While Ugandans spar over President Yoweri Museveni’s disputed re-election this month, a bigger battle is already looming: whether the country will change its constitution to allow him to stay in power for life.
Museveni, 71, who came to power in 1986 and has endeared himself to the West by fighting Islamists in the region, is barred from the next election in 2021 because he will be past the constitutional age limit of 75 for presidential candidates.
But rivals, experts and voters said they expected Museveni to remove the age cap, following the Feb. 18 election that saw Museveni win 60 percent of the votes. The opposition has challenged the result, saying it was rigged, but authorities deny the charge.
Museveni’s critics say he is following a well-trodden path of African leaders trying to stay in power for life, ignoring calls by the United States and other Western nations for African presidents to stick to constitutional limits and step down.
“Many of these (leaders) have got a very great fear of leaving power, and that cannot be explained rationally,” said Nicholas Sengoba, a columnist for Uganda’s Daily Monitor.
In a televised interview this week, Museveni appeared to open the door to the possibility. “We don’t believe in term limits,” Museveni told the BBC. “If you don’t want them to be there forever, you vote them out.”
Museveni, who led a guerrilla war in the early 1980s that brought him to power, has been credited with bringing relative peace and economic growth to Uganda, a prospective oil producer that nonetheless still suffers poor infrastructure.
Critics fault him for not doing enough to stem high youth unemployment and sweeping corruption, as well as hampering Uganda’s progress with a top-down approach to governing. They point to Museveni’s tendency to refer to “my oil”.
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