KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni dismissed as fiction attacks from rivals over allegations of corruption, unemployment and the state of healthcare in a televised debate on Saturday ahead of next week’s presidential election.
Museveni, 71, has ruled the east African country for 30 years, and is widely expected to win the election on Thursday although analysts say it is his toughest political contest yet.
His two main challengers, Kizza Besigye, a popular opposition figure, and Amama Mbabazi, his former prime minister, have both been drawing huge crowds during the campaign.
Besigye lost three times against Museveni although his Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party and government critics have often blamed rigging, violence by security forces and illegal use of state funds for his losses.
Mbabazi questioned his former boss’s assertion of having restored security in the country, saying absence of war did not mean the country was stable.
“What security do our youth, 83 percent of them that are unemployed ... what security do they feel?” Mbabazi said.
Museveni is credited with restoring economic and political stability after years of turmoil in the 1970s and 1980s.
Critics say unemployment, especially among youths, has surged under his rule. They also accuse him of failing to tame rampant corruption.
Another candidate, Abed Bwanika, also accused him of running down the country’s healthcare, pointing to hospitals going without drugs while some officials travel abroad for first class medical care at the taxpayers’ expense.
“I am here to talk about Uganda, not about fiction,” Museveni said. “If you want fiction and you want a Nobel prize for literature ... then you can talk the way you want to talk.”
Museveni has turned down debate invitations in the past and refused to attend a first debate held on Jan. 15, saying he was too busy campaigning.
However, some Ugandans said he was reluctant to participate because he did not want to be subjected to tough questioning by the hosts and his opponents in Saturday’s second face off.
Reporting by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by George Obulutsa