Split NRM says Museveni will run in 2026 election
What you need to know:
- The announcement potentially pits President Museveni against his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba who has, with the apparent encouragement of his allies, been openly hinting at a run for the presidency in 2026.
With splinter camps forming and facing the risk of a lame-duck presidency, the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party yesterday declared President Museveni as its flag bearer in the 2026 elections, which will be his seventh term in office.
Coming before the halfway point of the current term, the declaration by Secretary General Richard Todwong is unusually early and reflects how deeply concerned the party is about the emerging power centres.
The announcement also appeared to side-step any recent internal consultations by the party organs. The party’s presidential candidate is usually selected by the Central Executive Committee (CEC), its top policy organ which President Museveni chairs.
However, Mr Todwong said the decision to put forward Mr Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, was decided on February 19, 2019, when party’s CEC sitting at Chobe Safari Lodge in Nwoya District, passed a resolution declaring Mr Museveni their sole candidate for 2021 “and beyond”.
“The political issues going on in the public domain mainly about the endorsement of the President as the presidential candidate come 2026 general elections is not new because the NRM CEC retreat at Chobe in 2019 made a resolution that President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni should continue leading this country in 2021-2026 and beyond,” Mr Todwong said at a press conference in Kampala.
“This was a party resolution, therefore, the young people that are moving around the country endorsing Mr Museveni as their presidential candidate are just expressing their wishes that the resolution is actualised.”
The announcement potentially pits President Museveni against his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba who has, with the apparent encouragement of his allies, been openly hinting at a run for the presidency in 2026. As a serving military officer, Gen Kainerugaba is barred from participating in partisan politics.
The soldier’s allies have sought to present him as a more youthful choice and have openly called for a generational transition. Mr Todwong appeared to water down the view that there is a generational split within the NRM.
“The youth are not campaigning, this is just expression of interest by young people because there is a lot of propaganda around the country that the President is not popular among the young people,” he said. “The young people thought it wise to come out and show the public that the President is still very popular among the youth.”
The party announcement came a few hours after junior Privatisation and Investment minister Evelyn Anite appeared to take a swipe at the pro-Muhoozi Kainerugaba faction.
“For avoidance of doubt, we lifted the age limit. Team NRM, ignore the noise and clutter going around. Gen Yoweri Kaguta Museveni will be on the ballot in 2026 and the win will be massive, these [I don’t know] generators will not start,” she said on the micro-blogging platform, Twitter.
While only a mid-level party functionary, Ms Anite was instrumental in fighting for Mr Museveni’s faction of the party when he faced an internal political coup by former party Secretary General, Amama Mbabazi.
Then, as now, the party took the unusual step of announcing Mr Museveni as its candidate, nipping any internal contests in the bud.
In response to the NRM move yesterday Frank Gashumba, a political dilletante who described himself as a media director under the pro-Kainerugaba camp, said: “The only challenge with the Muhoozi project is the fact that the sitting president is the one to retire Gen Muhoozi so that he can qualify to contest for the presidency.
“Unfortunately, even Mr Museveni is still interested in the presidential seat, so in the 2026 polls the President will be a referee on our side and at the same time a player in the same game. But if he agrees to retire Gen Muhoozi, I am very sure the Muhoozi project will defeat any candidate, including the NRM party.”
MP Joel Ssenyonyi, who is also the spokesperson of the biggest opposition party, the National Unity Platform, said the NRM declaration was true to the ruling party’s character.
“Museveni’s endorsement is not shocking, because there is no difference between Mr Museveni and the NRM party. The party arms are not functional but they are there to fulfil their chairman’s goals. No wonder it will be very hard for NRM to live past Mr Museveni,” he said.
“His endorsement causes no fear in the NUP camp because Mr Museveni is beatable in an election, that is why in every election, the regime resorts to killing and abduction of Opposition members to cause fear so that he can freely rig the election results.”
Kira Municipality MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, who speaks for the Opposition party, Forum for Democratic Change, said the NRM decision was out of pressure from the pro-Muhoozi faction in the party.
“The 2019 resolution by the NRM CEC was because they were under pressure because Ms Janet Museveni had shown interest in the presidential seat. Now the current 2026 endorsements for Mr Museveni are due to political pressure caused by Gen Muhoozi Kainerugaba’s political interests,” Mr Ssemujju said by telephone last evening.
“Although the first son is still a serving army general, Mr Museveni knows it very well that Gen Muhoozi is above everything and any time he can decide to contest against his father, now that is the panic we are seeing.”
It remains to be seen whether evoking the Chobe Declaration will end the bickering in the party. It has previously sparked controversy and ahead of the 2021 general polls, a group of NRM MPs petitioned the Constitutional Court seeking to nullify President Museveni’s endorsement as the party’s sole presidential candidate. They claimed the decision was unconstitutional. The court is yet to rule on the petition.