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Opinion | It’s good for the age limit to be removed at gun point By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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Posted October 3, 2017 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Age Limit Debate ~ 1,477 views

     

By CHARLES ONYANGO-OBBO — Last week in these pages, Makerere University law don Joe Oloka-Onyango writing about the military siege of the Uganda Parliament ahead of an expected move to amend the Constitution and remove the age limit for president noted: “Not since the enactment of the ‘Pigeon Hole’ Constitution in 1966 have we seen government troops amassed at the Legislative Assembly in a bid to intimidate and force through a constitutional change… “Milton Obote must be laughing his head off.”

He was correct. If you opened Obote’s grave in Akokoro where he was buried, you will find it empty. His spirit is basking in the grounds of Parliament, and in the evenings you can find it knocking back tots of its favourite drink Mateus in the Parliament canteen. Obote was prime minister in 1966 when he overturned the independence Constitution after the attack on the Lubiri, deposing Buganda’s Kabaka Freddie Muteesa, who was president.

That started the series of events that turned Uganda into a one-party dictatorship; led to the overthrow of Obote the first time in January 1971 and the rise of Idi Amin; the fall of Amin; the chaos in the Uganda National Liberation Front that took over from him; the disputed election of December 1980 that led to Obote’s second ascendance to power; the anger that sent Yoweri Museveni to the bush to fight him, and ultimately his victory in 1986 after a war that based in one of the epicentres of anti-Obote sentiment, Luweero.

Most histories of Uganda, especially from the intellectual right, see the 1966 events as the beginning of the ills in Ugandan politics. And, equally, opposition to what it represents as the root of Museveni’s rise to power and the legitimacy of his rule. That it happened last week in Museveni’s Uganda is, therefore, a big deal. It represented the final stage of the rehabilitation of Apollo Milton Obote, and the moment when the ruling NRM and Obote’s UPC finally became one. However, I actually see some good possibilities in soldiers and paramilitary police surrounding Parliament to force MPs to vote to give Museveni a presidency for life.

That very act delegitimises the action, and creates a deep grievance that ensures that he must be overturned in future. If Obote had negotiated the kingdoms out of existence in 1966, and not called on Amin to attack the Lubiri, Uganda would be a very different country today. Different, yes, but would it have been better? Obote possibly would have been president until his death in 2005, a record 40 years plus – which is the target Museveni seems to be aiming for.

In several respects, 1994 and 1995 were pivotal years for Uganda and Museveni’s rule. Despite the no-party system, quite a diverse group of Ugandans were elected to the Constituent Assembly to write the new constitution. It was, broadly speaking, quite a progressive Constitution for Africa and world of 1995. The one point of contention was that it perpetuated the one-party (no party system), but many Ugandans were happy to live with the inconvenience. Shortly after, NRM hardliners liked to say the party would rule Uganda for 100 years, and some put it at 600 years. There was a part of me that could see that happening, if the NRM had stuck to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

One of the biggest blows to the Constitution came in 2005 when, in exchange for removing the presidential term limit, MPs were paid a few million shillings. It was the social equivalent of vomiting over the dinner table. It devalued the Constitution considerably. The last vestiges of credibility the Constitution had are now being destroyed by the militarisation of its amendment. But as the Obote years taught us, every change of the Constitution that is obtained by bribes or at gun-point, automatically become mandatory points of future reform.

Secondly it ensures that while Museveni will get more bites at the cherry, the NRM will not rule for 100 years. In fact it might not exist for 50 years. The UPC has now been around for 57 years, and the Democratic Party for 63 years. The price the UPC paid for that was to lose power twice. For DP, the price it has paid is to have never been in power. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, in Uganda to have both the longevity of a president’s rule and long life expectancy for his party.

Those who want the NRM order to definitively end with Museveni should pray that when the vote on the age limit comes, this time the army would enter the Parliament chamber and replace the Speaker’s mace with a machine gun. It will finally render this Constitution so dirty, that a future Uganda can only be built on the basis of something totally different and new.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is the publisher of Africa data visualiser Africapedia.com and explainer site Roguechiefs.com. Twitter@cobbo3

Source — Daily Monitor


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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