- - Wednesday, May 16, 2012

KAMPALA, Uganda — Influential church leaders are calling for an end to the 26-year rule of President Yoweri Museveni, who is resisting efforts to restore term limits on his office and is facing record-low public-approval ratings.

Catholic Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga urged Mr. Museveni to retire after the end of his current term in four years.

“The best present Museveni can give to Ugandans in 2016 is peacefully handing over power,” he said at an Easter Mass.

Zac Niringiye, an assistant Anglican bishop in Kampala, has been crisscrossing the eastern African nation, seeking support for the restoration of term limits that were scrapped in 2005.

“The time has come to imagine a different future,” said Bishop Niringiye, who added that his life has been threatened since he started his campaign for term limits.

A member of Uganda's opposition ties up a banner in Uganda's capital Kampala Thursday, Sept. 8, 2011, showing former long serving presidents, left to right, Ben Ali (Tunisia), Hosni Mubarak (Egypt), Moummar Gaddafi (Libya) and current Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni in preparation for celebrations for the downfall of these leaders, in Kampala on Friday. Uganda Police has warned that they will arrest whoever turns up for the celebrations. Other long serving African leaders are Mbasago of Equatorial Guinea (32 years since 1979), Jose Santos of Angola (32 years since 1979), Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe (31 years since 1980), Paul Biya of Cameroon (29 years since 1982), Blaise Campore of Burkina Fasso ( 24 years since 1987), Mswati III of Swaziland (24 years since April 1986), Omar Bashir of Sudan ( 21 years since 1989), Idrissu Deby of Chad ( 21 years since 1990), Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea ( 18 years since 1993), Yahya Jammeh of Gambia (17 years since 1994) , Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia (16 years since 1995) , Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho (13 years since 1998), Ismail Omar Guelleh of Djibouti ( 12 years since 1999), Mohammed VI of Morocco (12 years since 1999), Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal ( 11 years since 2000) and Paul Kagame of Rwanda (11 years since 2000). (AP Photo / Stephen Wandera)
A member of Uganda’s opposition ties up a banner in Uganda’s capital ... more >

“I hear security forces are plotting against me, but this is part of God’s ministry,” he said.

The Rev. Joseph Serwadda, a Protestant pastor of the Born-Again Faith Federation, recently called for Mr. Museveni simply to “step aside.”

Christians make up more than 80 percent of the population of 36 million, but Muslims, who compose only 12 percent, have also complained that Mr. Museveni has been meddling in Islamic affairs.

The criticism from the prominent religious leaders is reflecting the feelings of a growing number of Ugandans dissatisfied with more than a quarter century under Mr. Museveni.

A recent public opinion poll found that 74 percent of Ugandans think the country is heading in the wrong direction one year after Mr. Museveni was re-elected.

Inflation has soared to more than 20 percent. Police have killed unarmed protesters in demonstrations, and some of the president’s closest associates have been accused of corruption but sheltered from prosecution.

The combination of criticism from religious leaders and the decline in popularity has the Museveni regime on the defensive.

Mr. Museveni, in a television interview last week, warned the church officials: “When you go in public [to criticize the government], I will one day also give you a counter-lecture.”

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi recently told the religious critics that they are as ill-equipped to get involved in politics as “a doctor [is] to assume a role of a teacher.”

Mr. Museveni came to power in 1986, after years of guerrilla warfare that first overthrew dictator Idi Amin and later Milton Obote. He created a transitional government and established stability after years of civil strife.

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