By our reporter
Last Friday at the weekly Pan-African Pyramid debate at Fairway Hotel it was not usual calm atmosphere in the hall! This was mainly due to the topic of the day (lifting of presidential age limit) and the main discussants,former Lubaga South Mp and CP president John Ken Lukyamuzi (The Man) and Kasanda South Mp cum former police mouth piece Semeo Nsubuga who opted to be hosted online after he learnt that he was to share the platform with no-nonsense ‘The Man’.
John Ken was the first to open the debate with a thunderous presentation that cornered president Museveni as a self-centered man ever in the history of Uganda’s Political ladder by doing everything possible to now become a life president.”Mr.Chairman,in 2021, president M7 will have been in power for 35 yrs! No Ugandan president has ever been this power hungry. You now hear he is trying to operationalize this (102) constitutional clause in order to become a life president. I want to tell you that article 3 of the constitution empowers citizens to raise up and fight, using all means possible (including a guerrilla war) any person or group of persons who try to over throw the constitution. I want to warn M7 that I’m ready to ready defending this constitution this time round, what are you talking about?” Lukyamuzi roared amidst ululations from the hall that was filled to capacity.
While saying all this, Kasanda South mp was very attentive on line listening. When his turn came,Nsubuga reminded his colleague to read for the audience several articles in the constitution [which he read] that okays amendments of any article in the constitution. “My colleague Hon.Lukyamuzi has been parliament longer than me and before me,infact he is senior to parliamentary practice than me, he inspired me,but let me ask; Hon.Lukyamuzi is it illegal to make an amendment in the constitution of Uganda? And is it going to be the first time to amend our constitution?” Semeo asked to which Lukyamuzi answered to the affirmative no.
However,Lukyamuzji wondered why a constitution would be amended just to satisfy the interests of one individual; “Hon.Semeo,I’m a student of law, a good judge in court doesn’t only look at the act, but the spirit and intention, whose interest is this amendment going serve?and how many people will benefit from it?” Lukyamujzi asked. Semeo in his response argued that those questions will be answered either by majority members of parliament when the bill comes for debate or by entire population if a referendum is conducted, because both are legally possible. This exchange that dominated the better part of the debate took over 35 minutes! Meanwhile, the audience was very attentive and never wanted the exchange to stop.
John Ken Lukyamuzi, who looked every inch disturbed by the proposed amendment didn’t spare the minister for constitutional affairs Maj.Gen.Kahinda Otafire whom he advised to resign over his statements he uttered on the matter where he sounded okaying the amendment. “I listened to Maj.Gen.Otafire’s comments this week on the matter and I wondered why he is still in that office drawing taxi payers’ money when he can’t legally guide the country, what are you talking about?”
Other key debaters included Kyambogo Univ. administrator and reknown Pan-Africanist David Kasuti, Advocate Luyimbaazi of Luyimbazi,Kakeeto Advocate, Grace Andrua Anasio Chairlady for South Sudanese women Association in Uganda among others.
After months of speculation, the omnibus Constitution (Amendment) Bill, which contains a clause to remove the presidential age limit, has been lined up to be officially gazetted.
A copy of The Uganda Gazette dated June 8, 2017 where the Constitution (Amendment) Bill is listed as one of the bills that are due to be published licked to the media a fort night ago.
Sources said the bill shall be published in the gazette in a few weeks’ time. Interviewed for a confirmation on Friday, June 30, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, said the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2017 awaited to be published in The Uganda Gazette before it can come to parliament for debate.
The Uganda Gazette is the “official newspaper of government” allowed to publish official gov’t documents.
Otafiire said: “Once the bill has been gazetted, a Constitutional Review Commission shall be appointed and it will gather views from the people.”
Otafiire added that all articles of the Constitution, including 102 that touches on the qualifications for one to be a president, will be up for possible amendment.
“What is so special about Article 102? Is it a commandment from God? If the public wants the age-limit amended, it will be amended. If they don’t want, we shall leave it,” Otafiire said.
Specifically, Article 102 (b) states that a person is not qualified for election as president of Uganda if he or she is “less than thirty-five years or more than seventy-five years of age.”
The fiery minister continued: “The Constitution is not my property. I am just a custodian. If people want some articles to be amended, it is their right.”
Otafiire’s remarks confirm earlier speculation that government plans to have the presidential age limit abolished despite public denial by senior government officials.
Museveni, who turns 73 later this year, will be 76 by 2021 and thus ineligible to stand for president under the constitution as it is today. Political analysts predict that just as he did in the run-up to the lifting of presidential term limits in 2005, President Museveni will distance himself from the move to remove the age-limit, leaving it to his outspoken supporters in and out of the NRM-dominated parliament.
According to our sources, John Bosco Lubyayi (Mawokota South), Simeo Nsubuga (Kassanda South), former FDC treasurer Anita Among (Bukedea Woman), Arinaitwe Rwakajara (Workers), Peter Ogwang (Usuk) and Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama South) are leading the campaign to have the age limit scraped off the 1995 Uganda constitution to pave way for their party Chairman Yoweri M7 stand in the 2021 presidential elections.