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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 July, 2005, 18:37 GMT 19:37 UK
Uganda leader kicks off campaign
By Will Ross
BBC News, Kampala

Yoweri Museveni
Critics accuse Museveni of seeking to be "president for life"
Uganda's president has kicked off a "Yes" campaign for the referendum on restoring multi-party politics.

Since Yoweri Museveni came to power 19 years ago, Uganda has operated a unique political system which severely restricts political parties.

He introduced the so-called Movement System to prevent sectarian violence.

In a separate move, MPs voted for the second time to scrap presidential term limits to allow the president to run for a third time in 2006.

Ticking the box

"I would like to appeal to all the Movement supporters to start campaigning for a 'Yes' vote in the coming referendum," Mr Museveni said, concluding a lengthy address aired on state radio.

Opposition supporters protest in Kampala
There have been protests against Mr Museveni running again

Wednesday's newspapers will show the president holding a referendum poster and ticking the 'Yes' box.

If the voters follow his lead in just over two weeks' time, the country would see a return to multi-party politics ahead of next year's election.

President Museveni gave three reasons for campaigning for a "Yes" in the referendum:

  • The Movement System has lacked cohesion, and he referred to "internal traitors" in the system
  • Some people had refused to be in the Movement
  • People had been misrepresenting Uganda abroad.

Opposition people had been saying they had been oppressed because they had not been allowed to organise themselves independently, he said.

"Let them go," Mr Museveni stated over and over and again. In other words, let multi-partyists go and form their own parties and compete in elections.

Doubts

However, there are some people who doubt that the president is genuinely after a return to multi-party politics.

Museveni supporters
Museveni's supporters use dried banana leaves as their symbol

A presidential adviser is currently travelling around the country campaigning. But rather than singing the same tune as his boss, Kakooza Mutale is encouraging people to vote against a return to multi-party politics.

The same man was widely accused of being behind much of the intimidation and violence in the 2001 presidential elections.

The fact that the president has not reined in his adviser has not gone unnoticed.

Wafula Oguttu of the Forum For Democratic Change Party (FDC) says the president is pretending to want multi-party elections but in fact he wants the Movement System to stay.

He said that was the reason the presidential adviser was free to campaign against multi-party politics.

Instability

The main opposition parties are boycotting the referendum, saying the right to freedom of association should be guaranteed.

The referendum's outcome is not clear and may now be down to how strongly President Museveni campaigns in the coming days.

But if multi-party politics is rejected and the parties are restricted some warn this could lead to increased instability.

During Mr Museveni's three-hour speech, MPs voted for the second time in recent weeks to scrap the two-term limit for presidents.

When I asked the president if in his opinion there is a link between the length of time a president stays in power and the length of his or her speeches, the question was not answered.


SEE ALSO:
Your questions to Uganda's president
07 Jul 05 |  Have Your Say
UK aid cut pressures Uganda
29 Apr 05 |  Africa
Country profile: Uganda
09 Apr 05 |  Country profiles


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