Uganda’s Museveni joins list of Africa’s longest serving leaders

Yoweri Museveni

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni who will join the list of longest serving African leaders when he is sworn in on May 12, 2021 after winning a sixth term in office.

Photo credit: Gael Grilhot | AFP

When Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is sworn in on May 12, 2021, he will take the first step towards joining the club of longest serving African leaders who have led their countries for 40 years and are still in power.

His re-election last Thursday will take Mr Museveni, who has ruled Uganda since January 1986, to 40 years in power by the next General Election in 2026.

The president, now aged 76, will be 81 by then.

His party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), also won majority of the seats in the next Ugandan Parliament.

Constitutional amendments

Mr Museveni has benefited from two constitutional amendments that were made at a time when he was becoming ineligible to seek re-election by removing the constitutional limitations to his candidature.

The first amendment was in 2005 when Parliament voted to amend the Constitution to remove presidential term limits.

Without the amendment, Mr Museveni would have been ineligible to contest in the 2006 elections having served for two terms from 1996.

African presidents

Africa's longest serving leaders, (clockwise), Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang, Cameroon's Paul Biya, Chadian Idriss Deby, Congo-Brazzaville's Denis Sassou Nguesso, Sudan's Omar Bashir, Eritrea's Isaias Afwerki, Eswatini's King Mswati III and Ugandan Yoweri Museveni.

Photo credit: File | AFP

Age limit

In December 2017, Parliament again amended the Constitution, removing Article 102(b) and effectively lifting the country’s presidential age limit.

The upper cap was 75 years while the lower cap was 35 years.

Without the amendment, Mr Museveni, who turns 77 in September, would not have been eligible to contest in the 2021 elections.

In his inaugural speech in Parliament after capturing power in 1986 through guerrilla struggle, Mr Museveni condemned African leaders who overstay in power.

The January 14 re-election now puts him to the group of longest serving leaders on the continent who include former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi and former Gabonese ruler Omar Bongo who had been in power for 42 years each by the time of their deaths in 2011 and 2009, respectively.

Also, former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe was in power for 37 years before he was toppled by the army in 2017 and died a few months later.

Other leaders

African leaders who have been in power longer than Mr Museveni are Equatorial Guinea’s Theadore Obiang Nguema, who has ruled the oil-rich country for 41 years, Cameroon’s Paul Biya, who has led the West African nation for 37 years and Mr Denis Sesau Ngueso of Republic of Congo, who has ruled for 36 years.

By this order, Mr Museveni becomes the fourth longest serving president in Africa.

Chad’s Idrissa Deby, who has been in power for 29 years, and Eritrea’s Issaias Afewerki, who has led the Horn of African country for 26 years, are some of the leaders who have also been in power for long.