Flashback | When The Proposed Bill on Age Limits was First Raised in 2016

Posted October 15, 2017 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Age Limit Debate ~ 3,683 views


Preamble — The article below was first published in The East African edition of Sunday September 18th 2016 when the issue of the proposed bill to remove the age limit was first raised. On September 14, 2016 parliament rejected a proposal to bring a Bill that was seen by critics as a precursor to the removal of the 75 years age limit for presidential candidates.

Below is the article in full as it appeared in The East African Newspaper and its preceded by the video of Constitutional Law Professor Joe Oloka Onyango’s presentation on why Constitutions should never be subjected to frequent and arbitrarily change. This historical background is meant to help guide all those in support and against this debate form a deeper perspective of the real issues at hand!

Flashback — On September 14, 2016 a day before Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni marked his 72nd birthday, parliament rejected a proposal to bring a Bill that was seen by critics as a precursor to the removal of the 75 years age limit for presidential candidates.

Nakifuuma Member of Parliament Robert Kafeero Sekitoleko had sought Parliament’s permission to table a Bill that would result in the amendment of constitutional mandatory retirement ages for judicial officers and electoral commissioners.

House Speaker Rebecca Kadaga rejected the proposal and ordered that government brings a comprehensive proposal to amend the Constitution.

“I have listened to the arguments and I’ve not seen the urgency. If we allow this proposal, the danger will be that I will not have reason not to allow motions on other issues. I defer this proposal indefinitely,” said Ms Kadaga.

And although the MP’s proposal did not mention Article 102(b) on the presidency, its presentation to the House had aroused suspicion from President Museveni’s critics.

At least 24 women activists were arrested and briefly detained on Tuesday after they attempted to stage a demonstration near parliament against the Bill. They argued it was a trick to clear the way for a constitutional change to allow President Museveni to seek re-election in 2021, at the age of 77.

“We reject the proposal to remove term limits of those appointed to serve on the Electoral Commission because citizens through the Citizen Compact on Free and Fair Elections made clear proposals for substantive electoral reforms,” said the activists in a statement following their failed demonstration. 

The statement added, “We reject piecemeal reforms, especially given that the current Election Commission has twice been found, by our courts, to have grossly mismanaged elections. We cannot afford to have it continue to manage the electoral process in its current form.”

Both in Parliament and among political and civil society activists, the shadow of President Museveni’s remaining hurdle to continued stay in power hang over the Bill.

Sceptical MP

“We have not handled any Bill since we started work in this 10th Parliament and the first thing we have is this man presenting such a Bill? Why does he want to blackmail us?” questioned a sceptical MP of the ruling NRM but opposed to the Bill.

Allegations that Mr Kafeero was behind a trip to eastern Uganda at which some MPs were given a bag of sugar and a million shillings in exchange for supporting the Bill last month generated immense debate.

“This matter touches a very important document in our jurisdiction, the Constitution. We would want to know the position of the Minister of Justice on the proposed Constitutional Review Commission; how government will comply with recommendations of the Supreme Court (following the electoral petition) and whether any MP can move a Private Members Bill on any area in the Constitution,” questioned Wilfred Niwagaba, the shadow Attorney General.

A checkered history of tinkering with the Constitution lends credence to fears loudly expressed among activists, civil society and even in the corridors of Parliament that an invisible hand was working behind Kafeero’s Bill.

In June, a statement from State House acknowledged that President Museveni had received a petition asking him to cause the amendment of the Constitution to remove the age limit. He promised to consult, the statement from his office said. Ann-Maria Nankabirwa, the woman MP for Kyankwanzi district presented the memorandum on behalf of other leaders from her district.

Earlier, a meeting of district chairpersons of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party had also petitioned President Museveni, their chairman to get rid of the age limit.

But it is Kafeero’s Bill that attracted the most debate though he dismissed any effort to link the age limit on judges to that on the presidency.

“I hoped that people would not see it as part and parcel of the age limit debate on the Presidency,” he told The EastAfrican on Thursday adding, “these were my personal ideas, I developed them of course at this time when anyone talks about age limit people quickly run to [think about] the President.”

Mr Kafeero warned that critics of his Bill could have actually played into the hands of those who might want to remove the age hurdle for Mr Museveni.

“If that is what they wanted then they have got it,” he said referring to the call by the House to have a comprehensive constitutional amendment Bill. “Of course my ideas are not dead,” he said, “I will lobby to ensure they are integrated into the government Bill.”

Some critics say President Museveni used Kafeero’s Bill as a dipstick to taste public’s reaction, a result he would have achieved by Thursday’s ruling in the House.

Outside Parliament a former critic Beti Kamya, a former presidential candidate and leader of the Federal Alliance party who President Museveni recently appointed minister, led a surprise call for him to run again in 2021.

Ms Kamya was accompanying the president on a tour of small scale projects in Kampala where she asked him to stand again promising to mobilise 80 per cent of the vote in Kampala, which remains firmly under opposition control.

President Museveni was shown on TV smiling at Kamya’s call but did not comment on it.

Source — The East African Newspaper Archives and NTV News video.

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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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