Uganda's Museveni seen planning to extend rule after Cabinet change

KAMPALA - Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni’s changes to his cabinet at the weekend rewarded close allies and dismissed potential opponents, signaling his intention to extend his 29-year rule, Teneo Intelligence said.

Museveni replaced Finance Minister Maria Kiwanuka with her deputy, Matia Kasaija, because she was viewed as “less loyal” to the ruling National Resistance Movement, Ahmed Salim, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence in Dubai, said in an e-mailed research note. The 70-year-old leader also appointed David Bahati, author of an anti-gay bill that led to cuts in aid by donors, as a minister of state for planning to boost support from the youth and religious conservatives, Salim said.

“The common factor with most of the appointments was that all individuals sided with Museveni in the ouster” in September of former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who is now viewed as a potential rival in elections scheduled for 2016, he said. “Mbabazi will now face serious difficulties in establishing the necessary campaign infrastructure” to challenge the NRM.

Museveni has ruled Uganda since 1986, when a five-year war ended. He has won all four elections held since 1996, though the last vote in 2011 was criticized by international observers and rejected by opposition parties who said it was marred by voter intimidation and fraud. Ugandan lawmakers in 2005 removed presidential term limits, allowing candidates to seek re-election until the age of 75.

Museveni ranks as one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders along with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, Jose Eduardo dos Santos in Angola and Paul Biya of Cameroon.

Bahati’s appointment as a minister was “a big shock” for the gay and lesbian community in Uganda, Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. Bahati in 2009 introduced proposed legislation that sought the death penalty or life imprisonment for gay people in Uganda. The death penalty was removed from the bill before it was signed into law by Museveni in December 2013.

Uganda’s Constitutional Court in August nullified the law after it cited flaws in the legislation process. Bahati has vowed to reintroduce the law.

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