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Museveni defends Age Limit amendment

Museveni (left) in discussion with the Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee led by Oboth Oboth (2nd left). PHOTO PPU

Ugandans should have final say on who leads them – Museveni

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The presence of age limits for any elective office goes against Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution, the bedrock of that supreme law, which says “Power belongs to the people”, President Yoweri Museveni has said.

Museveni made the remarks Tuesday while meeting  Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee which had called on him at State House, Entebbe to seek his views on the proposed amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution.

According to a statement from State House, Museveni argued that since Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country, they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who should lead them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely “legalistic”.

“If someone votes, why can’t he be voted for?” President Museveni told Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee.

President Museveni is the last witness to be interviewed by the committee which would then retreat to write its report that will be tabled in Parliament for debate.

The committee is scrutinising the private members bill, presented to Parliament by Raphael Magyezi, which seeks to scrap the 35 and 75-year lower and upper age limits for candidates seeking the presidency.

According to the State House statement, committee chairman, Oboth Oboth (West Budama South), who led the team of legislators, said they had sought the President’s views as a former presidential candidate and leader of a political party.

At the Tuesday interaction, the MPs asked President Museveni a host of questions surrounding the age limit debate and he comprehensively responded to each of them in a session lasting about two hours.

Africa’s unique challenges

President Museveni told the committee that Uganda and Africa still face a number of challenges among them being under-developed and backward, and therefore search for leadership in the continent must be tailored to her needs with focus on substance not form.

“In a continent like Africa where we have had a leadership crisis and still faced with many challenges we need to be flexible, not merely legalistic and utilise all the potential from both the young and old. This is because it is more about our safety, survival and prosperity and not who leads us on that journey,” Museveni said.

Citing cases of the United States, China, Russia and Israel among others, President Museveni explained that many of these countries, in their push to develop and transform, had been guided by leaders who were of advanced age and led the countries for decades.

“Israel has since 1948 been rotating leaders young and old. Today Israel is a super power yet in a largely hostile environment. The great leaders that transformed China, Deng Xiaoping and Deng Yingchao, were of advanced age,” said President Museveni. “The great United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchhill was leader up to the age of 81and offered some of the best leadership to his country.”

Museveni also cited the case of Tunisia, which in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, had seen 91-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi elected President to stabilise the political situation.

He added: “I think the problem of Africans is concentrating on trivialities yet our issues should be about the African destiny and how to guarantee our future.”

The President also noted that another problem was the “shallowness” of some political actors on the African scene, “who seem to say our interest is to improve curriculum vitae (CVs) of individuals. They want to say ‘eyaliko president’. We are not here to give jobs to people”.

CRC, support for Private Member’s Bill

On whether the government would constitute the Constitutional Review Commission to handle a wider raft of proposed amendments, President Museveni said he had instructed the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister to handle the matter.

The President, however, explained that the NRM party had supported MP Magyezi’s Bill because he had indicated that time was running out for amendments to do with elections following the Supreme Court’s directive that they must be done within two years after the 2016 ruling.

Asked about what he thought of retirement requirements for civil servants (60 years) and others like judges (70 years) vis-à-vis politicians, the President said the two were radically different.

“Civil servants and judges are about service. They are hired to provide a service. Politics, on the other hand is about representation. Do not mix service with representation. Service is technical,” said the President. “I hire you to be a doctor because you are technical. Politics however is representation. Drunkards will meet in a bar and elect their fellow drunkard to represent them. Representation is about speaking for people, negotiating, lobbying. It is a different form of service from the technical type.”

2 comments

  1. This is wrong: France reduced their presidential term from seven to five years about 17 years ago. Now he wants to take Uganda back towards the discarded French term. Uganda can and could be doing better but for the poor governance and corrupt NRM administration. He wants to be lauded for his sub-optimal performance. Obviously Uganda can do better minus corruption and bad governance. Corruption is self-serving in that it is good for the current regime because it entrenches it in power for a long, long time. Corruption engenders inequality — those on top will remain on top forever with it’s attendant economic inefficiencies. And corruption ensures no mobility that gives opportunities for those at lower ranks to rise: progress. It is not an accident that power in America never stayed with America’s founding fathers or their off springs forever. It was by design and it explains it’s economic dynamism and robustness.

  2. I dont think in African politics we have reached that level our democracy must be given chance to grow .
    Two terms seems to be good so we could see how we develop , it is not only in uganda but in many other countries africa and beyond .
    Age we know that when we grow old we become more venerable to manipulation from those around us who tend to use our names for their own gain , the good examples can be jomo kenyata of kenya and now the old Robert mugabe . I do feel those who are senior citizens need to go and rest in peace.

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