• OPINION The age limit debate: Unmasking the inaccuracies

By Muzinduki Patrick

Members of Parliament are elected to make laws as provided for under article 79 and 92 of the constitution as one of their core mandates, including constitution amendment which is provided for under article 259 and 262 of the constitution that lays down the procedures and principles under which any article of the constitution has been amended. The constitution is the supreme law of the land, as provided for under article 2 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda. It clearly provides that any other law that contravenes any provision of the constitution shall be null and void.

The amendment of the constitution therefore, is legal and a role of parliament. The Bill to amend can either be introduced by the government or private member which has to go though first, second and third readings and supported by two thirds majority of all members of parliament.

The dilemma and contention that has caused tension in parliament and in the public is about the candidature of President Museveni to contest in 2021 general elections. Whereas there is a preamble of the constitution giving a whole background and history of Uganda, the preamble in itself cannot be referred to since there are specific constitutional provisions. The opposition has struggled in the last 5 elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, and 2016) to unseat President Museveni in vain. Their only last hope was that when the president clocks 75 years, he would automatically leave power. The removal of the age limit would therefore pave way for the president to contest and lead Uganda for the next more twenty years if he is still healthy and alive. NRM has the numbers for the two thirds majority required to amend the constitution. This reality is so painful to the opposition and Ugandans who had hoped for the president to peaceful leave and hand over power to a new president in 2021.

Looking at the trend of events, the constitution will finally be amended and President Museveni will be eligible to contest for the president job in 2021. Am so much concerned that if Ugandans are unhappy with the President and they are complaining of poverty; poor service delivery in health, education, agriculture; poor performance of the economy; corruption; arbitrary arrests and intimidation etc, why can’t then Ugandans get angry and vote him out. There have been arguments that elections are rigged through unfair environment for campaign for the opposition. Whereas this could be true, it should be noted that many Ugandans are enjoying this and are rewarding the president by giving him more votes. No Ugandan is forced with a gun on his/her head at the time of ticking the ballot paper to vote for President Museveni in spite of all circumstances of bribery and intimidation, it is still possible to use a vote to punish any leader by voting him or her out while casting the vote.

The voters have been able to utilize this opportunity at the level of Members of Parliaments, LC5 and LC3 chairpersons and councillors where many of them that performed poorly were voted out. This opportunity was missed at the level of the President in 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016, the same opportunities will again be missed in 2021, 2026 and 2031 on-wards if the majority of Ugandans are not tired and angry with Museveni leadership. Therefore, the limit to stop the President has been there for all the last elections and for the upcoming elections since the term of office is only for five years, any Ugandan who feels that President Museveni has performed poorly should work hard to mobilize family members, neighbors, village mates, Old boys, Old girls, work mates and anyone around them to raise a bigger voice and critical mass to turn up and vote out a leader they feel should not lead Uganda. If 12 out of 15 million Ugandans voted for a different presidential candidate and defended their vote then it would not be possible for President Museveni to come back. This would however be an uphill task in a country where NRM has the majority MPs, LC5 chairpersons, councilors and LC1 chairpersons and with big popular support.

The author is the Head of Research and Advocacy Unit at KRC. However the views expressed herein are not necessarily those of KRC as an Institution


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