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Age Limits Do Not Make Sense - War Veterans

A section of veterans from the National Resistance Movement NRM party Veterans League have told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that Article 102b of the Constitution does not make sense and should be repealed. The League is composed of largely former men and women of National Resistance Army NRA, a rebel army that captured state power in 1986 and later became Uganda Peoples Defence Forces UPDF.
Rtd Maj Gen. Jim Muhwezi the chairperson of the NRM party Veterans League appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

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A section of veterans from the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party Veterans League have told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that Article 102(b) of the Constitution does not make sense and should be repealed.

                   

The League is composed of largely former men and women of National Resistance Army (NRA), a rebel army that captured state power in 1986 and later became Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF).

 

Retired Major General Jim Muhwezi, the chairperson of the NRM Veterans League today led a team of other eight members of the League's National Executive Committee to present their views on the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017. Among those who accompanied Muhwezi to the committee include Lieutenant Ibrahim Muyomba, Corporal Rose Katusiime and Lieutenant Wasswa Juma among others.

 

The Bill tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, seeks to among others repeal Article 102(b) of the Constitution which puts 35 and 75 as lower and upper caps respectively on the presidential age.

 

Those opposed to the amendment say the move would eliminate the last hurdle for President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election when his current term of office expires in 2021. Born in 1944 and in power since 1986, President Museveni wouldn't be eligible to contest for the presidency in 2021 since he will be above 75 years of age.

 

According to Muhwezi, veterans find logic in the removal of Article 102(b) saying that stopping a person aged 75 years from standing to be President does not make sense.

 

"Going by our history, the leaders that have brought political turbulence have been much younger than 75 years,” said Muhwezi.

 

Muhwezi, a veteran of the 1981-1986 war, cited the 1966 crisis in Uganda when Prime Minister Milton Obote “abrogated the Constitution and attacked the Kabaka of Buganda.” Obote was aged 41 years at the time.

 

“In 1971 when Idi Amin staged a military coup and massacred people and destroyed the economy he was just 46 years," said Muhwezi.

 

Muhwezi said that there is no need to segregate among age groups questioning why the young should be stopped from standing for leadership. This, he said, contradicts the constitution which guarantees every one equal opportunity.

 

"We also find it illogical to give power to the people of Uganda with one hand under Article 1 then take it away through other Articles. If the people can choose their leaders periodically through regular, free and fair elections, why should we then dictate to them whom they should not elect? This is not fair, it is not right," he added.

 

Muhwezi told the committee that Uganda cannot afford the luxury of limiting the choices of leaders.

 

He also supported the removal of the 30-year-old age caps for those contesting for  the post of Local Council 5 chairperson provided under Article 183 (2) (b) of the Constitution.

 

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Following his submission, Bukooli North MP Gaster Mugoya asked Muhwezi whether the amendment of Article 102(b) was to favour only President Yoweri Museveni. National Female Youth MP Anna Adeke Ebaju asked Muhwezi, having been a member of the Constituent Assembly (CA) that made the 1995 Constitution, why he thinks the provision is not relevant any more.

 

Ajuri County MP Dennis Hamson Obua asked whether the absence of any safe guards in the Constitution could lead Uganda back to its unstable political history.

 

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In his response, Muhwezi said that Article 102(b) was not entrenched by the CA and therefore could be amended. He noted that when the provision was made in 1995, it was not a major issue since the members did not caucus on it. He said that amending it now should not be an issue as well.

 

On whether the proposed amendment is to favour President Museveni, Muhwezi said that the removal of Article 102(b) is to benefit everyone including former presidential candidate Dr. Kizza Besigye, who has challenged Museveni in the last four election cycles.

 

Muhwezi also said that its removal cannot lead Uganda back to political instability as long as more attention is paid to organizing regular, free and fair elections.

 

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Meanwhile, also the Front for National Salvation -FRONASA Veterans Association also appealed to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to amend Article 102 (b) by removing the upper limit only and leave the lower limit.

 

FRONASA was a Ugandan rebel group formed by Yoweri Museveni in 1972. The team led by their Chief Whip Vianney Ngoma Matovu told the committee that majority of its members voted to have the Article amended.

 

He explained that the removal of the upper limit is to allow experienced Ugandans stand for presidency while the retention of the lower limit is to stop the inexperienced Ugandans from becoming President.