Anger greets bid to scrap Uganda's presidential age limit

Wednesday September 13 2017

Uganda's police officers arresting youth activists including Kizza Hakim (in a blue suit) for protesting the removal of the presidential age limit on September 12, 2017. PHOTO | ABUBAKER LUBOWA


A section of Ugandan lawmakers have reacted angrily to the bid to remove the presidential age limit from the Constitution.

The MPs, some allied to the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and Independents, on Wednesday challenged the proposal to scrap Article 102 (b) from the Constitution.

An NRM caucus on Tuesday unanimously agreed on the proposal seen as a significant step towards securing a free run for President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election in 2021.

President Museveni, 72, is barred by the current Constitution from running again in the 2021 election as he will have surpassed the 75-year mark by the next election.

The Tuesday vote in Parliament’s conference room, was a significant step for a thinly-veiled process that has been playing out in the open without official endorsement.

'Raping the Constitution'


President Museveni is on record dismissing the talk about two months ago, saying he was concentrating on his programmes and age limit was not an urgent matter.

The lawmakers opposed to the move told journalists on Wednesday that the plan was intended to rape the 1995 Constitution.


Ugandan MP Barnabas Tinkasimiire, one of the lawmakers opposed to the lifting of presidential age limit, speaks to journalists at Parliament on September 13, 2017. PHOTO | ALEX ESAGALA | NMG

They include Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemigaga), Mr Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala Central), Mr Banabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga West), Mr Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and John Baptist Nambashe (NRM Manjiya).

Mr Nambeshe cited the example of former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere who lambasted his MPs for egging him on to cling to power after over two decades.

"You are sycophants and self-seekers. The best time for a leader to relinquish power is when you have some semblance of popularity," he recounted the former president saying.

Mr Niwagaba warned that Uganda could implode if the NRM MPs' manoeuvres succeeded.

"Either we stop calling it the Constitution of Uganda and call it the Constitution of NRM and Museveni, and we fold our hands and let the country go to the dogs, as it surely will, unless citizens resist this and all of us take the mantle to stop this business of people raping our Constitution," he said.

Mr Nsereko said Uganda was once again at a crossroads, bearing in mind that the history of the nation was replete with trickery and turbulence from the time of independence in 1962.

"We were ushered into a Constitutional trickery by the late Milton Obote and his henchmen at the time," he said.

Mr Museveni, now one of Africa's longest serving presidents, first shot his way to power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war.

He ruled Uganda unelected for 10 years before presenting himself as a civilian in the 1996 elections under the individual merit Movement System.

In 2006, President Museveni returned now as candidate for the National Resistance Movement, which had registered as a political party after the lifting of the ban on parties.

Apart from 1996, all previous elections that President Museveni has won with comfortable margins, have been disputed as rigged and fraught with other malpractices.

The Supreme Court has upheld three of those elections, ruling that the existence of irregularities did not affect, in a substantial manner, the final outcome which it said largely reflected the will of the people.