Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni supports extending a president’s term to seven years from five but one critic said such a move would help one of Africa’s longest serving leaders to rule for life.
Museveni did not directly propose term limits be stretched in Uganda but instead said extending time between elections would give African leaders more opportunity to promote development because they would not be distracted by politics.
“For these countries with all these problems … five years is just a joke,” a statement from the presidency quoted Museveni as saying. “Leaders in Africa have much more to do and need adequate time (between elections) to develop the continent.”
Museveni fought his way to power in 1986 and won a series of elections, the most recent in 2016. His opponents say government uses repression to stay in power and rigs elections.
The rapid fall of Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe last month after 37 years in power highlighted the potential vulnerability of the small group of African leaders who rule for decades.
Government proposed a change to the constitution to enable the 73-year-old leader to stand in 2021 by scrapping a limit on the age of a presidential candidate.
There is no current bill to extend the presidential term but Museveni’s comments make such a proposal more likely.
Security forces detained opponents of constitutional change and also used live bullets and teargas to quash demonstrations.
Andrew Karamagi, a rights activist and critic of Museveni said the president’s comments are: “an insult to our intelligence.”
“To invent a fresh bogeyman, particularly by the same person who said Africa’s problem is leaders who stay too long in power, is unfortunate. If five years are so few … can he show us what he has done in 31 years,” he told Reuters.
Museveni won praise for sending troops to join an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia and for maintaining stability at home in a region beset by conflict. His critics say prolonging his tenure is his central objective.