At the end of their four-day retreat at Serena Lake Victoria Resort Kigo in Wakiso district, 18 members of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee endorsed the Raphael Magyezi amendment, which if given the much-needed parliamentary nod of approval would scrap presidential age limits.
The 29-member committee was booked into the luxurious resort after meeting President Museveni.
Committee members opposed to the amendment had threatened to boycott the retreat, however, Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East), Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) and NRM’s Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman) eventually turned up at Kigo after their contacts in the committee turned against them.
The Observer understands that as the committee left for State House, those opposed asked Bwamba MP Gafabusa Muhumuza and his Busiki counterpart Paul Akamba to serve as listening posts. But to their surprise, the contacts did not relay any messages but ended up voting in support.
Some of Museveni’s proposals during the December 5 meeting at State House Entebbe were to form part of the committee’s recommendations ahead of the second reading of Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s age limit bill.
The recommendations include the extension of the tenure of office of the president and MPs to seven years from the current five provided for under Article 105(1).
The particular clause is one of the entrenched provisions of the constitution under Article 260, which means it cannot be amended through a mere vote in Parliament.
It must go through a national referendum. Museveni first spoke about the extension of office terms during his address to the NRM National Executive committee members at Entebbe. (See: Museveni: 5-year term is too short, The Observer, October 30).
Nakifuma MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko first unsuccessfully hawked the idea during the 9th Parliament. Museveni’s resurrection of the matter saw it controversially slipped into the committee report, but with a recommendation that it be decided through a referendum.
“It is a matter that generated a lot of debate and we decided that we cannot legislate for ourselves, because it is a matter that directly touches us. That’s why we resolved that we leave it to the people to decide,” an MP said.
The second issue recommended for decision through a referendum is restoration of term limits. All MPs at the retreat, except Nansana Municipality’s Robert Ssebunya Kibirige, voted for restoration.
It was the very first time Ssebunya was attending the committee. The two five-year term limits were provided for under Article 105(2) but were scrapped during the 2005 amendment of the constitution.
Though it is not entrenched under Article 260, the committee still recommended that it too be subjected to a referendum.
“Once passed, the amendments shall not benefit us, instead, they will benefit those who will be elected in 2021,” a member of the committee said.
At a press conference on Monday, Sseggona and Wilfred Niwagaba announced that they had compiled a minority report.
The other signatories of the minority report are, Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Anna Adeke Ebaju (National Female Youth), Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality), Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality), Katuntu and Amoding.
The Observer has established that their dissension is on the removal of the age limit and the seven-year extension.
The main report was endorsed by Veronica Bichetero (Kaberamaido), Robinah Rwakoojo (Gomba West), Brenda Asinde Suubi (Iganga Woman), Caroline Muhwezi (Rukiga Woman), Sam Bitangaro (Bufumbira South), Kenneth Obote Ongalo (Kalaki) and Aston Kajara (Mwenge South) among others.
On Tuesday, the president met NRM MPs who were anticipating debate on the committee report later in the afternoon.
The meeting discussed the extension of the five-year term. Museveni reportedly told MPs that such an extension will allow Lands minister Betty Amongi who he picked from UPC to settle in well.
A committee of five lawyer MPs headed by deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana was constituted to study the legal implications of a term extension. Rukutana will work with Bichetero, Obua and Gastur Mugoya.
“The caucus has tasked us to examine it legally, politically and critically to understand the implications of it,” Mugoya said.