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Uganda's president, in power for 3 decades, seeks re-election as top challenger cries foul

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KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda's long-serving president on Friday declared his bid for re-election in 2016, saying the country needs him to stick around to continue its economic development.

President Yoweri Museveni, who took power by force in 1986 before winning elections in 1996, said he needs another term to bring this poor East African country up to middle-income status. He has been re-elected three times before.

Museveni has been a key security ally of the West, and was the first African leader to send peacekeeping forces into Somalia to back the government against Islamic militants.

He will face a challenge from Kizza Besigye, who is widely expected to become the leader of a proposed united opposition that activists hope will mimic the success of the opposition movement in Nigeria that won elections in May.

PHOTO: FILE-- In this Tuesday Jan. 3, 2006 file photo, Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, right, and his wife, Winnie Byanyima, left, address a news conference in Kampala, Uganda. Uganda's long-serving president on Friday, July 31, 2015 declared his bid for re-election in 2016, saying the country needs him to stick around to continue its economic development. He will face a challenge from Kizza Besigye, who is widely expected to become the leader of a proposed united opposition (AP Photo, file)
FILE-- In this Tuesday Jan. 3, 2006 file photo, Uganda's main opposition leader Kizza Besigye, right, and his wife, Winnie Byanyima, left, address a news conference in Kampala, Uganda. Uganda's long-serving president on Friday, July 31, 2015 declared his bid for re-election in 2016, saying the country needs him to stick around to continue its economic development. He will face a challenge from Kizza Besigye, who is widely expected to become the leader of a proposed united opposition (AP Photo, file)

Museveni's declaration of his re-election bid ended months of speculation about his political plans amid pressure from his former prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, who has since announced he will run either as independent or with another group.

On Friday, not long before Museveni announced his re-election bid, Mbabazi told reporters the ruling party was undemocratic and that its top leaders had actively tried to destroy his presidential aspirations.

Although Museveni remains popular in many parts of rural Uganda, opposition leaders do not see him as a democrat and some even call him a dictator similar to the ones who previously ruled Uganda.

Former comrades, like Mbabazi, say Museveni has deviated from the ideals for which they once fought and are concerned that the country could descend into violence if he does not retire.

Uganda has not had a peaceful transfer of power since independence from the British in 1962.

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