The controversial Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 that aims to remove the presidential age limit, to allow President Yoweri Museveni to extend his 31-year stay in power, sailed through the First Reading in Parliament on Tuesday.
In the chambers were members of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) after those opposed to the Bill boycotted the sitting.
The private member Bill was tabled in the House by its sponsor, Raphael Magyezi (MP for Igara West).
After the reading, the Bill was referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for further scrutiny.
Mr Magyezi said the Bill had already obtained the certificate of financial implication from the Finance ministry indicating that funds required to implement the proposals are available.
The Bill is seen as one of the fastest to progress through various stages in Parliament, given that it was sponsored by a private member. In less than a week, Mr Magyezi sought approval to table the Bill, on Wednesday, it was gazette on Friday and has now gone through the First Reading to reach the committee stage.
On Wednesday, fighting broke out in the House, over the Bill, between MPs supporting and those opposing it. Several were injured with at least four lawmakers hospitalised following the fracas. Nearly 30 MPs were dragged out of Parliament by plain-clothes security personnel from the army.
Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had suspended 25 MPs over alleged involvement in a brawl over the same Bill the previous day. Several other MPs opposed to the lifting of age limit, from both the ruling party and opposition, walked out in protest.
The police are meanwhile investigating attacks on the homes of three MPs opposed to the age limit Bill after grenades were thrown at their residences. The three include Kyadondo East MP Robert Sentamu Kyagulanyi, popularly known as Bobi Wine, and Allan Ssewanyana of Makindye West and Moses Kasibante of Lubaga North.
The MPs claim the attacks are part of efforts to intimidate them to stop opposing the Bill.
Police also raided offices of at least three civil society organisations it accuses of funding activities against the Bill.
The Uhuru Institute based in Naguru near Kampala was the latest to be raided on Monday after raids previously on Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GliSS) and ActionAid International (Uganda).
The authorities have also thwarted public protests by deploying heavily and making arrests. The two demos that have not been succeeded are Walk to Work protest, called by Dr Kizza Besigye, a former presidential candidate, and another symbolised by tying a red bandana.
Mr Museveni, 73, has been in power since 1986. His current term ends in 2021 when he will have exceeded the 75-year-old limit for a presidential candidate according to the current Constitution.
After taking over power, following a five-year guerrilla war, President Museveni promised fundamental changes and condemned leaders who stay in power for too long – which he described as Africa’s problem.
He has largely skirted the age limit controversy.
During last week’s chaos in Parliament, he was in Brussels, leading a delegation of East African ministers to renegotiate the Economic Partnership Agreement at the EU headquarters. At a radio talk show, when he returned, the president responded to a caller on the age limit Bill by saying opposition members will not be allowed to “disorganise the country.”