The number of presidential aspirants for Uganda's 2021 election continues to grow despite concerns about the Electoral Commission's plan for virtual campaigns.
The latest entrant, former army commander Maj-Gen Mugisha Muntu, got the ticket to represent a party he recently founded after leaving the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).
Others are former journalist-turned preacher Joseph Kabuleta, a rabid critic of President Yoweri Museveni's government who is also challenging in court the electoral commission's campaign regulations; former spy chief Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde; Charles Rwomushana, a former operative at the Internal Security Organisation turned-political commentator who has written to the commission seeking clearance and guidance on gathering the legally mandated signatures from three thirds of all the country in Covid-19 regulations.
Then there is the People Power Movement of musician-turned politician Robert Ssentamu Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine who says he has been endorsed as the outfits sole candidate for its presidential ticket, while the main opposition party Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) is reportedly courting its former president and four-time contender, Dr Kizza Besigye to again lead its effort.
Dr Besigye and Mr Bobi Wine recently launched a new joint platform, United for Change as a pressure group to push for political reforms.
Another notable aspirant is president of the Democratic Party Norbert Mao who threw his hat into the ring on Thursday during a town hall meeting to discuss "delivering safe and credible elections amidst Covid-19 in Uganda" held at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel. It will be his second attempt.
According to Jotham Taremwa, spokesperson of the electoral commission, more than 40 individuals have so far communicated their intensions to vie for Uganda's Presidency.
"We have so far registered between 43 to 45 individuals who say they want to stand for the presidency. Majority of them are independent aspirants," he said, "the process is guided by Sec 3 of the Presidential Elections Act which requires an aspirant to write to us indicating his or her intensions, the aspirants are also required to notify the police and other relevant authorities," he said.
The growing number of aspirants for the top job is apparently drowning out voices for a boycott. One of the aspirants, speaking off the record, told The EastAfrican that challengers to President Museveni act with caution on calling for a boycott partly because they lack sufficient support from the population to push through their agenda.
"To push for a boycott you must be sure that you have mobilised the population and have it behind you, which I don't think the opposition has in unanimity; otherwise you risk the NRM picking from the fake political parties that they have on the register to put up candidates and manipulate the whole process to appear like there was contestation."
Trying to allay fears over the revised roadmap it shared recently, electoral commission chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama Mugenyi told a dialogue meeting at the Sheraton this week that the revised road map was not fundamentally different from what it had shared in December 2018.
"There is no substantial difference in the revised roadmap save for the controversial manner of how the candidates are to conduct their campaigns," he said, adding that the decision to ban mass campaign rallies was forced by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to comply with sections of the Public Health Act.
Mr Byabakama said the commission is listening and open to suggestions from stakeholders on alternatives.
General Mugisha Muntu has argued that factual scientific evidence must be the basis for whether or not to hold mass rallies in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It will be irresponsible of us to say 'let's hold the elections.' What the electoral commission needs to do is work with the experts from the Ministry of Health so that any decisions must be evidence-based. These experts need to go to Kikubo, spend a month there, get samples, test them, test them weekly, do the same in the taxi parks, do it for a month and see whether there are infections; if the people who get infected get hospitalised, see whether there is community spreading or not. To not do that and still insist that there will be no rallies is to either act out of fear or there will be other intentions."