Kampala, Uganda | AFP & THE INDEPENDENT | President Yoweri Museveni has signed into law a bill removing presidential age limits, a spokesman said Tuesday, clearing the way for the 73-year-old’s expected sixth run at the Uganda presidency in 2021.
The controversial constitutional amendment removes the age limit of 75 years imposed on presidential candidates and was pushed through by ruling party MPs last month. It was signed by Museveni on December 27 but not publicly acknowledged until now.
“The president assented to the bill and it is now law,” said press secretary Don Wanyama.
“The previous law was discriminatory in nature but this has been dealt with for the good of Ugandans.”
The amendment reimposes a two-term limit on the presidency scrapped by ruling party MPs in 2005 allowing Museveni, in power since 1986, to run for a third, fourth and fifth term in elections widely criticised as being unfair.
Wanyama dismissed the notion that the law was tailored to allow Museveni’s sixth term as “speculative”.
But veteran opposition leader Kizza Besigye described the law change as part of “a well-orchestrated plan to have Museveni rule for life”.
Museveni hails 317 MPs
In his new year address on Sunday, President Yoweri Museveni saluted the Members of Parliament (MPs) that supported the ‘Age Limit’ Bill.
“I want to salute the 317 MPs who defied intimidation, malignment and blackmail and opted for a flexible constitution to deal with the destiny issues of Africa instead of maintaining Uganda on the path of unimaginative, non-ideological, neo-colonial status quo ,” he said as he concluded his new year address on Sunday that covered issues related to security, economy, integration, Africa and the Congo.
“By so doing, they enabled us to avoid the more complicated paths that would have been required,” he added.
The Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 was in the week before Christmas passed with the requried two-thirds majority. The vote result was 317 yes, 97 no.
The MPs passed the tenure of parliament to be extended from five to seven years. The MPs approved a 7-year term forand local governments positions starting with ongoing term.
This was quickly followed by approval of article 102 (b), lifting the age limit of 75 for one to contest for presidency.
Finally the House reinstated the presidential terms in the constitution by passing clause 105 of the Bill. The clause states that, “A person shall not hold office as President for more than two terms.”
In a letter to the Clerk to Parliament, the President signified his assent to the Bill on Wednesday, 27 December 2017.
The Act prescribes 18 years as the age for prospective presidential candidates, from the 35 previously prescribed by the old legal regime.
The upper age limit for presidential candidates has also been removed, together with that of Local Councils Chairpersons. Equally, Parliament’s term has been extended from five to seven years, beginning with the 10th Parliament.
Local Councils’ terms are also extended from five to seven years, beginning with the current tenure.
General elections for Local Councils and Parliament will now be held in 2023, from the 2021 envisaged in the pre-existing legal order.
According to section 13(1) of the Acts of Parliament Act, “every Act shall be published by the government printer as soon as possible after the president’s assent has been signified…”