Africa

Amama Mbabazi - Ugandan presidential candidate profiled

Amama Mbabazi Image copyright Getty Images

Amama Mbabazi was once a staunch ally of Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni and was nicknamed his "super minister".

But he was fired as prime minister in 2014 - after more than 20 years in government - and is now running against him in the country's presidential elections.

Mr Mbabazi told the BBC that as an independent candidate who has worked closely with the president he represents "change with continuity".

But an election promise which has attracted much press attention is his promise to repatriate the remains of former dictator Idi Amin and build a museum in his honour.

Some observers suggest his chances of winning are so slim that his real aim could be to take votes away from opposition candidate Kizza Besigye in an effort to keep the incumbent in power.

'Idealistic lawyer'

However, Mr Mbabazi's presidential campaign hit a stumbling block at his very first campaign meeting last July when he was arrested, along with one of his daughters, for violating public order laws by attempting to hold meetings without permission.

He was later released without charge and was quick to hit out at President Museveni, saying he was directly behind the arrest.

He told the BBC's Newsday programme that the only other time he had been arrested was in 1976, under the rule of Amin.

"Even Idi Amin did not arrest my children," he said.


Mbabazi's dates with history:

  • 1949: Born to livestock farmers in Kabale
  • 1972: Goes to Makerere University to study law
  • 1981: Flees into exile with his family, returning after Yoweri Museveni came to power
  • 2001: Appointed defence minister
  • 2004: Appointed attorney general
  • 2006: Appointed security minister
  • 2011: Becomes prime minister, serving until his sacking in 2014
  • 2016: Runs for president of Uganda

In a YouTube video declaring his intention to run in the election, Mr Mbabazi described his younger self as a "young idealistic lawyer with a hunger for justice" who "joined the struggle against the destructive forces that were threatening to derail our self-governing hopes".

"That hunger still remains," the 67-year-old insisted.

But during armed rebellion of the 1980s against Milton Obote's government, which was led by Mr Museveni in the bush, he worked as an external co-ordinator and did not fight on the front line, something which attracted criticism.

'Doesn't booze'

He and his wife and children fled to Kenya in 1981 and then Sweden only returning after Mr Museveni's National Resistance Army eventually took power in 1986, according to his campaign biography.

He then went on to work closely with President Museveni for the next two decades, earning the nickname "super minister" because he held the defence and attorney general portfolios at the same time.

Over the years he held three key cabinet positions before becoming prime minister in 2011.


More on Uganda's election:


President Museveni once described him as a "clean man, he doesn't booze or involve himself with women, and he is a hardworking man".

Not everyone was a fan and some of colleagues in parliament described him as elitist.

Mr Museveni sacked him from government nearly 18 months ago amid allegations that millions of dollars had gone missing from the prime minister's office - something Mr Mbabazi denied.

He hinted at an election rally that the two had fallen out over Mr Museveni breaking a promise that he would step down, Uganda's Observer newspaper reported.

My Mbabazi went on to describe the government as a "system that has become weak" and said that the country needs to "rediscover our democratic principles".

His presidential ambitions have cost his wife Jacqueline, with whom he has six children, her position as chair of women's league of the ruling National Resistance Movement.

He says in his youth he was hurdler, loved rugby and was an avid singer.

And a short clip on his YouTube channel, posted a year ago, shows him performing what looks like an impromptu piano recital.

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