dictator Milton Obote. He legitimised his presidency in elections in 1996 when he won 75% of the vote.

Economic success

Under the "no party" political system which he introduced, all candidates must stand as independents.

President Museveni says a multi-party system would be bad for Uganda because it would encourage ethnic divisions.

His opponents say this is an excuse which allows the National Resistance Movement to continue as the de facto ruling party in a single-party state.

Museveni poster
Mr Museveni is playing on the his economic success
One of President Museveni's strongest campaign cards has been the performance of the economy. Coffee is the main export commodity, followed by cotton and tea.

The president has won the praise of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank for following their strict guidelines. Primary school attendance has doubled.

Over the years President Museveni has become a pivotal regional figure, but he still retains a homely appeal. On the podium he can charm the crowds. He often dresses casually, and likes to sport a wide-brimmed hat.

Determined opponent

The challenge from Dr Besigye has electrified the campaign. Not only is he a former comrade-in-arms who fought alongside President Museveni during the bush war, he is also a fellow member of the National Resistance Movement.

Dr Besigye on the campaign trail
Dr Kizza Besigye is a former ally of Mr Museveni
Ugandans have been intrigued that President Museveni's only credible opponent is an insider. Dr Besigye says he still believes in the movement, but says it has become corrupt and has lost its way.

His campaign has appealed to voters who have yet to feel any of the economic improvements.

Dr Besigye has also appealed to people whose lives continue to be blighted by rebels waging an internal war against the government, especially in the north of the country.

And he has spoken out strongly against Uganda's involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, which is unpopular with many Ugandans.

Opinion polls have shown President Museveni to be consistently ahead in the race.

To win outright a candidate must get more than 50% of the vote. Failing that, a run-off must be held within 30 days.

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See also:

23 Feb 01 | Africa
Ugandan opposition 'intimidated'
06 Mar 01 | Africa
Suspicion at Ugandan army role
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