President Museveni has said he dropped former prime minister Amama Mbabazi from Cabinet because he was involved in divisive activities.
Mr Mbabazi was sacked on September 18 in a lone cabinet reshuffle.
His sacking has been widely interpreted as a punishment for his perceived ambition to contest against President Museveni in the 2016 elections.
He was replaced with Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, also a historical member of the ruling NRM party.
“I don’t fear competition but cannot tolerate anyone involved in activities that threaten unity,” President Museveni told BBC Africa in an interview on Wednesday.
“Who told you that I sacked Mbabazi? I only appointed a new prime minister,” Mr Museveni later mused.
It is the first time Mr Museveni has publicly revealed why he sacked Mr Mbabazi.
Asked whether he did not find it difficult to sack a close confidant of so many years, the President said dropping Mr Mbabazi had nothing personal, adding: “You don’t bring emotions to public affairs.”
The President was in London for a two-day Global African Investment Summit, which sought to court top investors to direct funds into projects in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Ghana.
Mr Mbabazi has always maintained he will not comment about his removal from Cabinet until the “right time.”
Mr Mbabazi’s sacking confirmed a long discreet fallout between the two NRM principals, which on Monday culminated into the former prime minister taking leave as the party Secretary General up to December 31.
Mr Mbabazi was last weekend pressured into taking leave by the NRM Central Executive Committee during a stormy three-day meeting at State House in Nakasero.
The meeting was chaired by the NRM chairman Mr Museveni who, after Mbabazi had accepted to take leave, announced the party would hold a national conference on December 15.
Mr Mbabazi’s deputy Dorothy Hyuha is expected to organise the conference, where President Museveni will push for amendments in the party’s constitution which will give him power to appoint a secretary general and national treasurer.
The Muhoozi question
During the BBC interview, Mr Museveni again denied reports that he is grooming his son Brig Muhoozi Kaeinerugaba to succeed him as president.
He said Uganda is not a monarchy to promote family rule.
Brig Muhoozi heads the elite Special Forces Command which provides security to the President and key government installations including oil wells.
However, critics and members of the Opposition continue to accuse Mr Museveni of fast-tracking his son through rapid promotions in the army to prepare him for succession.
Asked whether he would seek another term in office, President Museveni, in power since 1986, told BBC his party would decide on the matter.
“That’s for the party to decide. It’s what my party wants and what the country needs,” he said.
The President also said Uganda was a democratic country citing his wife’s (Ms Janet Museveni) involvement in politics against his will.
“My wife, against my advice, joined politics and was elected. That is what you call democracy, including disobeying husbands,” he said.
Ms Janet Museveni was elected Ruhama County MP in 2006 and President Museveni appointed her minister for Karamoja Affairs.
What others say
“If the President says he is not grooming his son because Uganda is not a monarchy I believe him. You know Uganda is not a monarchy. When he says he sacked the prime minister because he was playing divisive politics I believe him. Only the president knows why he sacked him and we can have our theories but we have to believe his explanation,” Fox Odoi, former head of legal affairs at State House
“Of course it is embarrassing to him to have his wife and son serving in governmnet but even those close to him know that he is grooming his son but things don’t work that way today. He is also being dishonest on the Amama sacking because it was purely based on his ambition and Museveni has treated everyone with presidential ambitions the way he is treating Amama.,” Sheila Kawamara, activist and political analyst
“Any serious observer of Museveni will know that there is often a difference between what he says and what he does. Of course he will stand again in 2016. It is not so much that he fears competition but rather he abhors it so he does everything in his power to ensure no one competes. He truly and (sadly) believes he is the only one who can rule Uganda,” Jacqueline Asiimwe Mwesige, Civil society activist, lawyer