Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni speaks at the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters on September 24, 2014 in New York City.
Kampala, Uganda CNN  — 

A Ugandan constitutional court ruling that upholds a constitutional amendment to remove the presidential age limit will likely allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his 32-year iron grip on power.

In December, the country’s parliament amended the constitution, removing the article that limited anyone from serving as president past the age of 75, prompting widespread protests from opposition lawmakers and rights groups.

The constitutional amendment guarantees 73-year-old Museveni a lifetime rule over the country, they said.

Opposition legislators, the Uganda Law Society and civil society groups filed a petition in April asking the court to nullify the bill.

But Alphonso Owiny-Dollo, who heads the constitutional court, said the panel of judges ruled to uphold the amendment Thursday and said the laws were passed in line with the constitution.

The ruling allows Museveni to run for president in the country’s next general elections in 2021.

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    This is the second time Uganda’s parliament has amended laws paving the way for Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, to be president for life.

    In 2005, legislators removed presidential term limits to allow Museveni to stay in office.

    He was elected for a fifth consecutive term in the country’s 2016 elections, during which the opposition leader was jailed. Opposition activists have accused the President of rigging polls.

    Presidential term limits continue to be an issue in Africa, where several leaders have extended their election mandates to stay in office.

    In Burundi, President Pierre Nkurunziza holds on to power despite violence that heralded his third term re-election in 2015.

    Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has a seven-year tenure and he’s on his third term in office.

    However, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe was forced to relinquish power in 2017 after 37 years of autocratic rule. The 94-year-old had ruled the country since its independence in 1980.