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Police have sealed off the Opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) offices in Kampala a head of their planned demonstration against lifting of the presidential age limit.
Police officers have camped outside the Najjanankumbi based party headquarters and no one is allowed to enter.
Party officials were planning to march to Parliament today to present a motion to the Speaker not to allow the age limit discussions to take place.
In a statement issued on Wednesday evening, the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Gen Kale Kayihura warned Ugandans against holding processions in favour or against the proposed removal of the presidential age limit
He said police had received notifications by different groups of people intending to hold processions in the city, municipalities, and other parts of the country relating to the anticipated debate in parliament on the proposed scrapping of the president age limit from the constitution.
He said they have also received information indicating that some people are planning to use the demonstrations to cause violence and mayhem in the city including targeting parliament.
"Police recognizes and has always facilitated the exercise, of the right to demonstrate peacefully and unarmed as provided in the constitution. However at the same time police has the obligation under the constitution to keep law and order, prevent crime, as well as protecting life and property" IGP Kayihura's statement reads.

He advises the masterminds of the processions to use other means such as television networks, radio station, print media and indoor meetings to express their positions on the matter. Gen Kayihura also warned the planners of the processions to be careful not to be used as a cover for violent criminal attacks and other criminal activities.

Recently, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus endorsed a proposal to repeal article 102 (b) of the constitution, which restricts the presidential age limit to between 35 and 75 years of age. The move is allegedly aimed at paving way for President Museveni who will be above 75 years by the 2021 polls to offer himself for election.

3 days 8 hours ago

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah has defended the heavy security deployment at Parliament, instead faulting Members of Parliament for inciting violence.

It follows concerns from a section of MPs on the heavy Military police and regular police presence around Parliament and the city centre.

The deployment comes amidst heightened tensions on the proposed scrapping of article 102(b) from the Constitution, which restricts the presidential age limit to between 35 and 75 years of age.

Police deployment around parliament

The heavy deployment has drawn condemnation of legislators. However, Oulanyah has defended the deployment, saying security can't sit back and watch yet some MPs have declared violence.

"So if you are threatening violence and at the same time you expect the police to stay very far away from where you are planning to execute your violence.

From that scene where you have publicly declared will be the scene of violence but at the same time you’re saying the police should be very far away. Really? Honourable members, I think let us do things properly. If we do things properly the way we’re supposed to do then, nobody would be around. People are just doing their job", he said.
 
He says police is doing its job, which shouldn't worry the legislators as long as they maintain order. Parliament may debate motions on the proposed scrapping of the presidential age limit on Thursday once the two speakers agree on the matter.
 
On Tuesday, Oulanyah told the plenary that he had received a motion in relation to the age limit and another notice of motion and expects to discuss the matter with the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday morning on how to proceed before the motions are presented to Parliament.

Kadaga who has been away on official duty is reportedly back in the country.

3 days 8 hours ago

Civil society offices of Action Aid in Kasanga and Great Lakes Institute For Strategic Studies in Ntinda are under police siege with staff not allowed to leave the premises.

Police cordoned off the offices this evening, according to the sworn affidavit sworn before by Makindye Chief Magistrate's court by AIP Henry Peter Walya attached to the Criminal Investigations Department because Action Aid in particular is suspected of being used for elicit transfer of funds for illegal activities.

Police drove in and prevented staff from leaving the premises

Policeman atop a building opposite Action Aid offices in Kasanga

The two NGOs have been vocal against the lifting of the presidential age limit from between 35 years and 75 years from the Constitution.

According to Crispin Kaheru, coordinator of the Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CEDDU), police indicated interest in the IT, Accounts and Country Director's offices. All electronic devices were put under search according to him.

Yesterday, 287 of 296 the National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs voted in support of a motion by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi seeking leave to present a private member's bill to lift age limit from the Constitution.

Some of Action Aid staff were reportedly dressed in these activism T-shirts calling for the age limit to be maintained in the Constitution.

PROCESSIONS BANNED

In a related development, Police chief Gen Kale Kayihura has banned any processions ahead of the anticipated debate in Parliament over lifting the age limit. Opposition MPs and civil society had called on the citizenry to attend parliament to witness the 'castration' of the Constitution. It is also understood that NRM has also mobolised its supporters to counter any opposition demonstrators.

Kayihura has advised the demonstrators to use other means such as TV and radio networks, indoor meeting, electronic and print media among others to express their support or disapproval.

3 days 8 hours ago

As Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi prepares to seek leave of parliament to introduce a private member's bill to amend the Constitution to lift the presidential age limit, a lot is anticipated. The Observer will attempt to bring you latest updates. Kindly refresh for the latest updates. 

9:30am: Police seal off Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) offices, City Hall. Deputy Lord Mayor Sarah Kanyike's office searched and nine activism T-shirts with inscriptions 'T'ogibukula' (Don't open the Constitution) confiscated.

Police says there will be no charge against Kanyike because the T-shirts were printed out of ignorance.  City councillors had planned to march from City Hall to Constitutional Square (City Square) to protest against the amendment. 

9:21am: Police foils Lira demo. Although the anti age limit amendment demonstration had not picked up, with residents seemingly interested but afraid to join in, police was quick to step in.

Police foils anti age limit amendment demo in Lira

9.20am: MP Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) 'helped' by fellow MPs to access parliament. Police had issued an arrest warrant for the Member of Parliament after he failed to appear at police for interrogation earlier this week to explain his remarks about age limit amendment. Parliament police had attempted to block Ssekikuko from accessing the august House but were 'overwhelmed' by legislators. 

9am: African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) journalist, Lydia Namubiru arrested. She was arrested from Democratic Party's vice president Mukasa Mbidde's home in Makindye.

8:50am: Makerere University students planning to march to Parliament. Students not committed to the cause being 'forced' out of lecture rooms. Strike started at Lumumba Hall but police calmed the situation very fast. Teargas fired and some student leaders arrested. 

A placard calling on students to march to parliament

8:30am: Solitary protestor in Lira against age limit removal, a mocked-up coffin with inscriptions “REMOVAL OF PRESIDENTIAL AGE LIMIT IS THE DEATH OF OUR COUNTRY” placed next to burning car tyre in the middle of the road. 

A mock coffin against age limit

A solitary protestor, bold enough to protest on his own as other residents in Lira look on from a distance

8:10am: Kampala Mayor Erias Lukwago arrested from his home in Wakaligga in Rubaga Divison, he has been taken to Kira Division Police Station in Namugongo. Lukwago was arrested 'live' on TV. He was giving an interview to NTV's Morning@NTV show.

3 days 8 hours ago

The Lyantonde Magistrate's court has acquitted Sadat Waliggo, a freelancer writer with The Red Pepper Publications of charges of criminal libel.

Waliggo has been on trial for criminal libel contrary to section 179 of the Penal Code Act. He was dragged to court by Lyantonde resident district commissioner, Sulaiman Tiguragara Matojo after he posted information on his Facebook page linking the theft of cows belonging to the late Eria Kategeya to the RDC.

Waliggo quoted Diana Kategaya, the widow of the late Katereya implicating Matojo for being involved in the disappearance of several cattle from her farm in Buyaga village in Mpumudde sub-county in Lyantonde district.

Waliggo (in white suit) congratulated by colleagues

Muinda Tadeo, the Lyantonde Grade One magistrate acquitted Waliggo over lack of evidence. Muinda noted that prosecution had failed to adduce sufficient evidence pinning Waliggo for criminal libel over the last two years and therefore acquitted him.

Waliggo's acquittal threw several journalists who attended the court session into wild celebrations. Waliggio told journalists that he is happy the matter has been dismissed. 

A group of boda boda riders led a procession in Lyantonde town to celebrate Waliggo's victory. One of the boda boda riders, John Kafeero told URN that Waliggo was doing a commendable job to report news.

He warned the RDC against intimidating journalists and asked him to concentrate on monitoring service delivery. Matojo didn't show up in court.

5 days 7 hours ago

Members of parliament have expressed concern over the unusual heavy deployment of military and regular policemen in the city centre and in the precincts of parliament.

Military police are seen stationed at Constitutional Square (formerly City Square) with armoured vehicles and around parliament seemingly on alert.

The heavy deployment of the forces in the strategic areas, police says is because several youth groups have been planning to storm parliament over the removal of the age limit.

Security at parliament has been beefed up 

MPs under the ruling NRM caucus last week endorsed the lifting of the presidential age limit in order to have President Museveni seek for another elective term in office after clocking 75 years. Under the current provision, Museveni would be ineligible to stand for presidency as he would be two years older above the 75-year cap.

Cabinet, last week also endorsed a decision to have Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi introduce a private member's bill to have the age limit lifted.

Addressing a press conference last week, a section of NRM MPs stated that they would fight the age limit removal by "going to the gym" and "tearing the documents related to the bill", forcing police to summon them for offensive communication and inciting violence.

The minister of state for Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite responded by saying the ruling party had the army its side. 

On the heavy deployment, the MPs condemned the deployment at parliament, stating that as representatives of the people, they cannot sit down and watch the Constitution being robbed of its glory.

Theodore Ssekikubo, the Lwemiyaga MP stated that police has failed to protect Ugandans from various forms of insecurities but instead works much towards stopping a just cause. He says as leaders, they are encouraged to fight more even under intimidation.

"It is now a matter in the public domain, they should allow the public to closely follow the developments...I condemn in the strongest terms the activity that is taking place around parliament.

The activities of amassing the anti-riot police, the military police and others for no reason at all. What is happening here in this parliament. What has happened? But why are you now intimidating others. Why are you suffocating the live debate? If there are people who received the man’s [Museveni] money, it is time they declare that money", Ssekikubo said.

Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko states that government is using its resources to suppress people who are fighting for the right cause. He insists that despite the intimidation, they will mobilise more Ugandans to fight the removal of age limit.

Monica Amoding (Kumi Woman) MP said that although the deployment is not good, Ugandans should not be intimidated. Amoding says all Ugandans should rise up and defend their Constitution.

She says as far as it stands, Ugandans who are rejecting the lifting of the age limit, are on the right path. Reading from the Bible in the book of Jeremiah 1;17, Amoding said they are not scared.

"Do not be terrified before them or I will terrify you before them. Today, I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land, against Kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land. For I am with you and I will rescue you, thus says the word of God. So we are not intimidated, we have the hand of God upon our lives for such a time as this we came to this parliament", she said.

Military police were also seen hiding away in private vehicles with tinted windows inside and outside parliament.

Emilian Kayima, the police spokesperson Kampala Metropolitan Police notes that the presence of police in Kampala is not peculiar. He says the MPs should not be intimidated and go about their business.

He says police can only come in when there is violence. Asked whether the deployment is in relation to the age limit debate, Kayima said it was not.

Yesterday police arrested over 14 youths, the Alternatives dubbed 'White Angels' who were on the streets to protest the removal of the age limit. The youth were arrested as they handed flyers to Ugandans calling on them to "defend the Constitution before it's too weak to defend you."

Four MPs, Muhammad Nsereko, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Allan Ssewanyana and Theodore Ssekikubo have been summoned by police to answer to questions of offensive communication and inciting violence.

5 days 7 hours ago

Police and military have deployed at CID headquarters in Kibuli, Kampala where four MPs are appearing to record statements over their alleged inciteful remarks.

Four MPs Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga, NRM), Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central, Ind), Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga County, NRM) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West, DP) are expected at the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters at Kibuli today.
“We are looking forward to interacting with them. We hope it will be a brief interaction because we have to attend parliament at 2pm,” Mr Nsereko said.

Mr Sewanyana said: “I know I have committed no offence by speaking out my mind. I’m an MP and that’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Ms Monicah Amoding (Kumi, NRM) yesterday said the summonses reflect “panic on the side of those pushing for the amendments”, adding that they are moving on with mobilisations.

Mr Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West, DP) at CID

Mr Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West, DP) at CID oofices in Kibuli. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

The press conference came on the heels of summonses sent through the Office of the Speaker, requiring the legislators to appear for interrogation over “offensive communication and incitement”.
Mr Ssekikubo said the summonses are misplaced and should instead be directed to the State Minister for Investment, Ms Evelyn Anite, who “incited the military against the constitutional order”.
He said the statements were made within the precincts of Parliament.

Mr Nsereko dared the pro-age limit removal group to “refrain from threats since you said you have the numbers”.
“Why do you have to humiliate them if you think they are few in number and you think the decision you are taking is very popular and that you will be welcomed with flowers by the members of the public?” he asked.

Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa (Kiboga, NRM) has invited NRM MPs to a caucus meeting tomorrow, which will officially approve the amendment.
Mr Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West) was chosen to present a motion seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Member’s Bill, wherein an amendment to Article 102(b) will be contained.

The spokesperson of CID, Mr Vincent Ssekate, said the four MPs must appear at the police.

“We are investigating serious cases that they must appear. If they don’t, then the police will have to use its powers in ensure that they appear for interviews,” Mr Ssekate said.
Yesterday, religious leaders under the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda led by their chairperson Mufti Shaban Mubajje said harassment of people against or for the lifting of the age limit by security agencies should stop.

This isn’t the first time politicians have been summoned for similar offences whenever there is a debate of sticky political issue in the country.
In 2011, during walk-to-work protests against rise in commodity prices more than 20 Opposition leaders were summoned to CID, but many were not prosecuted.

5 days 7 hours ago

Members of Parliament have expressed concern over the deployment of military and regular policemen in the city centre and around the Parliament.

Military police have been stationed at City square with armoured vehicles and the precincts of Parliament on alert.
Although police have not issued a statement in relations to the heavy deployment of the forces in the strategic areas, several youth groups have been planning a demonstration in the city centre over the planned removal of the age-limit.

MPs under the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus last week endorsed the lifting of the Presidential age-limit in what most say, it’s aimed at having President Museveni seek for another elective term in office after clocking 75 years.
Mr Museveni would be technically not qualify to run in the next presidential elections if Article 102(b) is not amended to lift the age limit for one to contest for presidency.

Article 102 (b) of the Constitution caps the presidential age at between 35 and 75 years. At least 271 members of the NRM caucus had appended their signatures to a document supporting a proposal to table a Bill in parliament to remove the age limit cap.

Police and military officers on a police truck

Police and military officers on a police truck down town Kampala. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Last Friday, the cabinet for the first time also endorsed a decision to have a private member, the Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, to introduce a private member’s Bill.

A youth group, the Alternatives yesterday dispersed protesters dubbed ‘white angels’ to the streets in protest of the removal of the age-limit before they were rounded up by police.
Addressing a press conference last week, a section of NRM Members of Parliament stated that they would fight the age limit removal by "going to the gym" and "tearing the documents related to the Bill", forcing police to summon them for threatening violence and inciting the public.

The MPs condemned the deployment at Parliament, stating that as representatives of the people, they cannot sit down and watch the Constitution being robbed of its glory.
Mr Theodore Ssekikubo, the Lwemiyaga MP stated that Police has failed to protect Uganda from various forms of insecurities but works much towards stopping a just cause. He says as leaders, they are encouraged to fight more even in the intimidations.

One of the youth activists on a police truck

One of the youth activists on a police truck after being arrested for demonstrating against lifting of age-limit in Kampala on September 18, 2017. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA

Ms Monica Amoding, the Kumi Municipality MP noted with great concern the level of deployment. She says it is not good for Ugandans to be intimidated on a right cause. Amoding says all Ugandans should rise up and defend their constitution.

She says as far as it stands, Ugandans who are rejecting the lifting of the age limit are on the right path. Reading from the book of Jeremiah 1:17, Ms Amoding said they are not scared.

Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko states that Government is using its resources to suppress people who are fighting for the right cause. He says changing the Constitution to lift age limit is going overboard.
He says they will mobilise more Ugandans to fight the removal of age limit.

The Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson Emilian Kayima noted that the presence of police in Kampala is not peculiar. He says the MPs should not be intimidated and go about their business.
According to him, police can only come in when there is violence. Asked whether the deployment is in relation to the agelimit debate, Mr Kayima said it was not.

Four MPs, Muhammad Nsereko, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Allan Ssewanyana and Theodore Ssekikubo have been summoned by Police to answer to questions of inciting violence.

5 days 7 hours ago

As ruling party members of parliament seeking to abolish the upper age limit continue their push to amend the constitution accordingly, cracks have surfaced in the movement with some members who signed up in favour of a private member’s bill withdrawing their support.

On Tuesday, September 12, a big group of NRM MPs told journalists that at least 277 MPs had signed up to support the draft legislation that aims to remove article 102(b) from the constitution.

But in separate interviews at the weekend, some MPs claimed they were conned into attending the meeting at the Parliamentary Conference hall, and signing for the resolution.

Some said they were called by telephone while others said they were found in the corridors of parliament by colleagues and nudged to attend last Tuesday’s meeting.

Ministers Arinaitwe Rwakajara, Adolf Mwesigye and Evelyn Anite address the media after the NRM meeting last week

“I was going to attend a Natural Resources committee meeting when a colleague I sit with on that committee told me, ‘first come and we check out the conference hall; the parliamentary commissioners need us for a few minutes then we proceed to that the committee meeting’,” Manjiya MP John Baptist Nambeshe said.

“My colleague didn’t allow me to ask questions, he only told me to hurry and I followed him to the conference hall where we were given a form to register our names, but I didn’t know what the meeting was about,” Nambeshe added.

He said he filled the registration form thinking it was the normal attendance register for meetings, only for the conveners of that meeting to turn around and claim that everyone on the list was a supporter of the removal of presidential age limits.

Kitagwenda MP Abas Agaba similarly told The Observer on Friday that he was dragged to that meeting by a friend.

“There are many other colleagues who feel Tuesday’s stage-managed meeting was not good and it was not in good faith.

We should have been informed about the agenda and prepare for the meeting,” Agaba said.

“I signed the attendance form like we normally do. Then as I sat I realized the discussions were different; I walked out. Later, I came to understand that our appended signatures were [taken to be in support] of the age limit removal. This was not right and I am not part of that group; it was a group of vigilantes with personal interests,” the Kitagwenda MP added.

Mawokota South MP John Bosco Lubyayi has a similar tale.

He said he was called by a colleague who told him that commissioners needed to meet them for 30 minutes in the conference hall.

“When I entered, I signed the attendance list, which had a very good heading,  ‘consultative meeting on constitutional amendments’. It was not specific on the 75-year age limit. So, I sat and they introduced the removal of the 75-year age cap from the constitution; all of a sudden they called in the press and said we had resolved to remove the age limit from the constitution without listening to our views,” Lubyayi said.

“I think we have had enough of one president and this is the only way we can get a new president. I’m not against my chairman but I feel we need another president. After 75 years, the best thing is for the president to rest and we get another one.”

NRM supporters meeting to pass the resolution to amend the Constitution

Lubyayi was part of the original group of MPs that supported the age limit removal only to change his mind.

“I am already committed to what my people told me. I consulted them and they told me that I should not accept any amendments to the age limit and on land,” Lubyayi said.

Luuka South MP Stephen Kisa said it would be proper to extend the five-year term to seven but restore the two-term limit that was scrapped in 2005. He said two terms are enough for any president to implement his or her programmes.

“I only want term limits restored and the five-year term changed to seven years if any amendment is to be made to the constitution,” he said.

“We cannot give a framework free of any restriction, no age limit, no term limits; no, no, no; that is my stand,” Kisa said.

According to Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman MP), a key promoter of the private member’s bill to be moved by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi next week, only two MPs; Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman) and John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya) have formally asked that their names be removed from the list of the bill’s supporters.

“I don’t see any problem with them [wanting out]; in any case today [Saturday], I have even got 11 more signatures.  These are old people who are members of parliament; so, they can’t say they didn’t know why they had been called,” Nabbanja said. “The messages were very clear, some just want to pretend in front of cameras.”

But Lwemiyaga MP Theodore Ssekikubo, who leads a small group of NRM MPs opposed to the amendment, said on Friday that his camp has 65 NRM lawmakers.

“Those are the bold ones who have come out to demand that their signatures be withdrawn from that bogus list,” Ssekikubo said.

He said the bold ones include; Kitagwenda’s Abbas Agaba, Kumi Municipality’s Silus Aogon and Kyenjojo Woman MP Spellanza Baguma.

Others are Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South), Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kasambya) and Barnabas Tinkasiimire.

On Friday, these joined Ssekikubo, Amoding and Nambeshe, as well as Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) at a press conference whey they condemned the move and vowed to block it.

“This is an opportunity for me to implement what I swore at my inauguration as MP. I swore to protect and defend the constitution of the Republic of Uganda, and there is no time I will do that other than now,” Nsamba said.

“They have tried to make this a battle between the opposition and NRM but this is a battle for Ugandans defending the constitution. We are not going to allow them to rape the constitution, we are here to defend it,” the Kasambya MP added.

Anite censure

Meanwhile, a section of NRM MPs on Friday threatened to move a censure motion against minister of state for Investment and Privatization Evelyn Anite.

An outspoken supporter of the anti-age limit bill, some MPs were angered by the minister’s remarks during a press briefing at parliament on Thursday. Anite told journalists that her group couldn’t be intimidated because it is in power and has the support of the army.

Okot Ogong said Anite’s statements were unfortunate and unconstitutional.

“The constitution is very clear in Chapter 12 Article 208, that the UPDF shall be non-partisan, national in character, professional, disciplined and subordinate to civilian authority; the minister’s statements should be condemned and withdrawn immediately,” said the Dokolo South MP.

“It is very unfortunate that a minister makes a statement of that nature and calls the constitution a disorganized document - a constitution she swore to defend, and that they want to organize it! She should withdraw the statement and apologize to the country.”

The critical MPs said  bringing the army into the age limit discussion was reckless.

“This is the struggle of the majority and we are the majority in this cause. We are on the right side of history; this is a very critical moment we are in and we want to make our positions clear in order to guide our colleagues in NRM and the general public,” Amoding said.

“We are not scared at all because the army is subordinate to civilian authority, we have the army of the people of Uganda fully behind us and we are ready for anything,” Okot Ogong added.

Ssekikubo said Anite’s statement amounts to treason.

“Dragging the army into civil debate is treasonable. This is because a member of cabinet is attempting to incite and instigate the army to take over a constitutional order,” Ssekikubo said.

“As we speak now, Anite and group ought to be behind bars in Luzira on account of treason.”

Anite speaks

Interviewed for a comment on Saturday, she said, “There are so many death threats coming from members of parliament and the public just because we have a different view. I have been getting a lot of messages and phone calls threatening to kill me but the climax was when our colleague Hon [Betty] Nambooze said on the parliamentary forum that we have chosen the path of bloodshed.”

“We told them that parliament is where we go to legislate; we speak with words but not with fistfights. I said if my life is threatened and the only organ to protect me is the army and police but they wanted to twist the whole story. But seriously, if someone threatens to kill you as a civilian, don’t you call for protection; if I also threatened them, they should seek the same protection but not to resort to mob justice,” she added.  

namuloki16@gmail.com

6 days 9 hours ago

After a long meeting on Friday, cabinet publicly declared its full backing for ruling party MPs pushing a bill to scrap the constitutional presidential age limit.

For long spoken about in roundabout fashion, it has rapidly become official policy to support a design whose effect will be to extend President Museveni’s three-decade grip on state power beyond the current 75-year cap.

He will be 77 at the next election in 2021. Insider sources say that by the time Ruth Nankabirwa, the government chief whip, ended her briefing on the proposed private member’s bill, she was preaching to the converted.

It did not matter that it had stoked opposition fires, with angry denunciations of ‘life presidency’ ambitions burning across social media. Her delivery was inside the Cabinet boardroom on floor 9, Office of the President.

Ruth Nankabirwa (kneeling) greeting PM Ruhakana Rugunda as First Deputy PM Moses Ali looks on earlier this year 

“I told the meeting about the ongoing mobilisation by different groups of MPs on a proposal to amend the Constitution, and that one of the groups convened a big meeting, which was attended by some ministers although that meeting was not formally called by the government chief whip,” Nankabirwa said by telephone on Saturday.

She laid down for colleagues the build-up of events to last Tuesday’s surprise informal resolution by NRM MPs. She agreed with the MPs’ argument that the government has dithered in presenting a bill for comprehensive electoral reforms.

“We said we should not antagonise the private member’s bill but I am going to look at their resolution to see if it has financial implications,” Nankabirwa told The Observer.

Ruling on a petition following the disputed 2016 presidential election, the Supreme court set a two-year time frame for these reforms. It is probably in this context that Nankabirwa broached the subject.

“I wanted to know whether government is going to constitute the Constitutional Review Commission,” she said, “because MPs don’t wish to handle the amendments in the last quarter of parliament.”

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Kahinda Otafiire, through whose docket the reforms are expected, yesterday said he sees no contradiction.  

“The two are complementary, they are not parallel. If members of parliament want to bring a private member’s bill, it’s their choice. There is nothing that compels them to follow what we are doing if we are slow and they want that law much earlier,” he said

“It’s their right but that won’t stop us from bringing a comprehensive bill and the constitution review commission that will also find its way to parliament. Parliament makes laws and is at liberty to choose what to discuss and when to discuss it.”

After Nankabirwa, Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda is said to have asked minister of State for Investment and Privatization, Evelyn Anite, to clarify what she meant by recent comments about the army supporting NRM. A belligerent Anite had on Thursday said they won’t be intimidated by their opponents.

“I want to make it very clear to them [opponents of the bill] again that you cannot intimidate a ruling party. Because if you go looking for support, we don’t go looking for support. We’re the party in government. We have the support of the magye [army]...,” Anite said.

Sources say Anite seemed to reverse herself on Friday, telling cabinet that she was quoted out of context. The junior minister reportedly said she intended to mean that security agencies will, in exercise of their mandate, not allow anyone to threaten violence.

Uganda’s armed forces are enjoined by the Constitution to be neutral, non-partisan institutions of state. Anite’s bungling notwithstanding, ministers remained united.

“The general sentiment was that we need to handle it now and get it out of the way,” sources said.

Reportedly vocal were Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, the minister for Security; Maj Bright Rwamirama (state for Veteran Affairs) and Anite.

“Almost everyone talked and they kept repeating one another that we should support the private member’s bill,” the sources said.

Dr Rugunda gave the chairman’s seal of approval, saying: “We should fully support it; it is already on table. We should just conclude it and get it out of the way other than leaving it in the public domain for many years.”

Shortly, minister for ICT and Information Frank Tumwebaze was directed to announce cabinet’s decision through mainstream and social media.

“Moving a private member’s bill is a right of any member of parliament and the executive can only put up an objection if that proposed bill has financial implications that distort the national budget priorities as envisaged under Article 93 of the constitution,” Tumwebaze said at the week’s end.

“The executive can also object to a private member’s bill if it’s unconstitutional or is seeking to reverse any government policy. Without those, the executive can’t object to any proposed private member’s bill. The merits and demerits of it will be discussed by parliament if tabled,” he added.

President Museveni was not in cabinet on Friday but is understood to have met some promoters of the bill a day after Tuesday’s surprise developments.

In attendance at State House last Wednesday were Peter Ogwang (Usuk), Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman), Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers) as well as former Forum for Democratic Change deputy treasurer Anita Among (Bukedea Woman) and Michael Tusiime (Mbarara Municipality).

This gathering convened shortly before Museveni’s live media appearance to discuss the contentious Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2017, on land.

A source said the MPs gave him a progress report and plan of action. Museveni reportedly encouraged them, later affirming this on air where he maintained that these MPs were acting as volunteers within their constitutional rights.

At the Tuesday meeting, some members expressed the need to move quickly, possibly even pressing parliament to waive its rules on how long bills are scrutinised in committee.

Nankabirwa reflected this tone, telling The Observer: “I am waiting for the notification; so, that I can call a caucus meeting maybe by Wednesday in accordance with the NRM caucus rules of procedure.”

6 days 9 hours ago

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