Three months after they launched on to the national political stage in August, members of an NRM-leaning pressure group; Kick Age Limitations Out of the Constitution (KALOC), have met President Museveni.
The president met the youths on October 1 at Serere district headquarters on the sidelines of a thanksgiving ceremony for Serere Woman MP Hellen Odoa and her Serere County counterpart Patrick Okabe.
Earlier on the same day, Museveni launched new drought-resistant crop varieties developed by the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute, Serere.
According to sources familiar with the meeting, the president’s protocol officials had wanted photos of the meeting kept away from the public to conceal Museveni’s interest in the age removal bill but some excited KALOC members posted them on their social media platforms.
The Observer has since learnt that the group’s meeting with Museveni was fixed by Usuk MP Peter Ogwang, one of the key promoters of the age limit removal bill.
The group, which met the president included Ibrahim Kitatta, the secretary general of the National Youth Council; Kassim Kamugisha, the Kabale NRM youth league chairman; Ismail Lesin from Luweero, Samuel Odong who doubles as NYC and NRM youth league publicity secretary; and Robert Anderson Burora from Wakiso.
The meeting lasted about 10 minutes. During the meeting, insiders say, the youths gave an update of their activities and told the president they had managed to change the narrative from the upper presidential age limit.
“Other leaders were focused on the upper age limit until we brought the lower limit into the picture as well as other laws like Article 183 (2)(b) of the Constitution, which sets the same limitations for aspiring LC-V chairpersons as in Article 102 (b),” Kitatta, the KALOC national coordinator, said.
He declined to delve into details of their meeting with Museveni but sources familiar with the meeting told The Observer that Museveni encouraged the youths to continue with their campaign.
He reportedly told the youths that their message resonates well with his campaign to get the country into a middle-income status. This was after the youths told him that their campaign is focusing on ideology, and not biology.
The youths argue that the age of leaders shouldn’t be used to determine their usefulness to society.
“The ideology of a person should be at the forefront of determining who should lead society,” the youths told Museveni.
The president reportedly promised to fix another meeting with the youths once he returns to Kampala after his radio campaigns in Eastern Uganda.
In the weeks that followed the formation of KALOC, which trumpets the importance of removing constitutional age limits for qualified presidential candidates, the group met high-profile NRM and government officials including Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.
In a subsequent interview, Rugunda told The Observer that the KALOC youths are his comrades and said:
“I see nothing that provides a scientific or rational reason that somebody who is above 75 years cannot be president.”
Until October 1, President Museveni had carefully avoided to be associated with the ongoing campaign to scrap article 102 (b) from the Constitution, which caps the upper age for a presidential candidate at 75 years.
Without its amendment, the article automatically disqualifies Museveni from the 2021 presidential race because by then, he will have clocked 77 years of age way beyond the constitutional limit. So, by all intents and purposes, the push for the removal of age limits is widely seen to benefit President Museveni.
Appearing on the Soroti-based Etop FM later that evening, Museveni harshly criticized the opposition-led red ribbon campaign against the scrapping of the constitutional age limits for presidential candidates.
“We cannot allow anyone to block our legal way...Uganda has solved bigger problems like the Karimojong cattle rustlers, Joseph Kony and his LRA rebels and the ADF, we cannot be bogged down by people wearing red ribbons,” Museveni said.
The red ribbons were banned by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga last week as she suspended 25 MPs leading to a fight between opposition MPs and plain-clothes Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers who stormed the Parliamentary chamber and evicted the lawmakers.
The fight and eviction of MPs has drawn fierce criticism for Kadaga from within and outside parliament. A group of 35 MPs under the Parliamentary Forum on Constitutional Supremacy have since petitioned the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) to investigate the violation of the rights of Ugandan MPs.
“We demand that Kadaga apologizes to Ugandans for colluding with the military to unleash terror on some MPs and for abdicating her cardinal role of protecting and defending the sanctity of parliament in bending over to pressure from the executive,” Aswa MP Reagan Okumu told journalists on Tuesday.