Col (rtd) Nuwe Amanya Mushega appeared before the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs on November 9 where he made a presentation on the 'age limit bill.'
The bush war veteran comes with considerable heft, having been the national political commissar and noted NRM ideologue in the early years of the Museveni presidency.
He was minister for education during more or less the same period and has been secretary general of the East African Community. JOSEPHINE NAMULOKI followed the proceedings.
Committee chair Jacob Oboth Oboth: I call this meeting to order. To begin with, our witness, we would like to know more about you in relation to politics of this country but also as a senior citizen, as a knowledgeable person, trained lawyer, former secretary general and a person who has been around.
We want to rely on your expertise and opinion regarding what is before us; where do we go given our political history that everyone has invoked in the preamble. Tell us what we may not know about you and then make a presentation.
Mushega: Thank you, Mr Chairman. You say you want a conversation which I think is better because we must discuss the future of our country. I have told friends; our generation, we have had our fair share of life. So, as I said, the conversation will be useful because we are able to compare notes.
I mentioned that my generation, we have lived a fair share of our entitlement; so, our concern should not even be about our children because our children are already adults and I mention this from the top and other friends that I have in government.
The main concern of mine is not me or our children. It is our grandchildren. Those of six, seven… Anything we do, take into account that those people will harvest what we are sowing but were never responsible for.
When I was coming here, right from the front, to the rear entrance I went through so many security gadgets that were not here before. This is a sign that parliament and with its honourable members are very important people who should reflect high values, value the nation and its people to come first before our personal and partisan concerns and interests.
Let me put a recap which everyone I think knows. I was actually a member of the [Odoki] Constitutional Commission. Let me declare that interest but you can go to the Hansard and dig out what my positions were. I don’t think they have changed much.
Mwenge North MP Aston Kajara: There is a difference between the commission and the Constituent Assembly; you were actually a member of the assembly.
Mushega: Thank you for that amendment, yes. I was a member of the CA and we spent about three months debating whether we should be called honourable or minister, a lot of time was spent. These days when I go to the village even the LC-IIs are honourables. I was in a meeting and a lady introduced herself as so and so who stood and lost.
Mushega: Interestingly, she was from FDC. The point is that we have tried to make it that everybody is very important. You know you can value yourself as so important when actually you are minor. Now, the chairmen of districts are impossible to greet because they are better facilitated than some medical officers.
Mushega: So, there was that commission which went around the country. Then the CA which was elected specifically for one task; to look through the document (draft constitution) and pass a document which would take into account what had befallen Uganda.
It took into account the history of Uganda, what Uganda had gone through. So, if you see people referring to Iceland, India, it had different circumstances from what Uganda had gone through. Of course there were comparisons with other constitutions.
This constitution was made;
i) After long consultations by the Constitutional Commission that went around the country consulting the citizens, experts and other constitutions.
ii) By a special body which was universally elected to do only one specific thing to review the report, to consult and promulgate a national constitution.
iii) While taking into account the history of Uganda and to address the issues specific to Uganda.
iv) through comparisons with other constitutions in the region and the world.
v) it was to prevent repetition of the past and to immunise leaders from being infected by the State House virus that affects the occupants with appetite for power and overstay. So, what is the agency for this amendment; is it the most serious and urgent matter affecting the country today?
Uganda’s problems in the past and present have never come from the population, the opposition or lack of ideology. It has always come from leaders who come to power with good intentions but later on, because of the State House virus and trappings of power, start thinking of themselves as indispensable and grow a sense of entitlement to stay in power.
This can be made worse by political creepers and cheerleaders. Constitutions and other laws are made to govern society and control the greed of men for power and resources. Constitutions are made to stand the test of time and challenges, not to be changed casually or, worse still, to suit the interest of one person or a group.
If I may ask, what is the hurry to specifically amend the age limit provision…? What mischief has occurred? Who has complained that the provision [Article 102(b)] as it is has prevented them from standing? Where did Hon Magyezi Raphael, the mover who had earlier demonstrated against leaders who want to overstay, pick this noble idea from?
We should never make a law or amend it to suit an individual, however disguised or cleverly done.
The question I am posing: “who are we fooling?”
We have heard many arguments in favour of this move, but let me highlight a few:
That USA had no term limits until recently, that this law is not for the benefit of Mr Museveni, that many other countries have no term limits, that why remove a good captain, striker?
A good law is the one that affects all equally, including or especially those who made it. Patriotism is not just love for your leader but it is love for your country, including the duty to defend your country against its government or leader.
The first major defilement of this constitution in its infancy was the removal of term limits, which was specifically to benefit an individual.
The current attempt to change, or this time rape, the very constitution in spite of all the spurious arguments, is again to benefit one individual. When a leader [gets] above the law and whenever the fundamental law of the land affects him, it must be changed at all costs and hastily, you are headed for disaster. It becomes a question of just not when but also how.
When all is done just to keep one individual or group in unchecked power, you are sowing seeds of disaster for the future generation.
Africa is replete with such strongmen, eventually they leave power. Even where the leader has passed on and is accorded a state funeral like in the case of Ivory Coast, problems have occurred.
Young men and women who now live in misery or pay with their blood to change the situation were not even born when these indispensable strongmen were in charge. Honourable members, think about the country and the children of tomorrow.
The office of the president in the case of Uganda is the most feted, facilitated and protected. There is a question I would like to put across to this committee which has been on my mind for many years: Is Mr Museveni (for whom you intend to amend the age limit provision), a leader to prosperity and progress or a leader to eventual disaster?
Do leaders who want to overstay in power, even against their original principled positions, do so because of their love for their countries and people or is it for other reasons?
Power intoxicates far more than alcohol. In the case of alcohol, when the individual wakes up he is shaken by the hangover and other effects but has a chance to reflect and rethink.
For power, however, it’s a permanent presence everywhere the occupant is; it’s ever present. It’s all-powerful, however, much the occupant tries he gets insulated from reality. It can easily lead to the hubris syndrome.
The provisions on term and age limits were to prevent this. Alas, if these milestones are removed …the future of this country and future generation, your guess is as good as mine.
I have had the privilege to meet some presidents while in power and those who had relinquished power. The difference in expression, demeanour and lessons they give are amazing.
Even those we have watched in neighbouring Kenya, Tanzania or far off USA and UK make you feel envious wishing the same could happen to us. The current generation owes this country the obligation to have a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another.
It has happened at the level of vice presidents, prime ministers, MPs and local leaders. Why not at the presidency? Is it occupied by people from outer space? It is important to save the country and individuals, by leaving this protective provision intact.
Duty has beckoned you; it’s up to you to fulfil it. It’s very important to remove the state of fear and uncertainty from many leaders – temporal, spiritual and investors and especially local investors.
Trouble has always come from leaders. History, like time, never repeats itself. It is only those who think they are too clever who repeat the same things that resulted into trouble in the past and when the same results occur, they are again too clever or conceited to accept the consequences of their actions. Instead of accepting the blame, they take cover in the false adage that history has, indeed, repeated itself.
One time I was having a conversation with the late Zirikusoka. He said to me “You are not successful until you have a successful successor.” It’s high time you created room for many successors to emerge so that the best from them are chosen. We may be enjoying peace but we need stability.
Let me end with the story I was told by a leader in Tanzania. When Mwalimu Julius Nyerere declared his intentions to retire, the entire central executive committee of CCM insisted that he was the only one that could guarantee stability in Tanzania.
But when he stuck to his guns and declared his retirement, more than 15 members of those in the same committee picked their forms to replace him. Of course, each declaring that he was the most suited to replace him and continue the stability. Tanzania has since had four presidents and is stable. Compare with Field Marshal Mobutu Sese seko who declared that after him there will be a flood.
I wish and hope that some of you will be among those that will pick nomination forms, especially from the ruling party, when this vital provision is retained. If only you can have the courage to overcome the fear of this highly-disguised private member’s bill. One wise jurist long ago said “circumstantial evidence is capable of proving a point with accuracy of mathematics.”
Don’t fear, Ugandans today are much more bold; less fearful compared to the situation in 2005. Let me end with this statement about a law which is meant to affect some. Recently, I was in Bushenyi, that is where I am born; so, there was a rule passed by police that in these consultations, MPs cannot move from [their] constituency to another.
I remember people were prevented from moving from Makindye to Lubaga. I read in the papers that the leaders in Bushenyi, I presume I am one of them but I am past, have approved the removal of age limits.
They collected many people from constituencies in Bushenyi: Ishaka, Bushenyi Municipality, Igara East and Igara West and Woman MP.
They gathered at the district headquarters. I asked the police, you made a rule or law that an MP cannot cross from his constituency to another but not only have [they] crossed, but you are all gathered here to give protection to them.
I was told that was not a consultative meeting, but a district NRM consultative caucus and they were all dressed in yellow. I thought consultations mean everybody who is qualified can be consulted, including me who is a resident of that area.
They excluded everybody else apart from those in yellow and later on they secretly declared that the whole of Bushenyi district had approved this amendment. The question I pose, Mr chairman: who are we fooling?
Oboth: Whom are we fooling; maybe we would start with who is fooling who now?
Bukooli North MP Gaster Mugoya: You talked about defiling of our constitution. I want to hear from you whether Article 102(b) is an entrenched provision in our constitution or not. I would request you to give us answers in regard to articles 259 and 262 vis-a-vis article 102(b). Whether this bill has political connotations or legal.
Do you find anything good in the 1995 constitutional order in terms of social, economic and political setting?
Mushega: I went to the bush but it is not very important. Whether there are benefits from freedom fights or not, I think there are. You don’t wake up in the morning and your son tells you put out your gown there is a wedding reception I have organised.
It is something you see through as a family; you inform neighbours and relatives. So, this amending of the constitution is not a casual matter. Whatever you want, go ahead and do it, you have the numbers but I remember a former president also asking: where are your commanders? These numbers keep changing; so, who are we fooling?
When you say is the bill political or legal, it is primarily political. Laws come to govern human beings. Every vernacular has a term for it. When the law has just started; not even walking, you want to change it. Why did you make it in the first place? In Kyankwanzi we opposed [lifting term limits] and made it clear to President Museveni in private and public meetings.
The two provisions [term and age limits] were intended to cure what I call the State House virus. I need to say he [Museveni] was a man of few words; he had come to stay for a little while …. when we came in, we started two years, four, nine, 15 years. I am responsible for some of those by the way.
People used to live together in Bunyoro, Toro, Ankole but the moment Bunyaruguru was declared a district [Rubirizi] then suddenly the difference between Bakiga and Banyaruguru turned up. So, they had to create a constituency [Katerera] for Bakiga and another one for Banyaruguru.
You can see how we are making people think narrow, how can we build East Africa when we can’t build Uganda, how will I live with a Tanzanian when I can’t live with a mukiga. The more you divide the population, the more narrowly they think. I thank you for inviting me.
Oboth: Thank you very much. If we had 10 of you speaking that way, the problems we consider for Uganda would be solved. We thank you.