KAMPALA- The much-anticipated debate on the removal of the presidential age limit may not happen on Tuesday as expected, with the subject missing on the day’s Order Paper circulated by Parliament.
An Order Paper itemises issues legislators are to discuss on a particular day, but it can be amended even on the floor of Parliament. Speaker Rebecca Kadaga is expected to preside over the House where heavily-armed military and regular police have heavily deployed. The proceedings are expected to begin at 2pm, but MPs are already trickling in.
Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi threw a spanner in the works a fortnight ago by saying he required leave of Parliament to table a motion to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution and scrap the provision that caps the upper age for a prospective President at 75 years.
His move which has since been endorsed by both the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party and Cabinet has prompted counter notices for introduction of six other proposed Private Member’s Bills.
The flood of these notices has put the Speaker’s office in a dilemma and a meeting on Monday between Ms Kadaga and a government delegation led by Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda ended without a way forward.
The premier’s team had tried to persuade the Speaker to include MP Magyezi’s notice on the Tuesday Order paper. The Speaker has previously ruled against attempts to amend the supreme law through Private Member’s Bills and demanded that the government tables a comprehensive Constitution review Bill.
The government is yet to explain why it has not to-date tabled a comprehensive Bill to amend the Constitution while choosing to throw its weight behind the Magyezi motion. The Supreme Court in its March 2016 decision on Amama Mbabazi’s petition challenging the re-election of Museveni directed the Attorney General to table required Constitution amendment proposal within two years from the date of judgment.
The leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winnie Kiiza and a section of MPs opposed to the amendment of Article 102 (b) address a press conference at Parliament on Tuesday. Photo by Alex Esagala
MPs and Ugandans will keenly be watching item number 2 on the Order Paper, on communication from the chair, during which Speaker Kadaga is expected to announce her position of the different notices for introduction of motions to amend the Constitution.
Other items on the Tuesday Order Paper include ministerial statements on Uganda’s readiness to produce oil by 2020; a disease attack on eucalyptus plantation in the western Kyenjojo and neighbouring districts; and, the death of a suspect in police custody in Maracha District in West Nile.
The National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, 2012, is expected to be read for the second and possibly third time today, making it probable to be enacted on Tuesday.
KAMPALA- There are sporadic confrontations happening at Parliament and the nearby City Hall between lawmakers and councillors on the one side and police on the other as the law enforcement agencies scramble to restrain the political leaders from accessing their offices with the red bandanas.
Lawmakers opposed to the lifting of the presidential age limit last week caught security flat-footed when they pulled and wore the red headbands in the chamber after plans by the ruling party to seek leave of Parliament and introduce a motion to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution failed.
They emerged on the foyer of the Parliament building, singing and dancing while punching in the air with clenched fists. MP Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality, FDC) says the bandana is to symbolise their readiness to die in defence of the Constitution.
Last week’s surprise peaceful protest appears to have prepared and provoked the police to ensure no lawmaker this time accesses the House with the headbands, something Opposition Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) councillors copied. This led to confrontation at the gate of City Hall, leading to the arrest of some individuals.
At Parliament, police failed to restrain Kyadondo East MP, Mr Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine who displayed a calm composure as a decoy before sneaking out.
In the Tuesday confrontations, Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko told off the law enforcers, assuring them that legislators had discretion on how to dress and can only be challenged in the chamber on a point of Order.
Another team of parliamentarians led by Aruu MP, Mr Odonga Otto and his Lwemiyaga counterpart, Mr Theodore Ssekikubo tackled the guards head-on, forcing their way and sprinting up the stairs to join their colleagues assembled in the office of the Leaders of Opposition.
Mr Otto shoved off police officers who had cordoned off the entrance via the South Wing of Parliament and forcefully entered Parliament.
“I can even come in here wearing a G-string...,” Mr Otto says while outstretching his hands, with ribbons tied to both.
The officers chased after Mr Otto up to the 5th Floor of Parliament where he was going to attend a meeting in the Leader of Opposition’s Boardroom.
Together, they sang the first stanza of the national anthem as out-of-breathe journalists huddled in the hallway.
Some of the MPs opposed to lifting of the presidential age limit say the red ribbons signify “resistance against bloodshed.”
On his part, MP Ssekikubo refuses to be frisked. He elbows off an officer who insisted on checking him.
Police officers have meanwhile confiscated ribbons and whistles from MPs Gilbert Olanya (Kilak County South) and Reagan Okumu (Aswa County).
Despite Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah last week complaining the police deployment was “excessive”, Parliament has again been ringed off by Anti-Terrorism police with snipers perched at many entrances.
The precincts of Parliament are filled with armed plain-clothed security officers who are keeping an eye on each lawmaker who have vowed to block Igara West MP, Mr Rahael Magyezi from tabling his intended motion to scrap a provision that limits the upper age of a potential President at 75 years.
Critics say the change is to remove a legal hurdle for President, now 73-years-old, and allow him to stand again in 2021.
KCCA councillors join debate
Kampala city leaders headed by the Lord Mayor, Mr Erias Lukwago are convened at KCCA gardens to voice their concerns against the proposed removal of the age limit cap from the Constitution.
The leaders, majority of whom are donned in red attires and a red ribbon tied around their foreheads, have vowed to fight until MPs back off the controversial bill to amend the Constitution.
KCCA councillors and leaders listen to Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago in City Hall gardens near Parliament. Photo by Amos Ngwomoya
Mr Lukwago said the Constitution is the fundamental law in the land and tinkering with it would send the country into chaos.
"We are not sounding war drums but we want a peaceful transition of power. Mr Museveni must respect the will of the people and retire peacefully. If he insists on amending the Constitution, we are ready to defend our rights," Mr Lukwago said.
Ms Happy Nasasira, the Nakawa Female Councillor accused Mr Museveni of telling lies to Ugandans when he earlier said that he would retire peacefully.
"Why doesn't the President want to be a statesman? If he had earlier told the whole country that the problem of Africa is leaders who overstay in power, why is he doing the same? As leaders, we shall not accept age limit removal because it will affect us especially the youth," she said.
MBALE- Police in the eastern Mbale District have taken one person into custody following protests that broke out against the planned amendment of the Constitution to lift the presidential age-limit.
The suspect whose name we could not immediately establish is detained at the Central Police Station in Mbale town.
Police say they found him on Republic Street leading a group of demonstrators while holding placards and chanting slogans denouncing the scheme to scrap the presidential age-limit. Previous similar protests have happened in Arua and Lira where they burned a coffin but not in Mbale until Tuesday.
The anti and pro-age limit removal demonstrations have mainly concentrated in and around the capital.
In Mbale, the Tuesday demonstrators threatened to cause violence if the age limit cap is lifted.
“We will cause violence if any one tries to tamper with our Constitution. We do not support and we will never support it,” Mr David Mafabi, one of the protesters, says.
Some of the youth opposed to the amendment of the age limit motion in Bunyoro who have been arrested.
The police engaged the protesters in running battles on Kumi, Republic and Bishop Wasikye roads as they pelted stones at the anti-riot officers they accuse of being pro-government.
The anti-riot police officers struggled to contain the protesters. The acting DPC, Mr Steven Ahweere ordered for the sealing off of Republic Street to stop the protesters from heading to a police station to demand for the release of their colleague. This affected traffic flow on the road for two hours. Police later restored order.
In Arua, five demonstrators have been taken into custody.
Police are firing bullets, teargas to disperse hundreds of youths who have taken onto the streets over the age limit.
They are blocking streets, burning disused vehicle tyres and brandishing placards with messages denouncing the move to lift the age cap.
One of the writings on a manila card read: “We stand with Article 102(b) and (Aruu) MP Odonga Otto, we stand with you” in the fight against the removal of age limit.
The controversial anti-age limit private member's bill, which he will introduce in parliament, has thrust Igara West MP RAPHAEL MAGYEZI into the public spotlight more than anything else in his two terms in the House.
In a September 22 interview with Sadab Kitatta Kaaya at Parliament, Magyezi, the designated mover of the private member's bill which seeks to delete Article 102 (b) and in so doing remove age limits for presidential candidates, discussed his intention and motivation to move the bill.
Below are the excerpts.
What motivated you to move a bill like that?
I was motivated by the ruling of the Supreme court last year, and the justices’ decision and observation that most of their recommendations and decisions are actually not implemented. And that we tend to bring these amendments late, which compromises the efficiency of the elections.
Raphael Magyezi during the interview
As somebody who has gone through the elections, I know what it means, and I thought the [Supreme] court was actually making a good observation and a good decision when they [justices of the Supreme court] said, “In the two years of the new parliament, we should conclude these election-related amendments.”
Exactly this is what I have done. I waited for the whole of last year, we are now almost into the second half of the new year and there is nothing being done by the executive. When I look at the Constitution, I find this particular part, which can actually be handled by a private member.
What I am doing is purely legal, purely in the constitution and within the mandate of a member of parliament.
Lifting the age limit was never part of the recommendations of the Supreme court…
The court talked about election-related matters. It is my view, you may contest it, but my view is that qualifications for a candidate to stand for elections are an election-related matter.
If elections are about candidates who stand, then you cannot say that the qualifications of those candidates are not important. I think it is also important to realise that the bill is not about the age limit; the bill is big, it is about all these other matters related to the elections, particularly to the presidency.
For example, filing and determination of a [Presidential election] petition. In case you go for elections as a candidate, and you are not happy with the result, at the moment, the time you have to file a petition is 10 days and court has 30 days to conclude the matter.
The court itself has pointed out that this is highly inadequate, and they have called on us to give them more space, more time.
I have thought and said, maybe, if we gave the person petitioning, say, 15 days and you, the respondent are given the [same period of] time to file your reply, and also expand the time given to the court, perhaps, this could help. This would imply another amendment to the constitution in terms of election days.
At the moment, the Constitution says that the election of a president must be held within the first 30 days of the last 90 days of the president’s term. My proposal is to hold the term of the president constant and see if we can bring forward the time for elections; give it another, say, 30 days.
That would mean amending the constitution such that the time for elections is not in the first thirty days of the last 90 days of the term of the president but perhaps, I would propose the first 30 days of the last 120 days of the term of office of the president.
The other amendment I’m proposing is a re-run or re-election. Under the current law, in case court annuls an election, the Electoral Commission [EC] is given only 20 days to organise a fresh election. The court has pointed out that [this period] is too short. We are lucky that [a presidential election has not been nullified] here, but it has just happened in the neighbourhood, in Kenya. They have to redo it in 60 days.
You and me know that here in Uganda, if there is a new election for a member of parliament, the EC is not given 20 days but, rather, 60 days. If that applies in the case of an MP, really, Ugandans, do you want to convince me that we continue to [keep] that in the constitution that in case of a rerun, a presidential [by-election] should be held in 20 days? I’m saying, no! Members, MPs let’s amend this. If you think that I am wrong, bring your proposal.
In terms of the age limit, why are people simply thinking about the presidency?
The constitution talks about the election of a district LC-V chairperson and it says that for anybody to stand for [election] as an LC-V chairperson, you must be 35 to 75 years.
So, you can see, I don’t know why people are simply narrowing this…I think people must be thinking about President Museveni and some people may think that I am bringing this [amendment] to make sure that Museveni stays in power.
It is actually the reverse, if you want to protect a certain individual, then you put limits. Colleagues, listen to that. It is when you want to stop any other competitor that you protect, put a fence; put a ring around a certain limit.
But the minute you open it up, you’re simply saying, “Are you below the age of 35 but a registered voter? Are you above 75 [years] but a registered voter? You’re qualified to be an MP in terms of academic qualifications? Please come on board.”
Can’t all these amendments be handled through a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and an omnibus bill? Why don’t you back Hon Patrick Nsamba Oshabe’s motion proposing the same?
I don’t have a problem with Hon Nsamba’s motion [but] there is no way you can tell me to put up a commission to handle amendments of the constitution unless you first define what those ones are. Secondly, a CRC will not handle what I am talking about, which has a timeline of two years of the new parliament.
Certainly, I have no doubt that government will do that [because] it is in their mandate, they will bring comprehensive amendments to the Constitution but that does not preclude the rights of an MP to handle this now, which has a timeline.
If we don’t handle this now, because I know the other question you may ask, “Can’t we amend the age limit two years upfront?” No. some of these [amendments] have a restriction. If you want to amend it, you must get two thirds of parliament. I am of the view that this is the time, because it is outside elections. People have not started going to their constituents for campaigns.
But if you want to wait for another two years, and you want to convene parliament and have the big numbers, you may face a serious challenge.
So, for me, this is the time, this is timely. What I am doing is totally legal; it is totally in the Constitution, it is my mandate as an MP.
This is not the first time the Supreme court is making such recommendations, why are you acting now and not in the previous parliaments?
Well, that is a good question and I like it. The Supreme court itself made an observation “that most of the recommendations for reform by this court in the previous presidential elections petitions have remained largely unimplemented.”
It may well be that no authority was identified to follow up their implementation and that is why they [Supreme court] said that “in this particular case therefore, we are giving parliament, the first two years of its establishment to handle these particular electoral amendments.”
Perhaps in the previous cases, there was no specific timeline and thus no action, but now, we have certain cases that require the two years of parliament.
Are you trying to imply that the executive in that regard has abdicated its duty?
It is a good question you should actually ask the executive, the government chief whip [Ruth Nankabirwa] and the prime minister [Dr Ruhakana Rugunda] should answer that, but I think government has delayed to act. I have looked into the law and I found out that I can do something, and I am permitted to do it.
How do you feel about the anxiety, tensions and inconveniences you have stirred in the country?
The inconveniences are regrettable, the anxiety is understandable. I hate to know that people have come up to express their views; their support or dislike and they are beaten and chased.
I hate that kind of approach and I condemn it. But the anxiety is understandable because this is a very important matter; it is not a light subject [because] it touches the power of the people under the Constitution.
It touches on the fear of the people, who think that maybe an individual will use the lifting of the age limit to stay around. But the responsibility goes back to us, the MPs. If we continue telling people that this one [anti-age limit supporter], we shall fight, we shall do something wrong, then you’re actually inciting the community.
Some say you have been paid handsomely by the principal beneficiary of your bill.
That is total rubbish…Magyezi has received money, Magyezi has been given a house, a new Land Cruiser, Magyezi has been given this…I don’t know what has gone wrong with our community to think that whenever you do something good, they relate that to tangible profit or business.
I haven’t received even Shs 10,000 and I don’t need it because I am doing my duty. I am still staying in my home; I don’t need to begin staying in State House.
The only thing you can talk about is my security. Government has given me security because I need it. I am entitled to security as an MP but if I say I need security to beef up what I have, government has an obligation to do that. Why do I need [extra security]?
I can read to you a number of messages on my phone threatening violence against me and my family, and I don’t take that for granted. If somebody says, “we are going to kill you; we are going to hurt your family,” do you want me to sit and say that everything is okay? I can confirm, yes, I am secure.
Morrison Rwakakamba, a former presidential aide (research) and vociferous supporter of the ruling NRM, has said the country risks disintegrating if Parliament amends Article 102(b) of the Constitution and removes the upper 75-year age cap for presidential candidates.
In a Monday interview with Baker Batte Lule at his office in Najjeera, Kira municipality, Rwakakamba explained his fears. Excerpts:-
Why did you resign from government?
It was time to get onto the balcony and get fresh perspectives. Being on that balcony gives you time to say, eeh, what is going on here?
When you are on the dance floor, you can’t figure out how the dance is moving. I also wanted to join the private sector and public interest-related consulting.
You couldn’t handle the two alongside each other?
Not at all, you know when you are in government, the terms are very clear; you are a fulltime employee. Government demands full time and when you want to concentrate on the private sector, it is also a 24-hour job.
I had served government for almost five years, offering policy views. There comes a time when you want to serve the country in other areas. The private sector is critical to economic growth because it’s where the jobs are created and where the public sector gets taxes.
Just five years in government and you call it quits; that sounds very non-Ugandan…
I left without any recriminations. My five years were a period of getting experience in government, which I had not served before.
I had worked in the private sector and civil society; so, my five years in government were about learning. My concentration was fusing the scientific analysis to make sure that government decisions are made backed up by scientific evidence.
Did you succeed in doing that?
You could say not 100 per cent. There are aspects like believing that defeating corruption wasn’t essentially about having laws but about sharing information, where, for example, the ministry of Finance would publish money remittances to different institutions so that people follow what is going on and hold government accountable.
When in government, were you convinced that people running it were up to the task?
There is need for more imagination. I think the President [Museveni] is more concerned with maintaining a hold onto power. For example, you have a parliament spending so many hours trying to diminish the Constitution by removing Article 102(b) instead of concentrating on those things in the  manifesto.
When the president was inaugurating cabinet, he put out what he called strategic guidelines with clear parameters around investment, security, land, and environment. That was at the beginning of this kisanja [5th term] called Hakuna Mchezo [no games], which was about service delivery. But the entire cabinet and parliament [are] busy weakening the Constitution in order to perpetuate a life presidency.
To say you want Uganda to move to a middle-income status yet you are presiding over an economy that is growing at 3.8 per cent per annum… [to get into the middle-income bracket], you need an economy that is consistently growing at 10 per cent per annum for ten years.
If your population is growing at three per cent and that population is jobless because even the economic growth of three per cent is largely in the service sector, and then you don’t see concerted conversation in all agencies of government… Deploying money on buying a machine to detect pornography and not in the productive sectors of the economy shows that your agenda is not transformative.
You are one of the people who pushed for President Museveni’s re-election. One year down the road you are crying about the lifting of age limits. Why should anyone listen to you?
I did not see President Museveni tampering with the Constitution or covertly trying to stimulate members of parliament to overthrow it. I thought this was kisanja hakuna mchezo; the manifesto was fantastic.
I got indications of a change of heart by Museveni when he appointed the cabinet. I thought we would have a leaner cabinet; I thought he would appoint professionals.
But it was about regional balance, tribes [and] rewarding supporters; I began to sense that Museveni was in campaigning mood. We are entrapped in a [circle] where you have rhetoric but the practical things that you do are no different from the past.
The country is trapped. We need to have a national conversation on why we have an economy that is not working, why we have failed to manage a transition. We need a dialogue facilitated by credible nonpartisan conveners. We are concerned with the age limit removal that is our last firewall; this country is in that situation envisaged by [late brigadier] Noble Mayombo who moved a motion to cap the age.
All these things were envisaged by those people, they knew that one day the country [would] be in this stalemate, and perhaps what would save it would be this 75-year age cap because building institutions capable of delivering free and fair elections to help us with the transition would take a lot of time.
Isn’t it erroneous to say the 75-year age cap was a safeguard for peaceful transition and not a ploy by President Museveni to lock out former president Milton Obote?
I don’t think so; the cap was to help in transiting from one leader to another in a free and fair election but that takes time.
So, if you don’t have institutions that can deliver, then you have term limits. If the term limits were removed through political manoeuvring, then at least have other caps.
Term and age limits, as safeguards, should have been entrenched so that you don’t have members of parliament sitting and removing them; make them only removable by the people through a referendum. If I’m to ever support amending Article 102(b), it would be to entrench it.
Morrison Rwakakamba in his office
Is there anything that can be done to stop parliament from removing age limits?
We should summon the better angels in our MPs. I think it would be wrong to make this a debate between the NRM and the opposition – this will alienate NRM leaders and independents.
There are NRM people who believe that removing the age limits is counterproductive and portends a very bleak future for our country. Before allegiance to the political party, one has allegiance to the Constitution and the country and that is what they swore to.
By framing the debate as us against them is a political calculation to rally MPs to the NRM flag instead of the country’s flag. Those leading the debate against removing age limits should not ostracise the MPs supporting it but should try to appeal to them not to be on the wrong side of history.
I have read elsewhere about you calling upon all Ugandans to do something to protect the Constitution. What is it that you want them to do?
Citizenship and patriotism come before other loyalties. I call upon everybody, in a peaceful way, to act by, say; writing to his/her member of parliament and express fears about the removal of age limits. It could be a text message to say; look we can defend and protect our Constitution.
It could be organising town hall meetings, fireplace conversations with community leaders. This is a very consequential decision; if it goes beyond the deletion, we will be removing the last firewall that guarantees peaceful transition. If it passes, it portends trouble for the country and it pushes Uganda’s risk profile through the roof.
You mean President Museveni is such a risk for Uganda?
You are faced with a life presidency and opening this window is allowing Museveni to be here not only beyond 2021, but 2026, or even 2031.
In my view, President Museveni has done his part, he should be retiring. If he doesn’t, he is pushing us to the Zimbabwe corridor, where the president has no capability to drive the country. That is not a situation we want. We would want to see a clear end game.
Proponents of the age limit amendment say what they are doing is legal…
No one is saying that you don’t have a right to amend the Constitution but your right to amend should aim to strengthen it. Good men and women in parliament should entrench those provisions that protect its spirit.
The president has been saying that the problems of Uganda are ‘the what’ not ‘the who’. ‘The what’ has been here: it’s the lack of jobs, health care, the education, which is more about schooling and less about learning; infrastructure and institutions that are diminishing.
Like he has said, we know the strategic bottlenecks. ‘The who’ has been here trying to solve ‘the what’ but if ‘the what’ is not changing, then the problem is ‘the who.’
Year 2021 is the opportunity to re-imagine ‘the who’ to be able to solve ‘the what’. Those calling for the removal of age limits perhaps have already bought flats in Nairobi and South Africa; they know when problems come, they will escape.
When you have elections that have problems like the three Supreme court judgements said...the hope that is left for the people is the Constitution.
If it’s removed, then people lose hope and you cannot comfortably say that people will not try to look for other means that are violent in nature that the constitution had tried to stop. I really hope that doesn’t happen.
Twelve years after they were scrapped, presidential term limit is back on the national stage, being dangled as trade-off for the removal of presidential age limits, in multiple motions lodged with Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.
The movers of the motions are seeking leave of parliament to introduce private member’s constitutional amendment bills parallel to the ruling NRM-promoted Rapheal Magyezi’s bill seeking to remove presidential age limits.
A common thread in some of the motions is that they either offer a trade-off for saving Article 102(b) on presidential age limits, or are deliberately designed to overwhelm parliament.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga handed a copy of the Constitution by President Museveni last year
By Friday, all hedging was cast aside as Workers MP, Dr Sam Lyomoki, filed what could yet amount to the most aggressive attempt to engineer a dignified exit for President Museveni -- a bill for restoring the term limit and guaranteeing Museveni immunity from prosecution for any crimes.
“Our president fears to leave because other people might want to pounce on him when he leaves power. This bill will cater for his retirement peacefully so that no one pursues him, but that is if he goes peacefully,” Dr Lyomoki told journalists.
After 31 years at State House, Museveni will be 77 when the next election comes round in 2021. Despite promises not to stick around after 75, it is suspected that those fanning the flames, which could burn Article 102 (b), enjoy his unspoken approval.
This has left Speaker Kadaga and her deputy Jacob Oulanyah in some difficulty given the public outrage over the Raphael Magyezi (Igara West)’s proposal to bury presidential age limits.
But even at this early stage, there are questions hanging over Magyezi’s prospects after Oulanyah maintained that his motion has not yet been fully filed. Parliament has not received a copy of his proposed bill.
Last week, Oulanyah, in adjourning the House, hinted at the heavy workload ahead saddled by the speaker’s office in the face of the multiple motions.
Oulanyah said the House had to be adjourned last Thursday because Kadaga needed time to understand the full extent of the two motions (Magyezi, Nsamba motions) and that she also had a pile of other petitions. Since then, many more motions have been filed.
At the other extreme, the counter motion filed by Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda North), urging the government to urgently constitute the long-awaited Constitutional Review Commission, is ready but faces hostility from the ruling party’s overwhelming House majority.
Oulanyah had also revealed on Thursday that several other petitions have been delivered to parliament, completing a feeling that the House leadership’s objectivity is being tested on Parliament avenue.
On Friday, Lyomoki filed his notice for a motion requesting leave of parliament to move a private member’s Bill entitled, “The Museveni Succession, Transition and Immunities bill, 2017”. In it, he assures Museveni of a soft landing, free of prosecution and persecution, once he retires.
There is also a provision of smooth transition of power. A day earlier, the same Lyomoki had drafted another notice for a similar motion for a bill to reinstate presidential term limit.
The two-five-year term limit previously provided for in Article 105(2) was controversially scrapped during an acrimonious process in 2005. Ruling party MPs received Shs 5 million reportedly as part of a deal to amend that article by deletion.
As fate would have it, Oulanyah (then still a member of the opposition Uganda People’s Congress party) was the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary committee, whose report recommended the lifting of term limit. His reputation took such a beating that he lost his Omoro seat in 2006.
The reinstatement of term limit as an option was first publicly mooted by some NRM legislators during a caucus meeting held last Wednesday, September 20, to formally back Magyezi’s motion.
“We want to see whether cabinet will rally behind it because it seems they want all bills related to elections so, we hope they will also call a cabinet meeting and endorse my bill,” Lyomoki told journalists at parliament on Friday.
Sources in parliament have revealed that another member, Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya), is waiting in the wings with a motion for a private member’s bill to scrap the constitutional provisions on minimum academic requirements for all elective positions in the country.
At the same time, John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya) has a draft bill, which proposes that MPs appointed to cabinet must resign their parliamentary seats.
More MPs have filed separate motions
Nambeshe said on Saturday that his intention is to fully apply the doctrine of separation of powers; to allow the Executive and Parliament finally stand as independent institutions in key decision making.
Nambeshe cited the recent public declaration of support for the Magyezi proposal by 20-plus ministers as the sort of interference he seeks to cure. His bill, he said, would entrench parliament as a separate centre of power, devoid of ‘infection’ from the executive through cabinet ministers who wear two hats as MPs.
Meanwhile, Mbwatekamwa said that unless the Constitutional Review Commission is put in place, legislators opposed to the removal of age limits plan to draft even more motions. That could paralyse parliamentary proceedings.
Nsamba, who revealed that he has another motion, barring private member’s bills on constitutional amendments, said the strategy is both to counter the Magyezi motion, and give chance to the executive to acknowledge the importance of an omnibus bill, which embraces all proposed constitutional amendments from different quarters.
“We are all targeting the enemy. Other motions will come in and by Tuesday, you will hear and then we will see how the speaker and cabinet will say they are only allowing the Magyezi motion. We have all the time on Article 102(b) and it can be postponed to the next parliament,” Nsamba said.
A host of electoral reforms ordered by the Supreme court in their ruling on the Amama Mbabazi 2016 presidential election petition necessitate amendments to assorted articles of the Constitution. The court set a timeframe of two years within which this should be done
Policy wonk Godber Tumushabe, who is executive director at the Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies, affirms the suggestion that tabling numerous motions on constitutional amendments could very well “bastardise” the Magyezi motion.
In an interview on Saturday, Tumushabe said the only discussion parliament should engage in is on how to secure peaceful and dignified transition from President Museveni.
“Legislators should throw their weight behind Dr Lyomoki’s proposed bill to create the safeguards for peaceful retirement of the President. After 30 years, he has probably done many bad things that he needs to be guaranteed a safe and peaceful retirement,” Tumushabe said.
Implication of motions
A senior legal officer at parliament, who declined to be quoted on record, told The Observer that the speaker now has to exercise her discretion as the head of the institution, to engage all the legislators with motions.
“She will have to listen to them, weigh their legality because some of those motions may be unconstitutional and explore whether some of them can also be consolidated,” the officer said.
Rule 111 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure outlines how a private member’s bills can be introduced by way of motion. For the motion to be approved, the whole House must first vote to grant the mover leave of parliament to introduce the bill.
Chair of the House committee on legal and parliamentary affairs, Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South), told The Observer on Saturday that while the rules do not bar any member from tabling a private member’s bill, reason must prevail.
“It is proper that we handle this constitutional amendment process with rationality rather than with sentiments,” he said. “The greater [point] is that the stakeholders should have an interest in this. However, the first motion to be taken to the speaker takes precedence.”
The wider implication of the flurry of motions being waved, Oboth-Oboth said, is that it emphasises the need for a comprehensive constitutional review as opposed to current piecemeal efforts. In principle, the NRM backers of the Magyezi proposal are open to all-comers, apparently confident in their numbers.
“It is okay for another member to have a motion. Let us debate the motions and vote on them in the first round where one is seeking leave of Parliament,” government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa said on Friday.
“If Nsamba’s motion carries the day, we will go with that. How shall we know what Magyezi or Nsamba wants if they are gagged? It is uncivilisation of the highest degree. Whatever comes, when we take the vote, whoever carries the day we shall support it.”
Nankabirwa acknowledged that “more amendments will come up obviously but the amendments are controlled by Article 93, which dictates that Parliament shall not introduce a motion (including an amendment) that would impose a charge on the Consolidated Fund.
After their brazen attempt to introduce the anti-age bill in Parliament was thwarted last Thursday, by a determined loud opposition, NRM strategists returned to the drawing board with some suggesting recourse to physical violence to muscle the highly divisive amendment through the House.
On Friday, a day after the failed attempt, proponents of the anti-age limit bill were locked up in a series of meetings -- following up on their sit-down with Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday afternoon.
One radical course of action they contemplated, sources said, is the use of raw force to defeat opposition to their wish to open a gateway towards a possible life presidency for Presidency Museveni.
The strategists were adamant that given their numbers, they can ably deal physically with any resistance from the opposition.
“Some 30-something MPs can’t fail us and I can assure you, we shall not allow them to repeat what they did on Thursday,” a senior NRM party official at parliament told The Observer.
“We are ready for them; we shall lift them and throw them out of the chamber such that we can transact business in peace,” the official who preferred not to be named said.
The suggestion to physically eject opposition MPs came moments after the Thursday afternoon meeting with Kadaga, which was attended by NRM members of the Parliamentary Commission namely, Robinah Nabbanja (Kakumiro Woman), Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers) and Peter Ogwang (Usuk).
They were joined by the Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa (Kiboga Woman) and the mover of the bill, Raphael Magyezi (Igara West).
Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah who on Thursday, September 22, deferred the tabling of the controversial motion, also attended the meeting.
A source in the meeting said Kadaga asked for time to study their motion, as well as the counter proposal of Kassanda North MP Patrick Nsamba Oshabe for a Constitutional Review Commission, plus a pile of other related petitions.
She also reportedly told the group that it was important to let tempers calm down so that all proposals are considered in an environment, which is not as tense as it was last Thursday.
During a subsequent press conference at parliament, Nankabirwa confirmed that her group met the parliamentary leadership. She also spoke with bitterness about “selfish people” who had set them back in parliament.
“We were denied an opportunity to transact business that concerns the people because of selfishness,” Nankabirwa said, wondering why MPs opposed to the lifting of the age limit still went on with their plan to disrupt the plenary session yet by 1:30pm all MPs had been notified that the matter was off the table.
“The bill will anyway come, there is no reason why a member should be gagged...it can’t die in the corridors of parliament, it has to be disposed of in the most appropriate manner,” Nankabirwa said.
Nankabirwa’s criticism of the chaos, which unfolded in parliament, did not extend to her colleagues on the ruling party side even though they, too, got involved in the spectacle.
Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka municipality), one of the opposition’s key strategists, told The Observer last week that the opposition will not allow NRM to use its tyranny of numbers in the House at Uganda’s expense.
“Mere majority in the House cannot be used to circumvent the good prosperity of the country; it has been our clarion call that any attempt to amend the Constitution on very fundamental issues should be a consultative process,” Mpuuga said.
A collision course appears to have been set by the NRM movers in light of their Friday discussions well aware of the opposition’s resolve never to walk out again.
“We agreed that there shall never be a walk-out of the House again because that is what they [NRM] want...it will never happen again because we are dealing with a mob, which doesn’t listen,” Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, the chief opposition whip said.
While Nankabirwa told journalists that the ruling party would not resort to violence, ruling party MPs who spoke at her press conference did not hide their belligerence.
“If they think we are goats, that all of us on the NRM side don’t understand, they should know that we are ready to deal with them. If it comes to flexing, my friend, they should not joke,” Katerera MP Hatwib Katoto said.
The opposition strategists are understood to have met on Friday and Saturday but had not concluded their plan by press time.
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.
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.
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.
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.