Uganda's long-time president is attending a televised debate in which he faces seven challengers, including his former prime minister.

President Yoweri Museveni missed the first presidential debate and later said such events "should be left to high school students." But he attended Saturday night's debate.

Ugandans will choose a new president on Thursday, and opinion polls have showed the race tightening between Museveni and Kizza Besigye, an opposition leader who is his closest challenger.

Museveni, who took power by force in 1986, has been a U.S. ally on regional security, especially for the troubled east African nation of Somalia. But at home, Museveni's critics accuse the 71-year-old of increasingly behaving like a dictator.

Uganda has not had a peaceful transfer of power since the country's independence from Britain in 1962.