President Yoweri Museveni’s muted celebration of his 70th birthday recently, Brenda Nabukenya’s, public celebration of the same, although with a different figure. The reasons are varied, but all of them point to the constitutional provision in which a person who wants to stand for the presidency of Uganda, must not be more than 75 years of age.
With this in mind, there is therefore a need for the person to give his actual age, for the constitutional provision to be upheld. However, the constitution is silent where the age is merely guessed, without a definite time frame. In this case Museveni, is therefore, at liberty to put his age at a mere dating of some historical events.
Needless, this will refer us to a throwback under the circumstances of the person’s birth. For the case of Museveni, this has been a contentious issue. Some years ago, when the-then MP and then-president of the Conservative Party, Nsubuga Nsambu, at a rally in his Makindye constituency, tended to question his (Museveni’s) antecedent, he was harassed and shanghaid to court for making derogatory statements on the person of the president. Since then nobody has come up with a similar questioning of Museven’s background. So, in a sense, this is a sacrosanct subject, that only Museveni can delve in with abandon.
It is interesting that nothing came out of Nsambu’s case in court, because then the whole country might have come to know what Nsambu was referring to. And he never even repeated his suspicions on the floor of Parliament, which is meant to be litigation-free. Nevertheless, there are other politicians interested in the presidency from parties other than the NRM, such as what DPs Nabukenya did, who would take on Museveni at his word – with a pinch of salt. In her case the Police quickly and rudely dispersed the rally. Undoubtedly, this is what is discouraging anybody who would want to pursue this line of inquiry.
Such persons would well be advised to seek the counsel of people like (also DP) Boniface Byanyima, the old man, who had the opportunity of knowing Museveni from an early age. One cannot rely on people like Augustine Ruzindana or Mondo Kagonyera, who may also claim to know Museveni, from those early days, because they are basically of a similar age.
The constitution is also silent on what happens if the person, at the time that he is president, clocks the mandatory threshold age of 75. If Museveni stands in 2016, he will be 77, or thereabouts, giving him only two or three years to be president before the 75-age bracket clicks in. And he would still be occupying the “sweet chair”. What happens then?
The suggestion is that, that is why Museveni wanted Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki, to continue despite him also reaching the judiciary retirement age of 70. It would appear that Odoki was of a similar mind because he left another lucrative appointment in Swaziland to come back. As birds of the same feather, Odoki would have master-minded the change of the 1995 Constitution to remove the age bracket to allow Museveni to seek re-election in 2021. But can’t any other chief justice manipulate the constitution to remove the same?
In any case the whole issue has to come to Parliament for debate and be passed. But it is now generally accepted that Museveni is able to get the better of Members of Parliament to vote in favour of his motions. There are so many cases to be catalogued of Museveni arm-twisting the MPs; however, the recent one most talked about, is that of him getting the MPs out of their collective indebtedness. So, dangle some amount of money before the majority of the MPs, who are indigent anyway; and you have got them to pass the Bill that will remove the term limits.
If Byanyima or Nsambu or any other person, intimate with Museveni’s antecedents cannot be coaxed to give the people of Uganda another side of Museveni’s age, what then for the public to be assured of the present constitutional provision of disallowing people of beyond 75 years of age to be president?