Tuesday September12, 2017 will no doubt remain in the history of Uganda. The day was characteristically an unusual one at Parliament as ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs were seen in the corridors of Parliament smiling from ear to ear life the proverbial dog.
Little did Ugandans know that the ‘yellow’ MPs had already hatched a plan to gift President Yoweri Museveni a life presidency by removing article 102 (b) of the1995 Constitution. The article says a person above 75 years of age cannot stand for president.
This means that Museveni cannot make to the ballot paper in 2021 given the fact that he is believed to be 73 years old.
Apparently, the media and the opposition were caught off guard.
Out of the blue, the NRM MPs gathered at Parliament Conference hall to purportedly discuss the controversial constitutional amendment to article 26 to give government powers to compulsorily take over private land for public use.
However, the main issue on the ‘agenda’ wasn’t even given much attention. Instead, Museveni enthusiasts brought up the debate to lift the Presidential age limit.
It was Igara County West MP, Raphael Magyezi who tabled the proposal to amend the constitution in favour of Museveni.
The fearless MP said he had made a research that warrants constitutional amendment. He was quickly supported by Usuk County Peter Ogwan, Workers MP- Arinaitwe Rwakajara, Minister of Defense- Adolf Mwesige, Nakasongola Woman MP- Margaret Komuhangi, Simeo Nsubuga, James Kakooza and Kyaka South MP (Kyegegwa district)- Jackson Kafuuzi-.
At the end of the day, a total number of 246 MPs agreed to table a private member’s bill that will seek to remove the presidential age limit.
The MPs also want amendments to increase time within which a candidate can file a presidential election petition from 21 days to 60days.
They further argued that the proposal is meant to make Parliament compliant with the Supreme Court deadline that gave the Executive two and half years to put in place all the court’s provisions.
With just six months left to the deadline, the ‘Age Limit’ team argued that there couldn’t be a better time to bring the amendments.
After the closed door discussion, controversial MP-Evelyn Anite came smiling like never before to invite journalists to come cover Magyezi’s research.
Supporting Magyezi, Minister Mwesige said the presidential age cap in the constitution is robbing people of their powers to choose a candidate of their choice as outlined in Article 1 of the constitution.
He added that Article 102 (b) is in conflict of Article 21 which provides for equality of all the people of Uganda.
He vehemently explained that Article 102 (b) of Uganda’s constituton is also in conflict with the universal legal regime in Europe and United States.
“There is no constitution in those model democracies where there is age limit,” Mwesige said.
He added: “If we can’t have age limitations anywhere in the European laws, on that, I support the idea of private member’s bill because members of Parliament are the representatives of the people, so we have a right to move the bill in Parliament because we are the representatives and the constitution is clear.”
On his part, Kafuuzi, a lawyer by profession, said the current constitution is outdated.
“We remove what you don’t want and replace with what you desire. We are moving forward. The time when the constitution was made in 1995 was different and this is 1997. The dynamics on the ground have changed; we require an all inclusive constitution. That is an abnormality that needs to be cured,” Kafuuzi noted.
He added: “The older you grow, the more you are treasured. There is no scientific justification as to why we should have age cap in our constitution.” but he didn’t complete his remarks as fellow Legislators demanded he passes a motion to that effect.
Rwakajara said: “We aren’t amending the constitution for President Museveni. For us, we aren’t concerned with President Museveni’s contest, we haven’t consulted him whether he wants to contest or not. For us, we want to deal with the constitutional mandate and that is our main job.”
For the MPs present, it was only Kumi Municipality MP- Monica Amoding, who went on record to object to the debate.
She demanded to recall her signature to the motion, arguing that she had been hood winked into thinking the consultative meeting had been called to discuss land amendments.
However, many ‘historical’ MPs booed her, arguing that she was seeking media attention.
The resolution by NRM MPs didn’t go down well with many opposition MPs, arguing that the constitution shouldn’t be tampered with for the sake of allowing Museveni rule Ugandans for life. Unconfirmed reports indicate that each NRM MP pocketed Shs300m to amend the constitution. However, the ideas to remove age limit and acquire people’s land compulsorily before compensating them are unpopular among many Ugandans.