KAMPALA, Uganda—Not long after he took office in 1986, Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, had a singular diagnosis for his continent’s ills. “The problem of Africa in general, and Uganda in particular, is not the people but leaders who want to overstay in power,” he claimed in a book titled, appropriately enough, “What Is Africa’s Problem?”
But now the former guerilla fighter seems to have changed his mind. Uganda is currently moving full steam ahead with an unpopular constitutional amendment that will effectively guarantee the 73-year-old Museveni the ability to remain in office for the rest of his life, by lifting the age limit for presidents. But as the measure proceeds, the aggressive and occasionally ham-handed tactics of Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement, or NRM, are giving rise to a new generation of opposition leaders and invoking criticism from Western powers that have backed him.
On Tuesday, a motion to remove from the Ugandan constitution a measure barring anyone over 75 from running for president was referred to a committee of parliament. Unless the current restriction is overturned, Museveni would be prohibited from running for re-election in 2021. Presidential term limits were stripped from the constitution during an earlier battle in 2005. “To tell people to choose their leaders only within a certain choice bracket is highly discriminatory and this should be amended,” said Raphael Magyezi, the lawmaker behind the measure, when he introduced it a week ago.