As the debate on presidential age limits rages, President Museveni has denounced some ruling party MPs opposed to amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution as “parasites”.
The 73-year-old president who would be an immediate beneficiary of such a constitutional change, removing the 75-year age cap for presidential aspirants, is facing stiff opposition from a significant portion of the population.
Critics warn that if the article is scrapped, the floodgates to life presidency and all its associated ills would be flung open.
His denunciation in a three-page letter dated November 7 is part of a reply to an earlier letter MPs Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) and Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North) wrote to him on October 4.
The MPs challenged Museveni to dissociate himself from what they said is a “divisive, opportunistic and isolationist” constitutional amendment process.
They reminded Museveni that he is obliged under the oath of president to protect and defend the constitution.
But he has, instead, accused them of being part of the reason why the country is grappling with poverty and unemployment.
“Many of you who talk negatively have not contributed to the ideology of patriotism, to the liberation of the country, to the recovery of the economy and the country, to the consolidation of peace or to the great developments that we have achieved yet you benefit economically and otherwise. We call this parasitism and that parasitism will be resisted and defeated,” he wrote.
Museveni copied his letter to his vice president Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, NRM secretary general Justine Kasule Lumumba, government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa and all NRM caucus members.
Besides the four MPs to whom Museveni addressed the letter, five other MPs: Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South), Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Gafa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya) and Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) signed the October 4 letter.
Museveni, seemingly angered by the MPs’ letter, referred them to his October 13 address to the NRM caucus, giving the genesis of the writing of the bill that was controversially tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi on October 4 following chaotic scenes in Parliament on September 27.
ALPHA & OMEGA
The MPs reacted angrily to Museveni’s letter, telling him to stop looking at himself as the know-it-all.
“He should stop looking at himself as the only contributor to the liberation and development of the country; he should drop that spirit of self-aggrandisement,” Nambeshe said by phone yesterday.
The Manjiya lawmaker also accused Museveni of suffocating free speech within the ruling party, saying it is the reason why they were thrown out of the October 13 caucus meeting.
“He called us spies and threw us out of the caucus meeting and is now calling us parasites which is a big insult…he must justify his statements,” Nambeshe said. “We are not there to sing praises for him all the time.”
For Tinkasiimire, the real parasite is Museveni himself because of his appointment of his wife, Janet, and in-law Sam Kutesa, to cabinet and son, Muhoozi Kaineruga, as his advisor.
“He is trying to attack us to dodge the major question that we asked him. We asked him when he is retiring but he has not made any response to it,” Tinkasiimire said.
While Ssekikubo is happy that Museveni, at last, responded to their letter, the Lwemiyaga MP said that Museveni should not hide behind Magyezi.
“He avoided the question on transition but the events in Zimbabwe are a clear pointer to what is likely to happen here,” Ssekikubo said.
“For how long must we pay as a country? What price must we pay to the so-called liberators?” Ssekikubo wondered.
Museveni letter in full
7th November, 2017
To honourable Theodore Ssekikubo, Monicah Amoding, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Patrick Oshabe Nsamba
RE: CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT OF ARTICLE 102(B) TO LIFT THE AGE LIMIT FOR PRESIDENT
I have received your letter of the 4th of October, 2017, concerning the Age Limit debate. As I said in my address to the Caucus on October 13, 2017, this debate was not new.
Hon Anna Maria Nankabirwa had raised the issue at Kyankwanzi last year in the month of July. I advised her to concentrate on the immediate issues of this Kisanja. The issue of the Age Limit could be addressed later, if necessary.
About three months ago, however, the concerned MPs like Hon Raphael Magyezi, came to see me and pointed out that the Supreme Court had put deadlines on some of those constitutional issues.
Back-bench MPs taking the initiative is not necessarily a problem if it does not involve spending money on a regular basis.
The NRM has always been a mass party. Sometimes, ideas come from the top; but, sometimes, ideas come from the bottom. It is both ways.
The idea of, for instance, restoring monarchs in Uganda, came from the community in some areas - clan leaders in Buganda led by Kibaale Nadduli.
We took it up later on the request of the clan leaders. Even the idea of reintroducing multi-party politics. It was not us who were insisting on this issue. It was, actually, the anti-NRM that were pushing it until we said: “Mubaleke bageende” – “tubejekko” – “Let them go”.
The crucial thing is to discuss peacefully and calmly without violence, insults or lies. Therefore, the back-benchers taking the initiative, sometimes, is not wrong nor is it new.
“Swearing to defend the Constitution” in the present five years, honourable members, included amending the Constitution, if necessary, in the manner prescribed in the Constitution.
The organs of NRM have now, indeed, been convened and they have supported the amending of Article 102(b). These are CEC and NEC in addition to the NRM parliamentary caucus and the cabinet.
The mistake on your side was not only to attack the proposal but do so using violent and unconstitutional methods - violence, intimidation, lies, insults, etc. Whose views were you putting forward?
Besides, you put your views to the parliamentary caucus and they were not accepted. Why, then, did you persist in your minority stand? You should have held your peace until the consultation time.
It is wrong to also manipulate the consultation process like some of you have been doing - going to the bus park and asking people you find there whether they support the amendment or not.
There are structures - the committees of the NRM. You should consult those. Then, with the committees, you can go to the public in the local areas.
Uganda was liberated by freedom fighters, supported by the masses.
NRM has ensured peace in the country, ensured economic recovery and development. Many of you have benefitted from that work, literally and metaphorically. It is your duty to contribute to that process and not to undermine it.
There are still problems of poverty (19 per cent now from 56 per cent in 1989) and also inadequate jobs. This, partly, is due to the obstruction by some of you.
Nevertheless, with or without you, the loyal NRM leaders and cadres have created a base to deal with jobs and poverty by ensuring peace, improved infrastructure, ensuring the integration of the African markets, creating the wealth funds, youth fund, etc.
Many of you who talk negatively have not contributed to the ideology of patriotism, to the liberation of the country, to the recovery of the economy and country, to the consolidation of peace or to the great developments that we have achieved.
Yet you benefit economically and otherwise. We call this parasitism and that parasitism will be resisted and defeated.
I hope you find this information useful.
Yoweri Museveni President
Copy to: HE the Vice President
Rt Hon Prime Minister
Rt Hon Secretary-General
Government Chief Whip
NRM Caucus members