, KAMPALA, Uganda, Feb 16 – Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni once said leaders who “overstayed” in power were the root of Africa’s problems, but 30 years later he is aiming for a fifth term.
The 71-year old former rebel leader seized power in 1986, ending years of brutal and murderous rule under Idi Amin and Milton Obote.
“Those who say, ‘let him go, let him go’, they need to know that this is not the right time,” Museveni said at a recent campaign rally held ahead of the February 18 election he is expected to win.
“This old man who has saved the country, how do you want him to go? How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?”
Museveni successfully changed the constitution in 2005 abolishing a two-term limit. Other African leaders have since followed suit, changing or redefining laws to stay in power, most recently Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
For now, Museveni has no intention of handing power to anybody, dismissing criticism from Western donors over graft and moves to grant sweeping powers to regulate civil society groups and non-governmental organisations.
He has also shrugged off criticism of a tough anti-homosexuality law, later overturned on a technicality.
As he vies to enter his fourth decade in power, Museveni remains one of Africa’s most wily and tenacious rulers, alongside the likes of Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang (both in power since 1979), Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (since 1980) and Cameroon’s Paul Biya (since 1982).
For the most part, Uganda has enjoyed peace during the Museveni era. A northern rebellion, fought by crazed mystic Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), was pushed out of the country a decade ago and his firm hand has kept the lid on armed unrest and Islamic terrorism.