A member of NRM’s Central Executive Committee, the top most party decision-making organ, has joined Ugandans asking President Museveni to take heed of public opposition to his ruling party’s push to remove presidential age limits.
Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza, a senior commander in the bush war, which brought Museveni to power in 1986, NRM vice chairman representing western Uganda, member of the army’s historical high command, and presently Uganda’s ambassador to strife-torn Burundi, made his comments when he spoke to a Kampala radio on Independence day.
“The president should listen to what people are saying. He should stop pretending to be very busy. He should use this chance [to retire] now when we still love him, not to give a chance to everyone to say he is tired,” Kyaligonza said.
He was speaking on CBS radio’s prime news skit, Nze nga bwendaba (The way I see it), on Monday morning hosted by Alex Nsubuga.
Kyaligonza warned that the controversial proposal to remove Article 102(b) that sets the 35 to 75-year presidential age cap, is taking the country down a dangerous road which spells doom.
Speaking about the September 27 chaos in which opposition MPs were beaten and violently dragged out of parliament by troops from the Special Forces Command, which protects the president, the former delegate to the Constituent Assembly, said limitation clauses were deliberately written into the 1995 Constitution.
He said during the CA, they spent about four days debating the age limit proposal with amendment after amendment, especially from the government side headed by the late Colonel Sserwanga Lwanga.
“The bad thing is, it has come at a time when Museveni is also 75 years old; we have now over-personalised this debate,” Kyaligonza said.
He said they placed limiting clauses in the Constitution because of Uganda’s history with dictators who planned on clinging on as presidents for life.
“We said instead of just pushing them out by force, let’s put in place mechanisms where it’s nature that will stop somebody from standing again. But now some people think what we did was for nothing,” Kyaligonza said.
The former MP in the 6th parliament said it is wrong to legislate for one person however good they might be, because bad people might use the same window.
“Even these MPs are wrong; why should you insist on bringing a proposal that results into beatings, fighting and arresting people? Why are you forcing it on people? Why don’t you withdraw it and first get consensus?” he said.
He likened Raphael Magyezi’s private member’s bill to former president Apollo Milton Obote’s 1967 pigeonhole constitution that is said to have been single-handedly drafted by then attorney general, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, and forced on parliament.
“Magyezi has no magezi [intelligence]; why do you do things just to be seen? If you bring a proposal and it’s rejected, why don’t you withdraw it?” Kyaligonza said.
“If I was Magyezi, I would have used common sense to see that the issue I’m bringing is unpopular; you can’t sell it to your constituents.”
Kyaligonza criticised Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s handling of the September 27 session that ended in violence and ejection of opposition MPs. He said Kadaga should have adjourned business to let MPs who were continuously singing the national anthem to cool off.
“As speaker, you can’t afford to lose your temper. When you lose your temper, you can’t debate; that’s why Oulanyah [deputy speaker] outsmarted her. When they [MPs] sang the national anthem, he listened because no one is allowed to interfere with the anthem. After, he would then say ‘order’ and they repeated the singing until he adjourned the house.”
Deputy speaker Jacob Oulanyah was in charge of proceedings when the opposition first made it clear they would have none of the Magyezi bill.
The two-star general also lampooned the police and other security agencies’ un- necessary siege of parliament, which he likened to “guarding rats”.
“[Inspector General of Police Kale] Kayihura was also wrong to deploy the way he deployed at parliament. It’s true there are times when you can deploy but in that situation it was unnecessary.”
Kyaligonza is the first army general still in government to publicly oppose the lifting of age limits.
He joins former prime minister Apolo Nsibambi, former vice president Gilbert Bukenya, bishops, leaders of the Muslim community, university lecturers, ordinary Ugandans, civil society actors, among others, in calling for President Museveni to retire in 2021.
In 2015, as NRM prepared to choose senior office bearers, Kyaligonza furiously responded to an attempt by Odrek Rwabwogo, husband to the president’s daughter Patience, to unseat him as party chair for western Uganda.
After days of outraged denunciations suggesting the son-in-law was riding on his relationship with the first family to undermine founding members, the central executive committee rejected Rwabwogo’s scheme and endorsed Kyaligonza unopposed.