Windhoek - Starting on Friday, Namibia's ruling Swapo party will hold a special two-day congress to pick a presidential candidate ahead of general elections in November.

President Sam Nujoma's party has ruled since independence in 1990, and looks certain to install its candidate given the fragmented opposition. Nujoma is set to retire after his third and final five-year term as Namibian president.

The following are the three men short-listed by Swapo's national executive committee for the job.

Hifikepunge Lucas Pohamba

The lands minister was one of the founders of Swapo and a key figure in the anti-South African liberation struggle that led to Namibia's independence in 1990. Has been a close friend of Nujoma for nearly half a century.

He has never publicly said he wanted to succeed Nujoma although he has remained in the cabinet since independence.

The first indication that the 70-year-old with little formal education was probably destined for the key job emerged in 2002 when Nujoma backed him for the key post of party vice president.

It came as no surprise when Nujoma again personally nominated him as one of the three presidential candidates after a botched bid to endorse him as sole Swapo flag-bearer.

Pohamba has refused to respond to questions about his vision for the vast southwestern African nation of 1.9 million people. His critics say he is a stooge of Nujoma, who would remain in control because he will keep leadership of the party until 2007.

"I feel safe that Nujoma is not just going away from the scene," Pohamba recently told state media.

Hidipo Hamutenya

He was sacked as foreign minister this week after refusing to back Pohamba. The 65-year-old is considered an intellectual within the party, where he commands the backing of moderates and business.

Known to have nursed presidential ambitions for a long time, he is known to his supporters as a strict disciplinarian, anti-corruption campaigner and strategist.

Opponents often accuse say his quiet style shows he has a past he is keen to hide.

"I tend to be economical in what I say, with whom I speak, and people think that I have a lot of things to hide, so that behind this lack of outspokenness is probably evil intentions," he told a Windhoek newspaper.

On Thursday, he warned that unfair play at the Swapo nominations would lead to instability in the country.

An American-educated political scientist, Hamutenya's first bid for the presidency was put on ice in 1999 when Nujoma amended the constitution to allow himself to stand for a third term.

Nujoma has publicly said he is against a Hamutenya candidacy and analysts say failure at the congress would force Hamutenya to break away and form his own party ahead of the elections.

Nahas Angula

At 60, the higher education minister is the youngest contestant and considers himself the bridge between the party old guard and young intellectuals.

Many believe he is free of corruption and is a straight-talking "man of the people". He is known to easily strike up conversations, tells endless jokes and lives modestly. He is the dark horse in the race.

"I have never had any strong presidential ambitions before now. However, circumstances do sometimes dictate the evolution of a person's life history," Angula told a news conference.