By Stephen Bwire
There is a lot of hullaballoo about the supposed plan to amend Article 102 (b) on the Presidential Age Limit. The anxiety arises from the view that the amendment of the Age Limit Clause in the 1995 Constitution is meant to entrench President Museveni’s so-called Life Presidency project since, according to the Anti-Age Limit proponents, the Age Limit clause is the only obstacle that would stand in the President’s way of “ruling for life”.
This group of people cite the Term Limit phenomenon where the 7th parliament knocked off the term limit clause from the Constitution to pave way for President Museveni to contest for a third term upon the expiry of his constitutionally mandated term in 2006.
Whereas Parliament has not gazetted this Age Limit clause in the raft of other constitutional amendments that are due for debate on the floor of the House, there is too much anxiety that is building up among the general public with threats and intimidations to some members of parliament.
The Opposition and some NRM politicians and civil society activists are working up the populations to stage protracted resistance should this matter come up for debate on the floor of parliament.
Matters are also compounded by the fact that some members of the public, according to information availed to police and other security agencies, are planning to burn down the parliamentary building should government push on with the idea of lifting the age limit from the Constitution.
These anarchic groups of people would draw parallels with the recent happenings in Venezuela where unruly crowds stormed parliament and set it ablaze in brazen protest against president Maduro’s scheme to amend his country’s constitution to extend his tenure in office.
The same scenario played out in 2014 in Burkina Faso where crowds burnt down parliament where MPs had assembled to amend the constitution to allow president Blaise Campaore seek a third term. Campaore was eventually forced out of office.
Basing on the foregoing, we cadres and children of the Revolution who are in support of lifting age limits are of the view that this matter should ingenuously be handled under a broader platform to avoid conflict, reduce tension, and effect a win-win situation for all parties involved including the wanachi.
The voices of contestation against this supposed move of lifting age limits would argue that instead of a handful of MPs sitting in parliament to decide for them (the people), moreover with some “monetary inducements” as was the case with term limits, it would be more prudent if the people’s views were sought on the matter.
There is also a big push for a referendum to resolve this issue. This is a bankable argument, and this is the position some of us would take. Either way we would achieve our objective of having this amendment sail through albeit with some challenges of resistance.
The NRM shouldn’t fear opening up this acrimonious issue to public debate. We need to convince the masses why the Constitution should be amended. Let the people understand that the lifting of age limits is not only about President Museveni but about our historical mission and vision as a mass revolutionary movement.
Uganda is now in a critical stage of transformation where we are transiting from a peasantry to modern, middle class, industrialised country within a space of 30 years.
We are now embarking on building the pillars for socio-economic transformation and wealth creation having gone through the three fundamental stages of minimum, intermediate and long-term recovery in the last 31 years.
The last 30 years have been years of building a firm bedrock for Uganda’s take off. This work has been done well with undeniable results: Peace and security; sound economic growth and development; investment in key infrastructure ie roads, energy, health, education, and among others.
The political bickerers shouldn’t derail this historical progress and denying millions of Ugandans the chance to witness the final evolution of their country to middle income status and ultra-modernity. Uganda needs President Museveni’s old tested hand to transit our society to the apex of modernity.
Politics of opportunism and obscurantism shouldn’t disrupt this noble vision. President Museveni’s philosophy is guided on the principle of prioritisation: Let’s invest in the critical sectors that create wealth as opposed to investing in consumption. Our young people will never have jobs if we don’t invest in the productive sectors that unlock our full economic potential.
So, political myopia shouldn’t blind us to the essence that there is still work to do. The anti-age limit proponents are the real enemies of the people.
The writer is Editor, The Public Lens, a government monthly Newspaper.