A group of doctors in Uganda caused a stir over the weekend after kneeling before long-time President, Yoweri Museveni, and asking him to stand for a seventh term.
The 78-year-old leader has been in power since 1986. The next general elections are due in 2026.
The doctors, representing the Uganda Medical Association (UMA), had attended a patriotic symposium in the capital, Kampala, when they were led by their leader to kneel before the president, according to media footage of the event.
In his speech, UMA boss, Dr Samuel Odongo Oledo, praised the president for transforming the country’s health system and improving the welfare of medical workers, the Nile Post news site reported. He went ahead to ask President Museveni to vie again in 2026 as a presidential candidate, the NTV television station reported.
The gesture sparked controversy on social media, with many accusing the group of being subservient to politicians. But in a tweet, the UMA distanced itself from the gesture, saying it did not “represent modus operandi of the association”.
It said: “Uganda Medical Association has always engaged with the president through formal, professional ways, including appreciating him through our annual awards”.
Ugandans under the age of 35 – and that is more than three-quarters of the population – have only known one president. Yoweri Museveni, who came to power on the back of an armed uprising in 1986, has defied the political laws of gravity which had felled other long-serving leaders in the region.
The 76-year-old’s time at the top has been accompanied by a long period of peace and big developmental changes, for which many are grateful. But he has managed to maintain his grip on power through a mixture of encouraging a personality cult, employing patronage, compromising independent institutions and sidelining opponents.
During the last election five years ago when he addressed the issue of stepping down, he asked: “How can I go out of a banana plantation I have planted that has started bearing fruits?” For this revolutionary, the harvest is still not over. -BBC