Police have stopped joint consultative meetings by members of Parliament on the proposal to amend Article 102 (b) of the Constitution.
In an October 16 message to all police stations and units across the country, Mr Assuman Mugenyi, the director operations, the MPs are supposed to only to consult in their constituencies to seek the views of their electorate.
Mr Mugenyi directed Regional Police Commanders, District Police Commanders and Officers in charge of stations to ensure that the MPs strictly consult in their constituencies only.
“Those MPs moving or intending to move in order to support counterparts or consult outside their constituencies must be stopped,” the directive read in part.
Mr Mugenyi’s further directed that consultations must not include illegal demonstrations, illegal processions, inciting violence, use of hate campaigns, use of abusive language, acts of hooliganism of any sort and intimidation of persons perceived to be supporting the removal of age limit.
Politicians who are opposed to the amendment of article that is intended to remove 75-years as the upper age cap for a prospective President, have been holding joint consultative rallies.
On Tuesday, police used teargas and live bullets to disperse a rally at Kasubi, near Kampala. The rally was attended by dozens of politicians and MPs opposed to the amendment.
Igara West lawmaker, Mr Raphael Magyezi tabled the Constitution amendment Bill on September 27 after two days of fist-fighting by MPs inside Parliament.
On Monday, President Yoweri Museveni warned that he would not tolerate any violence in regard to the ongoing age limit debate and that the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party cannot be threatened.
Speaking on Monday at Kisiki College in Namutumba District, Busoga sub-region, during the thanksgiving ceremony for the District Woman MP, Ms Mariam Naigaga, the President said NRM is “a master at violence”, except its violence is “disciplined and purposeful”.
Barely a month after commandos from Special Forces Command stormed parliament and violently ejected MPs opposed to the lifting of the presidential age limit, President Museveni has suggested that his ruling NRM may not shy away from using brute force in future.
Presiding at a thanks-giving ceremony for Namutumba Woman MP Mariam Naigaga on Monday, Museveni said he would not take any more threats from the opposition.
“I want to warn all those who are threatening people, akabwa akasiru kayigga enjovu [a foolish dog hunts an elephant]... to think that you can threaten NRM, and you use violence, yet NRM is the master of violence but our violence is disciplined and purposeful,” a tough-talking Museveni said.
“I will really want to advise anybody who has got illusions that he can use violence and shut up [our people]; we shall not waste time,” Museveni said.
Museveni spoke against a backdrop of spontaneous attacks on NRM MPs. Among those who have been attacked by an agitated public is Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South), James Kakooza (Kabula), Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua Municipality), Judith Nabakooba (Mityana Woman), Doreen Amule (Amolatar) and Godfrey Kiwanda Ssuubi (Mityana North).
The state minister for Urban Development, Isaac Musumba (Buzaaya) and Connie Nakayenze Galiwango (Mbale Woman) have failed to convince their constituents to support age limit removal.
The world witnessed chaotic scenes in the Ugandan Parliament on September 26 and 27 when fist fights broke out moments after junior minister Ronald Kibuule reportedly smuggled a gun into the house. Museveni called for a calm discussion.
“The issue should be discussed calmly, politely... you don’t have to abuse anybody, bring your reasons; you don’t need to threaten anybody so that we get a correct solution,” Museveni said.
Chief Opposition Whip Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda scoffed at the warnings.
“The president is now desperate because he doesn’t trust his own troops. It is the reason why he has resorted to violence and threats. The unfortunate thing is that he is still president and when he gets desperate, he thinks of violence,” Ssemujju said.
He said desperation is the very reason Museveni got involved in armed conflict as an answer to political challenges.
“He has been violent all through, wherever he loses, he resorts to violence – when he lost to Sam Kutesa in Nyabushozi in 1980, he picked guns and went to the bush. What he is bringing out now is that he is not the democrat that he has been pretending to be,” Ssemujju said.
Opposition members of parliament have accused the police of manufacturing and acting on false intelligence reports to obstruct their campaigns against the lifting of presidential age limits.
Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa made the accusation before a large crowd during the opposition’s third joint consultative rally in Kampala, held at Kalerwe on Monday.
“They claimed that we had given people sticks to beat up others but we haven’t done anything of that sort. They want to use it to stop our rallies. We want to do all our rallies peacefully,” Munyagwa said.
The MP said he learnt of an alleged security plot to block opposition rallies on grounds of “fake” intelligence, a claim police denied yesterday.
The leaders say police is again being used by the government to stifle dissenting voices and ensure that the opposition does not “wake up the people from their sleep.”
But Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Frank Mwesigwa told The Observer that indeed they had intelligence that Munyagwa armed people.
“We as police are the consumers of intelligence, and not the MPs. They cannot claim to have better intelligence than us because it is intelligence that determines our operations,” Mwesigwa said.
On Monday, The Observer did not see civilians carrying sticks during the Kalerwe rally. In recent weeks, the police have restricted the movement and activities of certain opposition politicians.
The restrictions have intensified as public agitation against the ruling party’s push to amend Article 102(b), removing the 75-year age limit for presidential candidates has mounted.
Several opposition leaders and parliamentarians have been stopped from leaving their homes under the colonial era ‘preventative arrest’ ordinance. The police say they act on intelligence that these leaders planned to foment chaos in the city by burning petrol stations.
Inspector General of Police Gen Kale Kayihura also partly justified the surrounding and eventual storming of parliament in late September as a pre-emptive security operation to stop the opposition from burning down the building. No actual suspects have been brought to book, however. Mwesigwa told The Observer that all they do is take them in for cautioning.
As the opposition embarks on nationwide consultations of voters about the proposed presidential age limit removal, there is widespread fear that police will crack the whip although the force says this is not their intention.
“Our interest is not to stop these rallies but to ensure that they are peaceful and the message delivered is not inciting. Some of these MPs are telling people that they should attack police and we are watching them. If you arm people with sticks, that calls for cancellation of your permission to hold rallies,” Mwesigwa said.
Under Uganda’s public order law, police is only supposed to be notified of a rally, peaceful demonstration or any such public activity. Its powers to grant permission previously wielded under Section 32(2) of the Police Act were quashed by the Constitutional court in its ruling on the Muwanga Kivumbi vs Attorney General (constitutional petition No. 9, 2005) in May 2008.
The court found that the police act was prohibitive; instead of being regulatory in as far as it contravened Article 29 of the constitution, which guarantees the inherent human right and freedom to assemble and demonstrate.
After Igara West legislator Raphael Magyezi tabled his private member’s age-limit bill two weeks ago, house speaker Rebecca Kadaga urged MPs to consult their constituents on the proposed amendment.
Several ruling party MPs have since been booed, heckled and forced to flee their constituencies when they attempted to defend the bill.
The NRM leadership has now advised its MPs to change tact and selectively pick who they invite for consultation on this very polarising bill. The opposition legislators criticised this decision.
“We shall not allow our constitution to be discussed in bedrooms. When we were looking for votes, we came to the people and now that this bill has come up, we all have to go back to the people and consult them,” Lubaga North MP Moses Kasibante said.
During the Monday rallies at Kalerwe and Bwaise, various legislators, area councillors and chairpersons rallied the masses to join the struggle against the “bad amendment,” saying they break no law in opposing it.
“The curtain between you and your freedom is fear. If you overcome this fear that you have, you will give Uganda the best gift in a lifetime…,” Kyadondo East MP Kyagulanyi Ssentamu said.
In Kalerwe, a sizeable number of people, many of them donning red outfits and ribbons – a colour that has been adopted for the ‘resistance’ -- gathered.
After about two hours, the leaders made a procession to Bwaise playground, paralysing traffic where they passed, as traffic policemen looked on.
This week, supporters of the age limit removal bill are expected to begin consulting constituents on the controversial draft legislation currently being processed by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
But with some MPs who support the bill facing hostility in their constituencies, many have asked the government for protection. In a Monday interview, Kassanda South MP SIMEO MUWANGA NSUBUGA, one of the lead campaigners for the amendment, told Sadab Kitatta Kaaya why he and colleagues need police protection.
MP Simeo Nsubuga
The House was adjourned on October 4, but many of you campaigners of the bill remain stuck in Kampala. Do you fear to consult your constituents?
We are not fearing, we are going to consult. As you are aware, we had a caucus meeting last Friday [October 13] and we [received] guiding notes from the president who is also the chairman of our party. He wanted us to take the same message to the public.
The message is first of all based on the background – we have to explain to the public where we have come from as the NRM government and the contribution the NRM has made to the country.
We have to explain to the people that it is the NRM that put in place the 1995 Constitution, which provided for regular free and fair elections because unlike previous governments, we hold elections every five years. If you are not satisfied with the way a leader or government has performed, you have the right to vote out the government through an election.
You have personally tasted the wrath of an agitated population and there are reports from different parts of the country of locals attacking MPs who support the amendment. How are you going to proceed?
The attacks have been recorded; personally, I was attacked during the Kabaka’s 24th Coronation anniversary in Mubende by Kyuma kya Yesu [William Ntege] but has his action stopped the process from going on? Obviously not, the process is still on.
So, the attacks [have become a] security issue because in a democracy, people have the liberty, they are free to market their divergent views. There is no way you can stop a member of parliament from consulting his electorate. Those who are against these views can either come and listen to our arguments or keep away.
It is now upon the security agencies, especially the police, to provide security to every MP who is anticipating that he/she will be attacked.
They have to ensure that we hold our consultations without any disturbances, let the people come and give their views, because from the consultations, we are going to come back to parliament and present the views from our constituencies.
Does this mean that you are going to your constituencies with police protection?
It is not specifically me but if a particular MP is anticipating violence in his or her constituency; it is advisable that they go with security because police is there to keep law and order.
If the locals decided to attack an MP because he has expressed his views, that attack would be a criminal act and we expect the police to arrest and prosecute the attackers.
During your caucus meeting, the president expressed support for the amendment; doesn’t it mean that he conceded that his government has failed in its duty to spearhead any constitutional changes?
The government has not failed but Hon Raphael Magyezi is exercising his right as an MP to table a private member’s bill.
He did this with support of other MPs, including myself to come up with the motion. The caucus accepted the idea and supported it.
Can you explain why you left out the party structures?
We haven’t bypassed the party structures but this is purely a private member’s bill. This idea was generated by a few people. It was me, Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua Municipality), Peter Ogwang (Usuk), James Kakooza (Kabula) and Anita Among (Bukedea).
That is how we started and at a later stage we brought on board other members who constitute the core team of about 30 MPs who identified Hon Rapahel Magyezi to take the lead because of his seniority.
Because it is a matter within parliament, and since our rules of procedure allow for private members to table a bill, we decided not to involve the party structures at that stage but they will definitely come on board.
When the president was addressing the caucus meeting on Friday [October 13], he told us that he is calling members of the [Central Executive Committee] CEC to brief them.
Yes, I have seen reports in the media that some CEC members such as Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza (Western) and Nasur Gaddafi (Youth League), had complained that they had been left out but there are also some CEC members like Hajji Abdul Nadduli and Alhajji Moses Kigongo who have publicly supported the amendment.
Nonetheless, the party will be involved because as I speak, the bill is no longer a Magyezi bill but for the NRM parliamentary caucus. One can rightly say that it is now a government bill because the entire cabinet, under Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda came out to support it.
The NRM secretariat was represented by the deputy secretary general Richard Todwong at the Friday caucus meeting.
There is no way we are going to consult without involving leaders in the party structures because MPs are NRM chairpersons for their respective constituencies.
Simeo Nsubuga (C) with fellow MPs
How come you cheered as your colleagues, the perceived rebel MPs, were ordered out of the meeting?
The [October 13] meeting was a continuation of the previous caucus meeting [of September 19] which endorsed Hon Magyezi’s motion.
Last week’s meeting was called to design an operational order and since those colleagues of ours led by Hon [Theodore] Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Hon [Barnabas] Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) had opposed our proposal outright, there was no way we could let them be part of our meeting.
Who is going to consult in the rebel MPs’ constituencies on behalf of the NRM?
We are going to use the woman MPs. For instance in Hon Patrick Nsamba’s Kassanda North, Hon Benny Namugwanya Bugembe, the Woman MP for Mubende, will do the consultation.
How will you raise the two-thirds of all MPs required to pass the amendment when you promoters and the caucus leadership are pushing the rebel MPs away?
NRM has 303 MPs out of the 436 MPs in Parliament but mark you, there are independents who identify with NRM and are with us on this. We need at least 300 MPs to pass the bill both at the second and third reading.
I have to admit that it is not an easy task to raise that number but we have to because this is like an electoral college which requires us to do a lot of kakuyege (lobbying) to raise the numbers.
It calls for being persuasive and convincing enough to get members to our side. You know, our constituencies are not the same. There are some of our colleagues who come from volatile constituencies who can’t come out and express their support for the amendment, those ones we have agreed to give them support.
During consultations, you’ll see MPs from elsewhere attending consultative meetings of colleagues in volatile constituencies. This is intended to show the public that this issue is not our own. The constitution is not like the Bible or the Qur’an that it can’t be amended.
I don’t know why the Togikwatako group has made it look like a sacrilegious act for us to say we want to amend the constitution.
What we are doing now was done in 2005 [and] people should appreciate that the framers of the constitution were so wise to include articles 259, 260, 261 and 262 to the extent that they were specific and indicated that some articles are entrenched and therefore cannot be amended by parliament but through a referendum. Article 102(b) is within the mandate of parliament.
There are voices within NRM which say that as you lift the age limit, let’s also reinstate the term limits…
Since the bill is now before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, which you can call the technical committee since the majority are lawyers, if such a proposal is tabled before them and comes to the House, we shall debate and decide as parliament.
Are you now confident in the committee? Some of the promoters wanted it reconstituted.
Some of our colleagues have expressed their views regarding the composition of the committee. Indeed, some think that the committee should be dissolved so that we can have new members but that does not mean that we lost confidence in the committee.
The chairperson [Jacob Oboth-Oboth] is a senior lawyer who we expect to guide the committee, more especially in reference to rule 85 of our rules of procedure which provides that, “ A member shall not in or before the House or any committee, take part in the discussion of any matter in which he or she has direct pecuniary interest unless he or she has declared the nature of that interest to House/committee.”
It further states under rule 85(2) that, “A member having any interest in any matter before the House shall declare the nature of his or her interest in the matter and shall not vote on any question relating to that matter.”
I know some members of the committee, including one who is the seconder of the motion, and those who have come out to oppose this bill, which qualifies to be direct interest in this matter. But the committee chairperson will guide them properly basing on our rules of procedure especially during voting.
Troops from Special Forces Command and Internal Security Organisation have joined police in setting up a tighter security ring around ruling party MPs leading the campaign to remove presidential age limits.
Knowledgeable sources have revealed to The Observer that these unprecedented and enhanced security measures, involving both covert and visible close protection personnel, were authorised recently as the threat level to the MPs grew.
“The calibre of guards one is given depends on the role he or she is playing in the amendment process, and the amount of threat they are facing,” a source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about the SFC presence around MPs.
The tightening of the security ring comes in the wake of heightened tensions and alleged threats against these MPs.
Mbarara Municipality MP Michael Tusiime arrives at parliament. Many of his NRM colleagues are now guarded by police and soldiers
In a few days, the NRM is expected to send its MPs to consult constituents on the highly polarising Raphael Magyezi constitutional amendment bill that seeks to remove the 35 and 75-year age limits for presidential candidates.
The Observer understands that about 13 MPs who conceived the idea to scrap the age limit, including Magyezi the sponsor of the motion, its two seconders Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) and Doreen Amule (Amolatar Woman), have either been given SFC, ISO or police guards.
Others in this group are Peter Ogwang (Usuk), James Kakooza (Kabula), Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua Municipality), Moses Balyeku (Jinja Municipality West), Mariam Naigaga (Namutumba Woman) and Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman).
Their Bukedea colleague, Anita Among, has had her presidential police guards reinforced. Asan Kasingye, the police spokesman, said on Monday that after several complaints from the MPs, police had provided both covert and general security to the concerned lawmakers.
There have been a number of attacks against MPs. After the July 31 attack on him by William Ntege aka Kyuma kya Yesu in Mubende, Kassanda South MP Simeo Nsubuga’s home was attacked by arsonists. Nsubuga told us that given the threats, age limit removal MPs asked police for protection.
“The attacks [have become a] security issue because in a democracy, people have the liberty to market their divergent views... It is now upon the security agencies, especially the police, to provide security to every MP who is anticipating that he will be attacked,” Nsubuga said.
On Sunday night, Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga’s Arua home was also attacked by possible arsonists who failed in their deadly mission. A small jerrycan full of petrol was thrown into his house but it didn’t spark fire.
Officially, the elite SFC formation, which ordinarily guards the first family, is keeping out of the security picture. Its spokesman, Capt Jimmy Omara, said yesterday: “MPs’ security is arranged from parliament, maybe you can talk to the [head] of Parliamentary Police, our role is protection of principal number one [Museveni],” Capt Omara said.
Last month, Kabula MP James Kakooza told The Observer his security detail had been beefed up with a number of plain-clothes personnel. This was days after mourners ganged-up against him at the burial of Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga’s father at Nakawanga, Lwengo, on October 1.
Security concerns were brought up during last week’s October 12 NRM parliamentary caucus meeting addressed by President Museveni. Around the country, agitated locals have forced NRM MPs and some ministers to abandon preliminary consultative meetings.
Kasingye told journalists that police was acting on Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga’s directive to the minister for Internal Affairs, Gen Jeje Odongo, to ensure security for all MPs.
“The extent to which we are going to detail the MPs’ security, and the measures, will be explained by the minister on the floor of parliament, but at the moment we are providing security, both covert and general, to all MPs,” Kasingye said.
This, Kasingye said, was after the homes of opposition MPs Moses Kasibante (Lubaga North), Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine (Kyadondo East) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) survived grenade attacks. All three are vocal opponents of the Magyezi bill.
But Kasibante said he has no protection. He said the guards deployed at his home in Kosovo, Lubaga division, stayed for only two days.
“I think by saying all MPs, they mean those in support of the unpopular [age limit] bill... The few I have seen with guards are the likes of Abiriga, Kakooza and Nsubuga,” Kasibante said.
The deputy police spokesperson Kampala Metropolitan, Luke Owoyesigire, yesterday said the maxi- mum number of police escorts given to each MP is usually two officers.
“But if the MPs want security in the areas where they are going for consultation meetings, we give them heavy deployment and the DPCs in those areas take over the security to protect them from their rivals,” Owoyesigire said.
ARUA. Suspected arsonists attempted to set ablaze the home of Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga in Anyafiyo Village, Arua Town, on Saturday night.
The suspects allegedly took advantage of the downpour in the night to cut a wire mesh at the window and tried to push a five-litre jerrican of petrol inside the house to set it ablaze.
Speaking to Daily Monitor yesterday morning, the MP’s wife, Ms Aminah Sijali, said the incident happened while they were asleep.
“The attackers first cut the wire mesh and attempted to push the petrol into the sitting room but when we realised it, the attackers took off. Good enough the stick failed to get lit because it was wet,” Ms Sijali said.
“I was already sleeping with my five children when my sister-in-law called me asking whether I was the one opening the door, but when I checked, I found part of the wire mesh was already cut and the people had fled,” she added.
Ms Sijali said she called the police officer guarding their home only to find the five-litre jerrican of petrol abandoned at the door way.
Mr Abiriga has been at the forefront in the push for lifting of the presidential age limit from the Constitution.
The MP, who was in Kampala at the time of the incident, said he is not worried since he has no grudge against anyone.
Two police officers have been deployed to guard the home. Detectives have opened a file of attempted arson as investigations continue.
Prior to the incident, unknown people allegedly removed tyres of a vehicle parked in the compound.
As the fight against lifting of presidential age limits grinds on and shapes into what promises to be bruising battles ahead, some opposition MPs have come under suspicion of working against their colleagues.
Informed sources say almost the same sort of mistrust troubling the ruling party, is creeping into the ranks of those opposed to Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s constitutional amendment bill (no.2), which seeks to scrap the 35 and 75-year presidential age limits.
“The thinking amongst members is that there are some of us who are acting as links for the president… Their brief is to inform the president or his agents on whatever development happens or what the group intends to do. This sort of mistrust is dividing us as members,” said a source privy to the pro-age limit campaign task force.
Sources say the mistrust came to the fore during a meeting held before the MPs were suspended and violently evicted from parliament on September 27 before the Magyezi bill was introduced into the House. Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko reportedly accused a female colleague of recording what he was saying during that meeting.
MPs opposed to lifting age limits
According to the source, who attended the meeting, Nsereko said: “[the lady] recorded me or perhaps the whole meeting. I was able to discover this because my phone has got an application or enhancement that would detect that I am being recorded within the surrounding and it picks the identity of a phone or device recording.”
Other sources at this meeting reveal that the accused individual was so outraged, a hot exchange ensued. Matters were saved from degenerating further by the intervention of Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality MP and chief opposition whip.
“If it was not for Hon Ssemujju to calm the situation, the two were almost closing-in on each other and could have become physical,” the source said.
By press time, The Observer had failed to reach the female individual for comment; however, Nsereko described these revelations as old news.
“What is the value addition of the story? Who does it benefit? It is diversionary; you should not write things that are going to polarise us,” Nsereko said.
Ssemujju neither denied nor confirmed what happened in an interview with The Observer.
“I cannot give any comment about that. First call them and find out what happened, then come for my views,” he said
That incident has since had a ripple effect on planning and organisation within the anti-age limit campaigners.
“This is why there was no clear approach on what to do after the suspension. There were some of us who felt like fighting back was the right approach yet some members felt that there could have been some room for engagement,” The Observer was told.
“Some people did not envisage a physical fight or violence [in parliament]. The other side [NRM] could have had it [fighting] at the back of their mind but we could have maybe handled it differently. This could not have happened but there was no prior coordinated planning for the session,” said one member, who declined to be named for fear of offending colleagues.
Indeed, some members think the attack on them by Special Forces Command plain-clothes operatives was effected with insider help.
“It cannot be a coincidence that when the security operatives entered the House to evict the suspended MPs, they started effecting the said order by throwing out people like Ssemujju and Mpuuga (Mathias Mpuuga, the Masaka Municipality MP), who had not even been suspended. It could have been that they were tipped off by one of us…” said the source.
At the time, Ssemujju and Mpuuga were coordinating the pro-age limit campaign strategy. Now, things are little more complicated, Ssemujju said this week.
“Everyone is welcome to make a contribution regardless of their political affiliation. This is why religious leaders and civil society organisations are playing a big role,” he said.
“You can’t say the opposition is to do it alone or that let’s leave it to only a few people. This requires all our collective voices. MPs have played their role and we need the people…,” Ssemujju said.
MPs opposed to lifting the age limit break into dance after they filibustered and forced parliament to be adjourned prematurely
Asked whether mutual mistrust will not hurt their planning, Ssemujju said it will not if all Ugandans are united against the proposed amendment.
“Every day we handle a meeting on age limits but this [MPs squabbling] is what we go through every day. MPs are complicated people and you cannot stop them from talking or addressing the press. It is within their right and I have no problem with it, except where they are addressing it on behalf of other colleagues. That is wrong,” Ssemujju said.
Regardless, Mpuuga says they will continue mobilising the masses through their respective agents of socialisation like the church, civil society groups and cultural leaders.
“How can you plan for violence by the army? You just have to mobilise the people to your side,” Mpuuga said.
Currently, there are three planning teams working against the Magyezi bill.
One group includes the whole opposition, independents and some NRM ‘rebels’. Then there is the opposition group, whose lead strategists include Ssemujju, Mpuuga and Muhammad Muwanga-Kivumbi (Butambala).
The third group are largely NRM rebels, including, Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman MP), Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya).
Tentatively, the opposition has organised joint rallies as part of an overall strategy to fight the proposed amendment of Article 102(b) which lays out the 35 and 75-year age limits for presidential candidates.
President Museveni has reportedly said he has a “mission to accomplish” and this is why he wants parliament to scrap age limits in the constitution for elderly presidential candidates like him.
Before the Friday, October 13 caucus meeting, Museveni had spent the entire week meeting groups of NRM and NRM-leaning MPs to rally support for the bill presently facing a tide of public opposition.
“He told us that his revolutionary struggle is not a mere struggle but a mission that has to be accomplished and therefore cannot be locked out by mere technicalities,” an MP who attended one of the State House meetings told The Observer on Friday.
The president on Friday told the NRM parliamentary caucus in the Office of the President’s conference hall behind the Parliamentary buildings that he is an interested party in Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s age limit removal bill.
President Museveni says he still has a mission to accomplish
The caucus meeting was called for Museveni to guide his party MPs about how to conduct their consultations on the bill and avoid the unfolding backlash from a rather agitated population.
Museveni reportedly also spoke about a desire to advance pan-Africanism and the integration of the East African Community.
All these lines formed part of the talking points he handed over to NRM MPs ahead of their consultative meetings which are expected to begin this week.
“He told us to think about the future of Africa; he said we should look at Africa’s strategic thinkers who shouldn’t be locked out because of mere technicalities,” Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa told journalists after the caucus meeting.
As the MPs listened to his arguments, they were also mindful of their political fortunes. Some, like Pamela Kamugo (Budaka Woman) and Ismail Ogama (Lower Madi-Okollo) told him during one of the State House meetings that they risked losing their 2021 re-election bids.
Others, like Thomas Tayebwa, the Ruhinda North MP, told Museveni that as they lift the age limit, they should reinstate the two-term limit.
Museveni reportedly ignored these suggestions, dismissing them as “those small things” that cannot stand in the way of the yet-to-be-concluded revolutionary struggle.
After term limits were controversially scrapped in 2005, Museveni told Ugandans that he was running again in order to professionalize the army, among others.
On Friday, he said: “After 55 years of independence, we are still building institutions in Uganda.”
Museveni is said to have rejected outright the thought of term limit restoration, telling the MPs that he knows of many democracies around the world without term limits.
The MPs, notably Jennifer Nantume Egunyu (Buvuma Woman), told Museveni that their constituents were no longer interested in listening to stories about his African revolutionary struggle, but in issues that affect them.
In response, he encouraged MPs to follow up on the issues affecting their constituents like service delivery, with particular emphasis on the performance of the Universal Primary Education, the health sector and roads.
“That way, you’ll not get into trouble with the electorate, no one will rise up against you,” Museveni reportedly said.
He concluded the Entebbe meetings on Thursday, October 12 when he told the MPs that his initial wish was to subject the amendment to a referendum but was told of a shorter route.
“Given the history of our struggle, I felt that the people should be consulted [but they told] me that there was a shortcut because a referendum is like going through another election,” Museveni is quoted as having said.
“I had been busy with other issues and by the time I got to know about it, these people [promoters of the bill] had moved. Although it was started by an individual, the party should now embrace it and support it,” Museveni further told the MPs.
This was after Buliisa MP Stephen Mukitale Birahwa had challenged him on why he had allowed such an important bill to be tabled as a private member’s bill.
For more than two hours on Friday, the MPs sat waiting for Museveni to arrive for the caucus meeting which had in attendance some rebel MPs.
Prior to Museveni’s arrival, agitators of the age limit removal bill lobbied some of the ‘rebel’ MPs but their efforts seemed to be in vain. Hence a warning was issued that the meeting would not tolerate any dissenting views.
Some of the NRM rebels evicted from the caucus
As soon as Museveni walked into the hall, Nankabirwa made opening remarks, thanking the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga for “doing a good job” on September 27 when she suspended 25 MPs opposed to the bill moments before Magyezi tabled it in Parliament.
“Unfortunately, there are some members who are opposed to it [bill] even after the caucus passed a resolution to support the bill,” Nankabirwa said.
She went ahead to read out the names of the MPs who were unwanted in the meeting.
These were; Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North) and Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South).
Others were; Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Louis Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya), Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) and Sylvia Rwabwogo (Kabarole Woman). Their crime is their open opposition to the Magyezi bill and their October 4 letter to Museveni in which they challenged him to disassociate himself from it.
Nankabirwa was booed by some as she read out the names but received the support of Evelyn Anite (Koboko Municipality), Doreen Amule (Amolatar Woman), Moses Balyeku (Jinja Municipality West) and Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers).
The ‘rebel’ MPs protested.
“We came here because this is the first time President Museveni is coming here to address the caucus but we also want to know whether the people’s views will be considered during this process,” Ssekikubo said.
He also questioned why government had decided to back a private member’s bill instead of constituting a constitutional review commission to generate proposals for amendment. He wondered whether Museveni is willing to respond to their letter.
Nankabirwa shot back, telling Ssekikubo that the issue is not before a delegates’ conference but parliament where MPs have a right to take exclusive decisions.
Ssekikubo, however, insisted that the people should be fully involved before Museveni threw his weight behind Nankabirwa.
“I will respond to your letter but this is a meeting of like minds on the subject matter,” Museveni said.
Tinkasiimire joined in, telling Museveni that much as they may not be in agreement, free debate should be allowed.
“You seem to have already decided before consulting the people but as far as I am concerned, the organs of the party have not been fully involved,” Tinkasiimire said.
The ‘rebel’ MPs were then led out of the conference hall amidst some protestations. James Kaberuka, the Kinkiizi West MP, rose on a procedural point, wondering why a party that he knows to be all-inclusive and one that considers multi-dimensional views was throwing out its members without giving them a fair hearing.
“This is an exit meeting to prepare for consultations but it is as if you have already decided on how to proceed with the bill,” the youthful MP who replaced former prime minister Amama Mbabazi as Kinkizi West MP, said.
He, however, drew the ire of Nankabirwa who told him that they already know his views on the bill.
Museveni then asked him, “Are you with us or against us?”
Kaberuka responded, “I am with the people.”
Museveni hit back, “If you don’t agree with what the caucus decided, then, you move out.”
Kaberuka picked his files and walked to the members’ lounge of parliament where the Ssekikubo group was addressing a press conference.
Moments later, they were joined by Maracha East MP James Acidri who walked out of the caucus meeting in protest. At her press conference, Nankabirwa said the ‘rebel’ MPs were thrown out because the meeting had been called to plot against them.
“I didn’t want them to be part of my meeting because it was called to lay strategies against their opposition to the bill,” Nankabirwa said.
She said their suspension was only limited to that particular meeting although they were likely to face disciplinary action.
From the caucus meeting, Museveni went into another meeting at State House Nakasero, which was attended by about nine MPs, among them Peter Ogwang (Usuk), Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua Municipality), Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South), Moses Balyeku (Jinja Municipality West) and James Kakooza (Kabula).
The strategy meeting ran for more than four hours. Museveni reportedly told the group that he wants the bill passed by the end of November and, therefore, did not want it to take a lot of time in the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
This was after the group told him that there was no way a parliamentary process could be foregone. The only alternative, the MPs told Museveni, was to force the committee to slash the amount of time it intends to spend conducting public hearings.
In its work plan, the committee intends to hold nationwide hearings as well as a benchmarking trip out of the country.
“He thinks it is unnecessary for the committee to take that trip because it is time-wasting; we have to get the thing out of the way,” a source said.
Afraid of coming up against stiff opposition from majority members on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, which is scrutinizing the age-limit bill, President Museveni’s strategists are reported to be reaching out to its leadership with offers of a concession.
Speaking to The Observer on Saturday, Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South) said that unnamed NRM members have approached him as committee chair, saying they are ready to trade-off the restoration of term limits for scrapping the 35-75 age limits.
“The issue of concession is on the table, even though not formally, and it is not proposed by the NRM generally. There are some people who have brought it to my attention and I think it is one of the things that my committee will consider,” Oboth-Oboth said.
However, Oboth-Oboth also said this depends on committee members.
“Politics of concession involves give and take. But most importantly concessions cannot work where people take extreme positions, or stick to their positions because they have the numbers or because they can talk and talk and talk,” Oboth-Oboth said.
“What is shrouding us is the fact that some people are anti-Museveni and they are looking at the amendment in that sense. But we must look at the amendment as something that shall outlive Museveni,” he said.
Oboth-Oboth added that the restoration of term limits is a good safety valve, which serves the same purpose.
“You see when you have the hand brake and leg brakes…” he said.
But Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality), warned of a ruse. Mpuuga said this is attempt to manipulate the committee to write a report which proposes such an exchange. That way, it would come across as more acceptable.
“Restoring the term limits favours President Museveni because it achieves what he wants. By that amendment he will be eligible to stand for another ten years. And yet the age limit, which stands as the only road block to his regime longevity would be given away,” Mpuuga said.
“He knows that most people do not want him and he is using that as a carrot to win some hearts to his side,” Mpuuga said.
There are 24 members on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. Of these, 13 MPs are NRM, six are independents while FDC and the DP have two members each. One MP is an army representative.
In our analysis of information from sources, likely opposition loosely stands at 14 against the bill, which seeks to amend Article 102(b) of the constitution.
Those who have spoken against are; Mpuuga (DP); Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality, FDC); Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman MP, NRM); Ann Adeke Ebaju (national female youth, Independent); Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central, Independent); Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East, Independent); Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East, DP); Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri, FDC) and Abbas Agaba (Kitagwenda, NRM).
Others who have not been vocal, but are believed to be opposed are; Hamson Dennis Obua (Ajuri, NRM); Paul Akamba (Busiki, Independent); Remigio Achia (Pian, NRM); Veronica Isala Eragu (Kaberamaido, NRM), and Aston Kajara (Mwenge South, NRM).
That leaves only eight members of the committee likely to vote in favour of the proposed amendment.
They are; Robina Rwakoojo (Gomba West, NRM); Jackson Kafuzi (Kyaka south, NRM); Gaster Mugoya (Bukhooli North, NRM); Edward Makmot Otto (Agago, NRM); Dorothy Azairwe (Kamwenge Woman, NRM); Kenneth Obote Ongalo (Kalaki, NRM); and Sam Bitangaro (Bufumbira South, NRM).
The views of the other two members; Oboth-Oboth and Elly Tumwine, the UPDF representative, remain closely guarded.
It is this unpredictability which got Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, the sponsor of the bill, to petition Speaker Rebecca Kadaga over the reconstitution of the committee. The speaker has said it’s not necessary, but it remains to be seen what she can do about it if government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa insists on it.
According to knowledgeable sources, , another course of action by Museveni supporters would be to ask Oboth-Oboth to invoke the House rules, particularly Rule 85.
“It is hoped that if the rule  is invoked most members of the committee, especially those who have given sharp views against the bill, will be disqualified and the rest of the members shall raise the quorum that will be used in support of the report,” an NRM strategist said.
Rule 85 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure provides that a member having any interest in any matter before the House shall declare the nature of his or her interest in the matter and shall not vote on any question relating to that matter, and such a member shall recuse himself or herself from the meeting until voting is over.
If seven opposition MPs are disqualified along with Kafuuzi, who had already been technically knocked out as seconder of the bill, only eight MPs would be needed to realise quorum. Oboth-Oboth said that he will only trigger Rule 85 in case members do not observe the House rules.
“We sat down and reminded everyone on the committee about the rules and if they do not heed to our caution they will technically knock themselves out of the process,” Oboth-Oboth said.
Sources say that Oboth-Oboth advised the NRM parliamentary caucus to abandon the idea of committee reconstitution since it will expose the NRM as being shabby in its attempt to get around opposition.
Insiders of the age-limit amendment scheme told us that they are still holding onto three options of lifting age limits: either by recommendation of the committee in its report; moving on the floor during the House debate, or through another constitutional amendment.
Kampala- President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday slammed Members of Parliament who are always bent on fighting for their salaries and those of civil servants instead of allocating adequate money to priorities that can help grow the economy.
The president says that if MPs were not only thinking about their salaries and those of civil servants, the budget allocation for youth development would have been increased at least from the current Shs50 billion to about Shs300 billion.
“You the youth have been electing selfish and false leaders. They would be putting emphasis on prioritising funds that can help youth and women but when they reach Parliament they put emphasis on [their] salaries. So they disturb me,” he said. “You the youth are keeping quiet without demanding this from your MPs. You only shout Togikwatako.”
On average, a legislator gets Shs20 million per month on top of other benefits and allowances.
“Togikwatako” is a popular slogan used by politicians and activists opposed to the proposed amendment of Article 102 (b) of the Constitution that caps the age limit for presidential candidates at 75 years.
Mr Museveni, 73, would not qualify to contest in 2021 unless the article is deleted from the Constitution.
Mr Museveni was speaking at the National Museum in Kampala where he handed over equipment valued at Shs800 million to 76 Jua Kali groups benefiting from the Youth Capital Venture Fund under the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.
Mr Museveni said: “You are not using the power and freedom NRM gave to you to elect MPs who would lobby for you. So, use your big numbers to discipline your MPs so that they can work with me to see how to allocate funds for roads, electricity and youth projects.”
The 76 groups that received equipment for agro-processing, automobile repairing, metal fabrication brick laying and carpentry, were drawn from Kampala, Mukono, Wakiso and Mpigi districts.
Mr Museveni said that through putting to good use the donated equipment, the youth in Uganda will begin displaying enough products like clothes, shoes, artificial hair for women, wines and perfumes on the local market to save Uganda from spending $7 billion to import them annually.
“Let us start with this equipment and put them to good use to get out products that we have been buying expensively from China, India and South Africa. With time, we shall also innovate to manufacture these machines from home so that we don’t enrich the jobs markets and tax base of rich countries,” Mr Museveni said.
The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Ms Janat Mukwaya said the Youth Capital Venture Fund is one of the pillars of the green job programme that was launched in 2016.
“The Jua Kali groups receiving equipment today are under the Youth capital venture one of the ten pillars of the green jobs programme. We procured this equipment after a survey that was conducted across the country where we chose the 78 groups to start with,” Ms Mukwaya said.