By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni said on Wednesday he supports extending a president's term to seven years from five but one critic said any such move would help enable one of Africa's longest serving leaders to rule for life.
Museveni did not directly propose that term limits be stretched in Uganda but instead said extending the time between elections would give African leaders more opportunity to promote development because they would not be distracted by politics.
"For these countries with all these problems ... five years is just a joke," a statement from the presidency quoted Museveni as saying. "Leaders in Africa have much more to do and need adequate time (between elections) to develop the continent."
Museveni fought his way to power in 1986 and has won a series of elections, the most recent of which was in 2016. His opponents say the government uses repression to stay in power and rigs elections.
The rapid fall of Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe last month after 37 years in power has highlighted the potential vulnerability of the small group of African leaders who have ruled for decades.
The government has proposed a change to the constitution that would enable the 73-year-old leader to stand in 2021 by scrapping a limit on the age of a presidential candidate.
There is no current bill to extend the presidential term but Museveni's comments make such a proposal more likely.
Security forces have detained opponents of the constitutional change and also used live bullets and teargas to quash demonstrations.
Andrew Karamagi, a rights activist and critic of Museveni said the president's comments are: "an insult to our intelligence."
"To invent a fresh bogeyman, particularly by the same person who said that Africa's problem is leaders who stay too long in power, is unfortunate. If five years are so few ... can he show us what he has done in 31 years," he told Reuters.
Museveni has won praise for sending troops to join an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia and for maintaining stability at home in a region that has been beset by conflicts. His critics say prolonging his tenure is his central objective.
(Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg)