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Age limit bill now gazetted

President Museveni

After months of speculation, the omnibus Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which contains a clause to remove the presidential age limit, has been lined up to be officially gazetted.

We have seen a copy of The Uganda Gazette dated June 8, 2017 where the Constitution (Amendment) Bill is listed as one of the bills that are due to be published.

Sources said the bill shall be published in the gazette in a few weeks’ time. Interviewed for a confirmation on Friday, June 30, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2017 awaits to be published in The Uganda Gazette before it can come to parliament for debate.

The Uganda Gazette, according to the ministry of Justice’s website, is the “official newspaper of government.” 

Otafiire said: “Once the bill has been gazetted, a Constitutional Review Commission shall be appointed and it will gather views from the people.”

Otafiire added that all articles of the Constitution, including 102 that touches on the qualifications for one to be a president,will be up for possible amendment.

“What is so special about Article 102? Is it a commandment from God? If the public wants the age-limit amended, it will be amended. If they don’t want, we shall leave it,” Otafiire said.

Specifically, Article 102 (b) states that a person is not qualified for election as president of Uganda if he or she is “less than thirty-five years and or more than seventy-five years of age.”

The fiery minister continued: “The Constitution is not my property. I am just a custodian. If people want some articles to be amended, it is their right.”
Otafiire’s remarks confirm earlier speculation that government plans to have the presidential age cap abolished despite public denial by senior government officials.

In a 2012 interview that is now commonly shared on social media, President Museveni told NTV: “I don’t think someone can be an effective leader after 75 years.”

However, since his re-election last year, the president has been more circumspect, simply telling journalists that he will follow the Constitution.

SEVERAL ATTEMPTS

Museveni, who turns 73 later this year, will be 76 by 2021 and thus ineligible to stand for president under the constitution as it is today. Political analysts predict that just as he did in the run-up to the lifting of presidential term limits in 2005, President Museveni will distance himself from the move to remove the age-limit, leaving it to his outspoken supporters in and out of the NRM-dominated parliament.

Some politicians, seeking to catch his attention, have already stoked the potentially fiery debate. In August 2016, the Kyankwanzi district leadership drafted a resolution in support of an amendment to lift the age-limit.

Led by Woman MP Ann Maria Nankabirwa, the resolution was handed to a smiling President Museveni after a meeting of both parties. Later on, it was Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko’s turn to catch the president’s attention. In September 2016, the Nakifuma MP tried in vain to table a private member’s bill that was seen as a ruse to lift the presidential age limit in the Constitution.

The Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017 (highlighted) on the Gazette

On the face of it, the bill aimed to raise the retirement age of judges and give electoral commissioners an extended tenure but, under the surface, it was believed to be targeting Article 102(b).

The Nakifuma MP’s move collapsed on September 13, 2016 after Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga directed that the motion be shelved until government tables an omnibus bill with all constitutional amendments therein.

Ssekitooleko is now understood to be part of a group of MPs actively working to figure out how the age-limit clause can be set aside.

Others, according to our sources, are, John Bosco Lubyayi (Mawokota South), Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South), former FDC treasurer Anita Among (Bukedea Woman), Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers), Peter Ogwang (Usuk) and Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South).

Asked about the Constitution (Amendment) Bill, Rwakajara told The Observer on Saturday that he will support it when it comes to parliament.

“Let it come to parliament and we see the details. I will support it,” Rwakajara said.

Yet any attempt to lift the age-limit will most likely set off protests from some sections of the public, opposition groups and civil society activists.

Godber Tumushabe, the executive director of the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLISS), told The Observer on Saturday that government’s insistence on pushing forward with the amendment shows they don’t have the interests of citizens at heart.

“This government no longer works for the people. It works for itself and President Museveni. What Museveni wants is what becomes law,” Tumushabe said.

Betty Nambooze, the Mukono municipality legislator, told The Observer last week that the opposition would rise up against any attempt to lift the presidential age-limit.

“I call upon all well-meaning Ugandans to join us in the struggle against dictatorship. We shall not sit by and watch as Museveni tampers with the Constitution.”

ekiggundu@observer.ug

Comments

+2 #11 Phalanch 2017-07-03 15:53
What is real in Uganda?

This so called justice minister he is as blind and fake just as the ministry he claims just like all them are.
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+3 #12 A K Mukasa 2017-07-03 16:25
"What is so special about Article 102? Is it a commandment from God? If the public wants the age-limit amended, it will be amended. If they don’t want, we shall leave it,” Otafiire said.

He is right, if the public wants the age-limit amended, it will be amended.

Given that the amendment will depend on the will of the people, then it should be put to a referendum not a parliamentary vote.

Parliament has been subsumed into the Executive and therefore it represents the Executive not the people.

What every right thinking Ugandan should be doing is to demand for a referendum.

They should not waste energy and resources fighting the proposition as it is fait accompli.

What they should be fighting for is how this is done. If Otafire and his colleagues truthfully believe in the will of the people, they should go to the people to seek permission to make this fundamental change to the constitution.
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-2 #13 Odessa Sekitte 2017-07-03 16:59
Incredible! Another scheme by this regime to fiddle with the constitution to remove age limits, another raised middle finger by the regime to go against peoples will.

In the meantime Iet me throw an assortment of carcasses on my grill in preparation for July 4th, United States 241st independence day.

Happy July 4th to all my Ugandan Americans, forget uganda politics for now, get them grills fired up.
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+1 #14 kabinda 2017-07-03 21:46
These guys just want another round of blood shed and when it comes it will be on Ssekitooleko's hands along with all the devil incarnates playing around with the constitution.

Dream Museveni is immortal for now and face the consequences when you find out the reverse is true. We are watching.
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0 #15 Jonathan 2017-07-04 22:25
This is our fight ;the fight to save our country from a dictator and his so called sycophants.
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0 #16 TUMUSIIME RICHARD 2017-09-25 16:47
quarreling about article 102(b) amendment is not the answer for our living well according to me, if he want again to contest,let him come, if (you) Ugandans have no interest in him, don't give him your vote
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0 #17 BEINE SARAH 2017-09-26 11:28
I do not support that Act 102 be amended. and i believe that God Himself does not support also.

We really appreciate what Museveni has done for Ugandans but let him go and other Ugandans also take positions and we see their leadership.

Please Don't touch on that article, Let the decision be made by all Ugandans but not MPs. Thank you.
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