The Ugandan government is pushing to amend the Constitution and lift the presidential age limit which will allow President Yoweri Museveni to run for a sixth term.
However, according to a December 2016 poll commissioned by the Uganda NGO Forum and conducted by Research World International, 74 per cent of Ugandans — mostly youth aged 25-34 years — do not want the president to run again.
At 76, President Yoweri Museveni will be ineligible to run in 2021, barring an amendment of Article 102(b).
With this poll still fresh in their minds, ruling party stalwarts and the opposition alike will be fighting from opposite ends.
As was the case in 2005 when the 7th Parliament passed a controversial amendment of Article 105 of the Constitution to lift presidential term limits when Museveni was seeking his second term, he would again be the main beneficiary of the proposed amendment of Article 102(b), if it passes.
According to the Uganda Gazette of June 8, 2017, the government has gazetted a Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 that among other things seeks to remove the presidential age limit. The fight to amend or preserve this provision of the supreme law is going to dominate political space in Uganda between now and the next election.
The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs Kahinda Otafiire says after being gazetted, the Bill will be tabled in Parliament, which the ruling party dominates and therefore expects to deliver. But the law makers are still reading the public mood before they decide which way to vote when the article is put to the a parliamentary vote.
“I know where I stand on this, but once the Bill comes to Parliament, I will first seek the views of my voters,” says independent legislator Beatrice Anywar.
The mood is changing, and critics and supporters alike, especially the youth, are pointing at President Museveni’s duration at the helm of Uganda’s politics as a risk that could cost the ruling party. The president, who has ruled since 1986, will have clocked 35 years in power when his current term ends.
A recent by-election in Kyaddondo East Constituency saw a youthful independent candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine, sweep the polls with 25,659 votes, against 4,556 garnered by the ruling party’s candidate Sitenda Sebalu, whom Museveni had campaigned for.
A number of young pro-NRM voters in Kyaddondo said their vote for one of their own was a protest against the older generation and for urban issues like unemployment that Museveni and his government have failed to address.
The national mood is further dampened by a poorly performing economy that grew at 3.9 per cent in the past financial year, an exchange rate that is close to Ush3,600 to the dollar while essential commodities remain out of reach for a majority of the population.
All these are factors that could count against Museveni and the ruling party if voters demand of their Parliament to end his presidency by keeping the age limit.
But Justice Minister Otafiire is unfazed. He says the government will stand by the outcome of the vote.