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Uganda's long-ruling head of state scraps presidential age limit law

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a bill that removes a presidential age limit from the constitution and allows him to run for election again, deputy spokesperson Linda Nabusayi confirms.

At least 10 countries in Africa in recent years have seen limits on leader terms eliminated

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, shown in a Brussels meeting with European Commission officials on Sept. 28, has been in power since 1986. On Tuesday, Museveni signed into law a bill that removes a presidential age limit from the constitution. (Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a bill that removes a presidential age limit from the constitution and allows him to run for election again, deputy spokesperson Linda Nabusayi confirmed Tuesday.

Museveni, one of Africa's longest-serving leaders, would have been ineligible to run in 2021. Now he could rule until 2031.

Critics in the East African nation saw the bill as an attempt by the president to rule until the grave. The age limit had prevented anyone younger than 35 or older than 75 from holding the presidency.

Museveni, 73, took power by force in 1986. He is the latest in a number of African leaders who have tried to prolong their time in office by changing the constitution or other means

At least 10 countries on the continent have seen term limits dropped in recent years, and "leaders in more than 20 countries effectively do not face restrictions on their time in power," according to the U.S.-funded African Center for Strategic Studies.

A coalition of over 600 civil society organizations protested Museveni's signing of the bill.

"This law will remain largely inconsequential because it was passed against the wishes of majority of Ugandans," the coordinator of the Citizens' Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, Crispy Kaheru, said in a statement.

He said the law will be challenged in court and "in the court of public opinion," adding that "in the end, it is the majority of Ugandans who will have their last say on how they wish to be governed."

Museveni once said he despised African leaders "who want to overstay in power," but now says he referred to those who ruled without being elected.

Uganda has not witnessed a peaceful transfer of power since independence from Britain in 1962.