Following the re-election of President Yoweri Museveni into office for a 5th term early this year, rumour and speculation started about a plan to remove the 75years Constitutional age limit for a presidential contender.
Many dismissed this talk as malicious and as an opposition plot aimed at blackmailing the NRM and President Yoweri Museveni .
But the unthinkable is quickly becoming reality, if the proceedings in Parliament this week are anything to go by. A senior member of the ruling NRM party and the MP of Nakifuma Constituency MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko attempted to present a private members bill calling for the amendment of the constitution to remove age limits for Judges and Electoral Commission bosses. Many however believe the actual motive of the motion is to remove age limits for the president.
This is most regrettable! And when you consider previous amendments especially regarding the president’s stay in power, one can not but draw similarities with past unpopular decision such as Milton Obote’s Pigeon Hole Constitution that removed a popular Constitution and the Will of the People, with an imposed one.
Preserving the integrity of any Constitution is considered one of the key pillars of rule of law and democratic governance. Lessons on previous amendments particularly aimed at keeping the current government in power have left a bitter taste in the mouths and created fear in the hearts of many Ugandans about the country’s future.
We believe that the framers of the 1995 Constitution were right to put limits to the number of terms as well as the minimum and maximum age of a presidential contender. Without a history of peaceful transfer of power in Uganda, these Constitutional provisions were essential in reassuring Ugandans that power could be changed by democratic rather than use of the gun.
The planned removal of the age limit for the president is clearly meant to benefit President Yoweri Museveni. But this is most likely to undermine the tremendous democratic achievements such as the sense of peace and stability that has characterised the NRM government.
History will clearly harshly judge MPs of the 10th Parliament for removing perhaps the only remaining source of hope for peaceful transfer of power. With the Presidential Age limit out of the way, Ugandans will grow more anxious about the future. This will not only be a cause of worry among ordinary Ugandans, but will also undermine Uganda’s international standing. The international community will increasingly draw comparisons between us and Zimbabwe with serious adverse consequences for the economy.
These fears are meant to cause a rethink by all our MPs not to take the dangerous path of MP Ssekitooleko. Uganda is better than this. It is in the best interests of NRM, President Museveni to uphold the Constitution and fulfill its demands.