Between Monday and Wednesday last week, Members of parliament debated and eventually voted to pass the controversial Constitution Amendment (No2) Bill 2017, which essentially removed age limits for presidential candidates.
It also extended the tenure of MPs and local government leaders to seven years and reinstated presidential term limits.
JOSEPH KIMBOWA, ARTHUR MATSIKO & JOSEPHINE NAMULOKI recorded proceedings and presents the first of our two-part series. Excerpts:-
RWEMULIKYA IBANDA, (NTOROKO), NRM
When I went to Ntoroko, they told me to support the motion to lift the age limit. If I know a person of 30 years can make a good leader; why not vote that person? If someone of 80 years can vote, why not be voted?
People who made the 1995 constitution knew that time will come for Ugandans to amend the Constitution. So, the time has come for our people to amend.
ADOLF MWESIGE (BUNYANGABU), NRM
In 1995, life expectancy of a Ugandan was 48 years. According to the bureau of statistics, it is now 78 years.
Perhaps, Madam Speaker, it made sense for the Constituent Assembly to provide an age for which to stand at 75 years; it is now time for this parliament to review that provision and remove the upper limit.
As long as there are regular, free and fair elections, the question of life presidency cannot arise.
FRED MWESIGYE (NYABUSHOZI), NRM
I congratulate the committee for a perfect report. The constitution must be flexible and the article we are talking about is amendable and changeable…This constitution provides for amendment in order to accommodate movement of time.
Time has moved. The situation has changed in Uganda and it calls for changing this constitution. This constitution is not cast in stone.
ROBERT SSEKITOLEKO KAFEERO, NAKIFUMA, (NRM)
Article 21 (1) of the Constitution provides for equality and freedom from discrimination. All persons are equal before and under the law.
I find Article 102 (b) discriminatory. It even becomes worse to say that a person over 75 years has a right to vote but cannot be voted for president. We shall not allow that.
JOY ATIM ONGOM (LIRA WOMAN), UPC
My people said I should not touch it. Term limits were not tested and they were scrapped. Now age limits!
What we are about to do is the one thing that is too discriminative. Civil servants retire at 60 and judges at 70. Who are we to extend the office of the president?
EVELYN ANITE (KOBOKO MUNICIPALITY), NRM
I moved in the three divisions and all the villages of Koboko municipality. I am going to touch the constitution.
The people of Koboko said they cannot imagine going to 2021 and don’t see the name of Museveni on the ballot. We are enjoying peace and stability in Northern Uganda because of President Museveni.
MUSA ECWERU (AMURIA), NRM
People of Amuria authorized me to come and support the removal of Article 102 (b). In Amuria, age is synonymous with wisdom.
We are convinced that at 76-79, the people would have accumulated enough wisdom that they can be useful in the management of the country. I support the amendments.
ROBERT KYAGULANYI SSENTAMU (KYADONDO EAST), INDEPENDENT
I rise in defence of the minority report which I believe, and in light of majority Ugandans, is the majority report.
Ladies and gentlemen, President Idi Amin suspended this parliament and no single Ugandan came out to defend this parliament. Why? It had become irrelevant to them.
It had become a club of politicians who come here to seek their personal interests. We are back to square one. One man is trying to persuade this parliament so we can do what he wants.
If that single person does not care what happens to our country after he goes, at least we can think about the future of our country. Eriya Kategaya said stupid people repeat history.
FREDERICK GUME NGOBI (BULAMOGI NORTH WEST), NRM
The people in Bulamogi comprehensively said the constitution is not static. It must change with circumstances of the day.
Give us freedom of whom to choose. Why do you limit the people? People should be given the opportunity to choose.
HENRY KIBALYA, BUGABULA, SOUTH (NRM)
When I was in the constituency, I carried out four consultations in the four sub-counties. There is no sub-county where I had an attendance of less than 1,500 people. The biggest number that said you go and touch it were 53.
About 1,500 people said don’t touch. As the 10th Parliament, we can stand here and succeed in amending Article 102 (b), but we shall never succeed in amending the hearts of Ugandans which have been broken by this act.
LATIF SEBAGGALA (KAWEMPE NORTH), INDEPENDENT
The spirit in which term limits were amended is the same spirit in which age limits are about to be amended.
At that time, it was amended to favour President Museveni. I have no doubt that this new amendment is not creating room for Gen Moses Ali, who is about 77 years, to come in. Neither is it creating room for Honourable Muganwa Kajura to come in; it is only creating room for one person.
ROBINAH SSENTONGO (KYOTERA WOMAN), DP
I went to all 12 sub-counties of Kyotera. I was the only MP who conducted public consultations in Kyotera. The rest went into hotels and invited NRM supporters.
I consulted over 20,000 people in different places and only three people, and these were chairpersons for NRM at village level, said that they want Article 102 (b) amended. That is 0.016 per cent of the number I consulted. The other 99.98 said there should be no amendment of Article 102 (b).
ALEX RUHUNDA (FORT PORTAL MUNICIPALITY), NRM
I covered 11 parishes. The people of Fort Portal asked me not to touch Article 102 (b). I have to respect them. I love my president; he is one of the great men we have had.
It will take us another century to get a man like him. I do not expect us to see our leader go down badly after building a long-lasting legacy for Uganda. We need to constitute a team to negotiate with the president about a peaceful transition.
IBRAHIM KASOZI (MAKINDYE EAST), FDC
Framers of the Constitution put up parameters for a reason. Cultural leaders are Ugandans but are not allowed to indulge in politics.
That is discriminatory as well. But the framers of the constitution put it wisely that if we bring cultural leaders into the politics, this country would go back where they got it from. People of Makindye East ordered me not to remove age limits and also ordered me to appeal to you to reinstate term limits.
HELLEN ASAMO (PWDs), INDEPENDENT
When I left parliament for consultations, I did not know which side to take. I carried out about five consultations with people with disabilities.
They told me if you are a voter, is there a law which stops you from being voted? They even told me that parliament should be given seven years.
MOSES KIZIGE (BUGABULA NORTH), NRM
I thank Honourable Magyezi for having moved a bill which gives us an opportunity to remove the age limits. The law is very clear on processes followed to amend the constitution. We are not breaking any law by amending the constitution. That is why I support the bill and the main report.
CHRIS BARYOMUNSI (KINKIZI EAST) NRM
I thank Honourable Magyezi for using his right to bring a private member’s bill. I thank the framers of the constitution who in chapter 18 provided for amendment of the constitution.
When I went to Kinkizi East, they told me that as long as we continue to improve services, they have no problem. So, they okayed the amendment.
FRANK TUMWEBAZE (KIBALE EAST), NRM
My people told me that Article 102 continues not only to impose limitations on the aspirants, but also it limits voter choices.
Literature is available to prove that limitations in the constitution cause voter apathy because if I am a voter and my candidate is not eligible because they are young or on account of being old, I will stay home.
When I came to parliament in 2006, I was 30 years old but unfortunately the constitution could not allow me to aspire for president.
MATIA KASAIJA (BUYANJA), NRM
Madam Speaker, you know it is nice to live long. I first entered the House in 1990. I am approaching 75, I don’t use glasses to read, I speak before you for two and a half hours without pain, without drinking any water.
I challenge anyone of you to challenge me in any human activity. The talk that at 75 we are tired is not true. Of course there are a few individuals with an exception. People of Buyanja county told me to come and touch the constitution and I am here to touch it.
MARY KAROORO OKURUT (WOMAN BUSHENYI), NRM
There are 54 countries in Africa and it is only Uganda, Mauritania and Djibouti with the upper age limit…The people of Bushenyi whom I represent said they are agreeable to touching this article.
MARY BABIRYE KABANDA, MASAKA WOMAN (DP)
I do oppose the [committee] report, the bill and the motion because in our constitution, article one gives power to the people.
We were given money to go and seek our people’s views; unfortunately, in the report presented by the committee, such views are not seen anywhere. Therefore, I see the report as incomplete.
Secondly, we noted here as members of parliament that the constitution needs to be reviewed and we agreed that all issues that need to be reviewed should go to the constitutional review commission.
I am wondering why this age limit was pulled out from those issues that are supposed to be handled together. I, therefore, recommend that all issues including the age limit should go to the constitution review commission to be handled together.
SANTA ALUM, OYAM WOMAN (UPC)
I went and consulted and my people said no. Away from that, the committee’s report is saying that this article 102(b) is discriminatory. I want to ask if the committee is really truthful in saying that article 102 is discriminatory.
Even if we open article 102(b), many old people will still be locked out. I interacted with so many old people and many do not have the advanced level qualification to qualify to run for president. Those people will still be discriminated.
MUHAMMAD MUWANGA KIVUMBI, BUTAMBALA (DP)
Museveni has never lost in my constituency but the people of Butambala said enough is enough. They simply said what they have not seen is a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another and that’s what they want to see.
ODONGA OTTO, ARUU SOUTH (FDC)
Those who think age is discriminatory, why can’t we have Moses Ali contest for the presidency? They [old people] are struggling to stay alive.
NRM MPs are committing treason; you are not representing the views of your people. We should not be intimidated. We are going to ask for a referendum to decide whether we [Acholi] should remain in Uganda or not.
These NRMs sold Nytil, Uganda Railways, Shimoni land, and CMI. You old people, what do you want to leave for Uganda because you are selling everything?
MARGARET BABA DIRI, WOMAN KOBOKO (NRM)
About 10 per cent of the people I consulted did not support the removal [of age limits], and asked me to represent their view, but 90 per cent supported the removal.
They said it is good we remove the lower and the upper age presidential limits. They said old people have wisdom and can lead this country. They specifically mentioned President Museveni who has been leading us for 30 years.
REAGAN OKUMU, ASWA (FDC)
Today we define the destiny of this country and we define the future of the corporation called Uganda. I have four points; one, you cannot just amend a constitution provision when you have not even tested it.
On that basis, I don’t support this amendment. Secondly, you cannot amend the constitution perennially for an individual to benefit from it…
Today we need federal power so that we own certain responsibilities ourselves or we secede. I want to assure you there is no way you are going to continue sitting on a population whose interests are different from yours simply because you have the majority; never...never…
MOSES KASIBANTE, LUBAGA NORTH (INDEPENDENT)
History has not helped some of us here to understand. We have a duty to save Uganda. [In the past] Politicians manipulated not only parliaments of the day but also courts.
That is what we don’t want to be repeated, as said in the preamble of the constitution. Debating the ability and/or inability of an elderly person [to lead] is pretense.
JOHN BAPTIST NAMBESHE, MANJINYA (NRM)
Article 102 (b) is the only remaining guarantee for a peaceful transition of power. What I see is that we are legislating to entrench one man’s rule.
Uganda is not short of alternative manpower to lead this country. How will seven years build institutions, which 31 years have failed to do?
MORRIS OGENGA LATIGO, AGAGO NORTH (FDC)
I rise to guide the house. First of all, when I went through the petition, the motion and the bill of Hon Raphael Magyezi, three things came up.
First, I recognized that Hon Magyezi’s bill was introduced based on article 54 of the constitution. That article does not give Hon Magyezi the mandate; it only instructs parliament to include the private member’s bill in our rules of procedure. Secondly, when I looked at this committee report, there are two key justifications.
The first one was that the executive had delayed to submit the constitution amendment bill. The second one was that article 102 was discriminatory….When a member comes and says that the provision of the constitution is discriminatory, which is that basis [to bring a bill]?
Because the constitution itself in article 21 makes provision for discrimination and specifies what is discriminatory. When I read the submissions of Hon Magyezi, there is nothing to do with that provision of the constitution.
DENIS LEE OGUZU, MARACHA (FDC)
The people of Maracha I represent think this bill is immoral. Whatever we are doing now will either give a blank cheque – usher in everlasting peace or suffering.
This has been the most expensive regime to maintain. Do you want to allow them to continue?
FRANCIS ZAAKE, MITYANA MUNICIPALITY (INDEPENDENT)
Most people here have been saying that age is wisdom. As Zaake, a youth, I feel insulted that I do not have wisdom. When someone is old, it is so true he or she cannot reason right. That is why there is the retirement age. The people of Mityana said they will not allow anything that favors the president.
FLORENCE NAMAYANJA, BUKOTO EAST (DP)
The people of Bukoto East are saying that we should not amend article 102 (b) of the constitution. Even article 26 should remain untouched.
Therefore, it is important that what we need to be amended is the responsibility of the government to set up… a constitutional review commission.
BRIGHT RWAMIRAMA, ISINGIRO NORTH (NRM)
I support the amendments and I thank Hon Magyezi for trying to cure the inconsistencies in the constitution. Articles 102 and 86 give with one hand and take away with the other. The people of Isingiro empowered me to support the amendments.
LOY KATALI, WOMAN JINJA (NRM)
Four of seven sub-counties I visited said no. They complained of poor service delivery. The elderly from Jinja do not benefit from Sage (Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment). They said the constitution cannot be amended.
HERBERT ARIKO, SOROTI MINICIPALITY (FDC)
I consulted and I have got evidence. Each of the wards in Soroti municipality has got a return. Some 3,867 people responded and out of these groups; 3,792 said do not touch it and 75 said touch it. I will not debate the legalities of this bill.
The preamble of the constitution of Uganda enumerates where we come from. In 1966, there was the Milton Obote and Sir Edward Mutesa crisis, the 1971 overthrow [of government by Idi Amin].
The return of the UNLA, the overthrow of [Godfrey] Binaisa by the Military Commission, the war between President Museveni and Obote, the overthrow of Obote by Tito Okello and the war, which led to Museveni taking over power. In all these we lost blood.
We lost our people. Our country was broken down. I want to request honourable. members that we as the leaders of Uganda should give the people of Uganda an opportunity of peaceful transfer of power.
JACKSON MBAJU, BUSONGORA SOUTH (FDC)
The people of Busongola South told me that I should come and say no touching the constitution. We should debate with reason because this amendment determines the destiny of this country. If we are not careful, this country might plunge into turmoil.
ROSE MUTONYI MASAABA, BUBULO WEST (NRM)
I support the amendments. My people told me they have no problem with lifting the age limit. They do not see any reason why a man would divorce a wife who is cooking well.
There is a mechanism of removing a leader who is not performing and that is through elections.
BETTY AMONGI OYAM SOUTH (UPC)
My people have said I should come and touch it. In the US elections, I was supporting Hillary Clinton and my husband [James Akena] was supporting Bernie Sanders, who is 74 years [old].