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Acholi leaders condemn Parliament, Museveni for Life Presidency Bill

Dr. John Baptist Odama of Gulu diocese

Dr. John Baptist Odama of Gulu diocese

The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative has lashed out at Parliament for indulging in a shameful act of attempting to amend the constitution to ‘give Museveni a chance to rule for life.’

In a subdued message opposing the ongoing plan to amend the constitution, the Acholi religious leaders condemned Parliament and President Museveni for bringing a global embarrassment to Uganda by setting the stage for life presidency.

The group was led by Dr. John Baptist Odama of Gulu diocese who spoke on behalf of other religious leaders in Northern Uganda.

Bishop Odama said: “The whole world will judge the 10th Parliament of Uganda very harshly if it makes the mistake of amending Article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda for selfish end rather than for public good and interest.”

The Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative, ARLPI, an interfaith peace building organization bringing together Muslims and Christians in Northern Uganda was pivotal several years ago in calming down the people of Acholi during the Lords Resistance Army rebellion.

Using a non violent approach of negotiations and religious counselling through sermons, the ARLPI was often used as a soft front by the government to try to drown out support for the Kony insurgency among the population through preaching peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.

At the same time, Bishop Odama often accompanied the government team of negotiators to try to convince  Kony to abandon the deadly rebellion in which thousands of people were killed and estimated two million people were displaced from their homes.

This time however, the same leaders are dismayed that the principles of tolerance, democracy and rule of law they often recited, are being swept by the way side as the government pushes ahead with an unpopular bill to remove term limits, which they believe is aimed at giving President Museveni a limitless hold onto to power.

The leaders asked President Museveni to come out categorically and pronounce himself on the ongoing plan to remove the presidential age limits from the constitution.

“His Excellency the President of the Republic of Uganda has all the moral obligation and responsibility to clear up his name and reputation from all these messes in order to leave a legacy of good leadership in Uganda and the World at large. We therefore call on him to pronounce himself to save Uganda from further embarrassment,” Odama said.

But Odama and his colleagues perhaps forgot that Museveni already expressed support for lifting of the age limit a fortnight ago when he held a televised press conference at State House Entebbe when he said that he has no problem with MPs who volunteer to amend the constitution. He went further to challenge journalists to bring a medical doctor who could prove that someone older than 75 years is not fit lead.

He said that lifting age limits, is not an urgent matter for Uganda now, compared to the many biting problems of poverty, youth unemployment and conflict among others that are already polarizing Uganda.

Odama condemned the violence that was witnessed on Sept. 27th when Speaker of Uganda Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga suspended 25 Members of Parliament and a minister over a chaotic scene that interrupted Parliament the previous day.

Odama urged leaders to desist from violence and instead exercise political maturity, tolerance and embrace dialogue as the best means to resolve differences.

Ambassador David Mwaka, a retired diplomat who was part of the 1993 Constituent Assembly expressed shock at what he called the regrettable desecration by President Museveni of one of Africa’s best constitutions.

“We agreed in the Constituent Assembly that there must be age limit. The president at 75 must retire, go back and become say; national statesman, a consultant of some sort. Have a rest. But what is happening today, the fracas in parliament, how did this come about,” Mwaka wondered.

He says President Museveni should learn from former African presidents who wanted life presidency and ended up without a legacy to share with other Africans. He cited the late Malawian president Kamuzu Banda, who at 100 years did not know what was happening in the country but was quietly taken to Lilongwe (Malawi capital) and a new president was elected without his notice.

Mwaka said the constitution must be respected because it has the voice of the people.

“We said let the president serve and retire at 75years and His Excellency the president himself said at 75 he will not continue in office. But he changed his mind. And now he alone knows when he would like to retire from the presidency to hand over to someone else,” Mwaka disappointingly  observed.

He also lashed out at state agencies such as Police that are arresting people for openly expressing their views about the age limit. He called it constitutional right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 29 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda.

“Every person shall have the freedom to assemble and to demonstrate together with others peacefully and unarmed and to petition.” Reads Artcle 29 (d).

Meanwhile Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, this week presented the largely discredited bill for first reading.

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