By Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba
Let me commend President Museveni and the National Resistance Movement for liberating Ugandans from the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation 31 years ago.
President Robert Mugabe liberated Zimbabwe from the claws of colonialism and exploitation. However, By overstaying in power, Mugabe out lived his usefulness and reversed his economic achievements. He was overthrown this week in a military coup.
It is my hope and prayer that Uganda’s Parliament will learn from the Zimbabwe experience and legislate appropriately.
Removal of Presidential Age Limit
Since Independence all Presidents elected and unelected have been above 35 years and below the age of 75 at the time of assuming office.
Beyond the presidency, very few Members of Parliament save for youth MPs, join Parliament below the age of 35 years.
With the exception of youth leagues, all major political parties including NRM do not have persons below the age of 35 in key party positions like Vice Chairperson, Vice President or Secretary General. So who is going to benefit from lowering the age limit to become President?
People aged 65 and above are prone to attack by several chronic conditions/ diseases which include: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, arthritis, heart disease, to mention but a few.
It is only in a monarchy where very young persons and the elderly may serve as kings/ queens. This is because their role is ceremonial.
An Executive President cannot be very young or very old, given the executive powers bestowed on him or her. Some Executive Presidents have access to nuclear codes, authorize wars against other countries etc. What would happen if such a President suffered from dementia or depression? The result could be catastrophic.
I can authoritatively state that there is no evidence that the youth and elderly want article 102 (b) of the constitution repealed to allow those below 35 and above 75 to be nominated for the Presidency of Uganda.
I am not aware of any petition from either the youth or the elderly demanding for removal of the presidential age limit.
Even the inter party forum, which came up with constitutional and electoral reforms in 2015 under the chairmanship of Rt. Hon. Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda did not find it necessary to remove age limit for the presidency, which is why they did not recommend that it be repealed.
Other than enabling President Museveni to run for President in 2021, there is no evidence to support and justify the repeal of article 102(b) from the Constitution.
It is not only illegal, but also immoral to amend the constitution to accommodate one person’s interest, who happens to be a sitting President that will have served the country for 35 years at the end of his current term which ends in 2021.
Suffice to note is the fact that there is hardly a single senior Ugandan politician who was politically very active in his/ her 60s and 70s and lived beyond 90 years. Politicians including President Museveni should enjoy at least 10 years after retirement from active politics and provide their much needed wisdom and guidance to the new leadership.
Furthermore, framers of the 1995 constitution put terms limits in the constitution well aware that President Museveni would be the first President to test the presidential term limit i.e. vacate office after serving two terms under this constitution. But before presidential term limits were tested, they were repealed from the constitution by the 2005 referendum.
This paved way for President Museveni to remain eligible until his barred by article 102(b) of the constitution, which provides that a person is not qualified for election as President unless that person is— not less than thirty-five years and not more than seventy-five years of age.
If Parliament succeeds in repealing article 102(b), President Museveni will be free to offer himself for Presidency until death. This is possible because as the incumbent, he will explore government machinery, resources and structures to win elections at any cost, risking to transform into a tyrant, some signs of which, are already evident.
Life Presidency projects failed in Egypt under Mubarak, In Libya under Muammar, and in Zimbabwe under Mugabe to mention but a few. Will it will succeed in Uganda under Museveni?
The main purpose of the 1995 Constitution was to arrest political and constitutional instability and breeding of tyrant leaders. They attempted to address this under article 102 on qualifications of the President and article 105 on the tenure of office of a President
Great leaders step aside to give room for other great leaders to immerge.
Has President Museveni ever imagined what will happen in his absence? He needs to mentor whoever becomes President after him to carry forward his good works. Jesus handed over the Church to Peter when Peter needed him most and President Museveni should emulate Jesus.
It is researched practice, that all Chief Executive Positions in the public and private sectors require working experience.
Appointment of Cabinet Ministers is the prerogative of the President and a serious President should appoint energetic and experienced Ministers; so the augment of having in cabinet senile elders or young and inexperienced persons should not be used as justification for repealing article 102(b).
It is scientifically proven that its dangerous to put (senile) elderly people in positions that have immense executive power like the Presidency.
Being President is not for everybody and should also not be monopolized by a few individuals.
I strongly recommend that the successor to President Museveni should put in place a constitutional review commission to address the gaps in the constitution. Under President Museveni Uganda cannot have a meaningful constitutional review process.
In a situation where we find ourselves on the verge of repealing article 102(b) from the constitution then I urge Parliament before the 3rd reading to negotiate with President Museveni on this exit strategy.
For purposes of transition if its considered as an option, I recommend to Parliament to extend the current term of the President and Parliament by three years so that President Museveni can prepare to vacate office in May 2024. This should be on condition that Parliament doesn’t repeal article 102(b) from the constitution.
Editor’s note: A heavily edited submission to the parliamentary committee on legal and parliamentary affairs on constitution (amendment) (no. 2) bill, 2017; by Prof. Venansius Baryamureeba, PhD.·Thursday, November 16, 2017