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The new Museveni age-limit plan

Michael Katungi

Kakooza explained that every term, the president spends the first year in office selecting cabinet and the last year campaigning.

“So, in effect,” Kakooza told The Independent, “you have only three years to serve people. What can you achieve in three years when just procurement for a road takes years?”

Apart from the seven year term, Kakooza is also an ardent supporter of lifting the age limit.

“And for me it is not about Museveni,” he told The Independent, “I am opposed to article 102 because it contradicts our constitution.”

He argued that Article 1 of the constitution says that people shall express their will and consent on who shall govern them and article 21 that all persons are equal before and under the law, yet article 102 caps the age limit at 75.

“That is discriminatory,” he said, “it says that people who are beyond 75 are senile and useless yet every day we see international organisations hiring people who are above 75, we see presidents who are above 75 and are still serving there people. That is why I am opposed to the article.”

But critics insist that while many politicians across the political divide stand to benefit from extension of the term of office, all this is meant to benefit Museveni as the biggest beneficially. Ever since reports emerged that  Museveni is planning to push through parliament a raft of parliamentary reforms with the amendment of the age limit being at the centre, every move is heavily scrutinised for potential of early signs.

At the heart of these plans are members of Museveni’s inner circle like Lt.Col. Micheal Katungi, who coordinates Museveni’s party office and works closely with Molly Kamukama, President Museveni’s current Principle Private Secretary (PPS) who before the 2016 elections headed the Mbuya office—which was the hub of mobilisation for Museveni’s 2016 campaign. Kamukama was Museveni’s de facto campaign manager.

Katungi, who has handled many special assignments for Museveni is working with David Mafabi, the President’s Private Assistant for Political Affairs, Stephen Othieno, a personal assistant to the president’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, among others.

These officials are aware they have to wade through even deeper controversy than what has already been thrown up but see that as a small price to pay given the immense potential to get legislators invested.

The article revealed how Katungi, is working with Mafabi, Othieno and others including; Nyombi Thembo, the former state minister for ICT, legislators like Simeo Nsubuga and Col. Fred Mwesigye, RO 27 or the 27th guerrilla to join Museveni’s 1981 war, who is the MP for Nyabushozi, Juliet Kinyamatama (Rakai), Micheal Tusiime (Mbarara Municipality), Peter Ogwang (Eastern Youth MP), Kenneth Omona  (Keberamaido), James Kakooza (Kabula) and Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua).

Most of these attended a symposium at Kati Kati restaurant located along the Lugogo bypass in Kampala and launched what is being seen as the roadmap for the campaign.

The meeting passed several resolutions, top of which was about the issue of age limits. This was read by Phoebe Namulindwa, an NRM youth. The implicit stamp of approval was all over the meeting; including on the lunch coupons, which bore a State House stamp.

The event was marketed as political counter mobilisation against those opposing the campaign. It came hardly a week after July 12 when police arrested NRM youth leader, Robert Rutaro and others under their group UB40 (Ugandans Under40) for organizing a press conference at Makerere University where they lambasted the move to lift the age limit.

Most of the youths at Kati Kati have gone through inductions in Kyankwanzi. Sources say while at the institute, these youths were promised jobs, which have never come. The age limit campaign, appeared a perfect opportunity for them to remind the authorities about their plight. Indeed, at the Kati Kati conference, over 60 percent of those in attendance were these Kyankwanzi recruits.

In a sign of increasing public displays, about 20 proponents of lifting the debate, mostly women, recently marched across Lira town in northern Uganda carrying placards reading “General YK Museveni Paka last, We support the removal of term limit”. These were not molested.

Yet when some youths in Mbarara attempted to march through town carrying a casket with a portrait of the president with an inscription reading; “Rest in peace Museveni,” they were arrested and jailed for it.

But President Museveni continues to feign indifference to the plot to amend shift the presidential age-limit. “I hear there is a debate about age limit and I do not know what, what are you debating, who has brought a proposal?” Museveni had asked during a press briefing at State House Entebbe on July 19, just days before Katungi’s meeting in Mbuya.

Some people, like opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party President, Gen. Mugisha Muntu, who know Museveni well, are not fooled.

“He is a crafty operator,” Muntu, who worked as army commander under Museveni told The Independent. Muntu was commenting about President Museveni machinations since he captured power in 1986, always promising to relinquish power in a few years, only to stay on until now when he has made three decades in office and is even looking to extend his rule to the fourth.

Muntu argues that what allows Museveni to keep playing these games, is the low levels of political consciousness and courage amongst society.

“If leaders were firm and stood up against him,” Muntu who later left the NRM said, “if only 100 members of the National Council or the High Command stood up against him, even discreetly, and said you cannot do that, we don’t support it, he can’t do it.”

But ardent supporters of President Museveni see things differently. Nsubuga, the Kasanda South legislator, who is a renowned proponent of the campaign was recently in his constituency and solved a land dispute and was rewarded with a cow.

“They are appreciating our work,” he told The Independent, “and they said they gave me that cow so I can drink milk, such that by the time the age limit debate comes up, I am strong enough to debate well and push their interests.”.

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