A senior official of the Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) has revealed that the leadership of the party is considering supporting any move that may lead to removing the constitutional provision on age limit for any one to contest as president of Uganda. However his viewpoint has been denied as mere figment of imagination.
Edward Sseganyi, the Secretary General of the faction led by Lira municipality Member of Parliament Jimmy Akena has told The Sunrise that: “We support the elimination of the presidential age limit. We shall give full support to the campaign when the appropriate time to discuss the same comes.”
Sseganyi contends that: “Our argument is that the article prohibits otherwise qualifying Ugandans from standing for the office of the president on account of age. To that effect, the article is discriminatory and as such contrary to the constitution.”
Article 102 (b) of the 1995 Constitution states that: “A person is not qualified for election as President unless that person is – ….not less that thirty five years and not more than seventy five years of age.”
Many in the Opposition and indeed in the public domain speculate that President Museveni is likely to push for the lifting of the age limit to favour him in 2021 when he will have cloaked 77 years of age and therefore ineligible for re-election.
Sseganyi’s argument may not surprise many Ugandans especially following recent incidents that have shown the formerly hostile leadership of UPC increasingly in a cozy relationship with the ruling NRM leadership.
For instance, President Yoweri Museveni named two senior members of the party including Mrs. Betty Amongi, the wife of UPC President Jimmy Akena. Mrs. Amongi was named full cabinet minister responsible for the Lands docket. Museveni had also named Ms. Ruth Acheng as state minister responsible for Lango region, he withdrew her name ahead of her confirmation by Parliament due to opposition from elders in Lango.
Other observers actually trace the rapprochement between UPC and Museveni as far back as 2010 when President Museveni posthumously awarded a heroes medal to the late Milton Obote, the former president of Uganda and father to the UPC president Jimmy Akena.
In 2015 Akena battled allegations as well that he had received one billion shillings from President Museveni in exchange for supporting NRM in the 2015-16 race.
Akena is not the first UPC high ranking official to support the scrapping of the constitutional article on presidential age limit.
His rival Dr. Olara Otunnu was the first to do so actually. Commenting on the issue in the past, Otunnu said he was not opposed to the proposal as long as the elections are held in a free and fair atmosphere.
While President Museveni assured the media during his last campaigns that he had no intentions of sponsoring an amendment to the prohibitive article in order to land other terms, he has since told one of the media outlets in Germany that the prohibitive article will be sorted out by Ugandans only.
Perhaps for fear of a possible backlash from their base, senior members of UPC have denied they ever contemplated or even discussed the idea of lifting the age limit for an aspiring president.
UPC’s spokesperson Michael Orach Isinde told The Sunrise that the party position is that it is opposed to lifting the age limit for president.
He said: “To the best of my knowledge, no single person in the leadership of UPC has come out to supprt the lifting of the age limit. In fact the president himself [Jimmy Akena] said a while ago that this is the last opportunity for President Museveni to lead this country.”
But those familiar with politics can attest that nothing in politics is permanent, and perhaps time will tell how long UPC will be able to sustain their official opposition to the age limit project especially with some of them currently eating from the palm of the President.