KAMPALA – Ugandan police say they arrested dozens of political opposition activists this week. The arrests coincide with speculation President Yoweri Museveni will act to change the constitution to allow himself to run for another term in 2021.
Uganda’s constitution stipulates presidential candidates must be younger than 75 when they stand for election. Museveni, who has held power for 31 years, will be 77 by the next election.
Forum for Democratic Change official Ingrid Turinawe told AFP she believes the arrest of 56 opposition party members on Wednesday is linked to the issue.
Museveni has not publicly communicated his intent to run for another term, telling the Ugandan media on Wednesday not to “waste your time” with the rumored constitutional amendment.
On Thursday, 13 members of a smaller opposition party were arrested for illegal assembly.
Allegedly, they were attempting to circulate a petition opposing the possible change to Uganda’s constitution.
Museveni rose to power in 1986 after his National Resistance Army toppled the previous regime. His government began allowing multi-party democratic elections a decade later, but critics contend he continues to stiffle dissent by regularly jailing opposition activists and politicians.
In an interview with Al Jazeera earlier this year, Museveni defended the recent jailing of dissident Stella Nyanzi.
“If you are an activist and you commit an offence, because with human rights you must also speak of the rights of others, you cannot trample on the rights of others and you say, ‘It is my rights to abuse other people’ to insult other people. No. Rights come with responsibilities – if you know anything about democracy.”
The constitution was previously amended in 2005 to eliminate a two-term limit for presidents, allowing Museveni to successfully run for a third term in 2006.