Kampala — The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party's top most organ, the Central Executive Committee or CEC, has endorsed President Museveni as its presidential flag bearer for the 2021 polls.
The decision, which in theory is still subject to additional layers of discussion and determination by the party's other organs, jumpstarts an internal flag bearer selection process and gives the incumbent a political shot in the arm ahead of other aspirants.
If afforded an all-clear sign by the National Executive Committee and the National Delegates' Conference, it means Mr Museveni, already in power for 33 years, will seek a record sixth re-election.
The next presidential and general elections are two years away, in 2021, according to a roadmap the Electoral Commission released late last year.
The CEC members during the retreat that ended yesterday at Chobe Safari Lodge in the Murchison Falls National Park, Nwoya District, christened the President as the "theoretician and principal strategist of the Movement".
"To emphatically recommend to the membership of the Movement and its organs that Yoweri Museveni, our leader and General of the African resistance, continues leading the Movement in 2021 and beyond as we eliminate the bottlenecks 'to transformation'," the members noted in a resolution issued after the retreat.
Asked to explicitly state whether CEC had given Mr Museveni the nod as NRM's sole candidate in 2021, Mr Rogers Mulindwa, a spokesman for the ruling party's secretariat, responded: "Exactly. That is what it means. I can only say that there is no danger in doing that. There is no law breached. This matter can continue to be sold to other party members as we get closer to the National Delegates Conference in November, this year."
The move by NRM's top organ to ring-fence the position of party presidential flag bearer for Mr Museveni follows a similar resolution by the national association of districts and lower local government councils under the Uganda Local Government's Association (ULGA) who met in Kyankwanzi district last week.
The ongoing manoeuvres to front the incumbent President unopposed bear the hallmarks of the run-up to the 2016 elections when a similar tactic was adopted to lock out the then Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, turned-political rival.
The cheerleader during the February 2015 NRM Parliamentary Caucus at the National Leadership Institute in Kyakwanzi was Ms Evelyn Anite, now State minister for Investment and Privatisation, who knelt and pleaded with Mr Museveni to accept to be NRM's sole candidate for 2016 election.
NRM party organs later endorsed the decision by the Caucus, resulting in Mr Museveni snapping up victory in 2016.
Contention. Suspicion that Mr Museveni would seek re-election started gaining steam when he strongly supported a contentious Constitutional Amendment Bill, now law, to remove 75 years as the upper threshold age beyond which a person would be ineligible to stand for president. The constitutional provision meant that the President, now aged 74, would have been unable to stand again. The enactment of the law was accompanied by an assault on Opposition lawmakers inside the chambers and their violent removal by soldiers.