Age limit bill attracts fracas


When political issues transforms the peoples’ representatives in a democracy to bare their martial prowess on the floors meant for threshing matters for the common good then the price or prize or both need be invaluable to the peoples represented.

President Yoweri Museveni

Reports have streamed in that Uganda’s parliament has taken a first step towards scrapping the presidential age limit that would allow long-time leader Yoweri Museveni to stay in power, in a heated session that saw politicians brawling for a second consecutive day.

The move by parliament last Wednesday met with widespread opposition from civic rights activists, opposition politicians and religious leaders.

The Speaker of the Ugandan parliament had, on the day before (Tuesday), suspended 25 Members of the house over a brawl that over-heated presidential on the age limit motion.

According to the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, the actions of the MPs had brought the lawmaking chamber into disrepute and they are to be suspended for the next three sittings. One of the said MPs is a Minister who was accused of bringing a fire-arm into parliament contrary to the rules.

The House in chaos

The affected persons belonged to both sides of the house. They were asked to leave the facility after a similar row to that of Tuesday ensued again in the House. Local media portals reported that some seats were damaged in the fracas.

Before Tuesday’s parliamentary sitting got under way, police fired tear gas to disperse protesters who were largely comprised of students and opposition activists in the capital, Kampala.

“Some students and other young people were causing commotion and attempting to rob shopkeepers. We engaged them with tear gas,” Emirian Kayima, the police spokesman, said.

Nineteen people, including Uganda’s leading opposition figure, Kizza Besigye, were also arrested. Kayima said Besigye was taken into custody after he attempted to mobilise protesters to march on parliament.

Meanwhile, after the 25 were forced out, the opposition left the chamber, the controversial motion was subsequently been moved. It was adopted at the end of Tuesday’s chaotic proceeding.

The motion has since been seconded paving the way for a private members’ bill on presidential age limit to pass.

The age limit motion is largely seen as a piece of legislation seeking to allow incumbent President Yoweri Museveni to stay in power. Under the existing constitution, a person standing for president must be under 75 years of age – which would make Museveni, 73, ineligible to stand at the next polls in 2021.

Tempers had frayed in parliament for the second day (Wednesday) over the plan, backed by members of Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party.

MPs brandished microphone stands, threw punches and clambered over benches as security officers sought to remove 25 lawmakers barred by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga after engaging in another brawl on the same issue on Tuesday.

Despite the disruption, the bill was passed after the leader of the parliamentary opposition, Winnie Kiiza of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), led a walk-out.

“We are not going to be part of Museveni’s life presidency project,” Kiiza said.

But supporters of the motion argued that age limits discriminate against the elderly.

“Age should not be a factor that hinders the rights and freedom of any Ugandan to vie for the post of a president,” Moses Balyeku, a member of parliament, said.

Local media reported protests against the legislative measure also broke out in other parts of Uganda.

Museveni took control of Uganda in 1986 at the head of rebel army and has been democratic president of the country for over two decades. In 2005, he had the constitution amended to remove term limits, enabling him to stand successfully for a third, fourth and fifth consecutive term even though opposition unsuccessfully contested the outcomes.

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