Presidential Age: Litmus test for Uganda’s 10th Parliament

George Kalisa "Do Presidents in the USA, France, Tanzania and South Africa first become enemies of their populations to leave office? Tanzanians still revere Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for his legacy there."

Awash regional media especially the social media platform is the controversial debate that there is a clandestine moving in the Nrm camp mooting a plan to amend article 102 of the Constitution, which caps presidential age limit at 75. According to the 1995 Constitution Ugandans aged 75 will be illegitimate to run for President in 2021.

Anxiety-hit henchmen of Museveni in Parliament who look at his retirement as a huge financial loss call it ‘presidential handshake’ are now restive. Rivers rejuvenate and snakes shed their skins to become young. What do humans do?

Pundits in Ugandan politics say that the move to lift presidential age limit is a litmus test for the 10thParliament and the debate puts its credibility at stake.

“There is no smoke without fire” and “history repeats itself”. The previous controversial laws have proved these adages right at least for Uganda’s case.

This will not be the first time Ugandans change the Constitution to satisfy Mr. Museveni’s desire to stick around.  If the Constitution had not been amended in 2005, Mr. Museveni would be twelve years into his retirement.  He had promised Ugandans during his 2001 campaign that it was to be his second and last term since Uganda returned to the multiparty dispensation

It later emerged that legislators in the eighth Parliament allegedly pocketed Ug shs 5m for lifting the Presidential term limits in 2013.

NRM’s numerical strength has been critical in the evolution of the institution into a rubber stamp Parliament and put its credibility in suspense.

As Uganda’s democracy continues to be under crisis since term limits were lifted that paved way for Mr. Museveni to bounce back for his fifth term, In my opinion that was a blunder and I see a need for a new breed of visionary and patriotic leaders to salvage the country from politicians obsessed with trivial personal interests, mostly pecuniary. I, therefore, think I should distance myself from a clique of Ugandans in 10thParliament who have unveiled intent to lift the presidential age limit enshrined to enable Ugandans above 75 like Museveni run for presidency in 2021.

However, the huge number of Nrm legislators obsessed with Museveni’s sixth term is a toll on the future of Uganda.

Several peace lovers whose dream nation will be-home to a culture of constitutionalism that allows peaceful transition of power denounce that clique that has taken Ugandans captive.

Evidently, the current political trends has allegedly led to the presidency orchestrating a sneak in of controversial petitions into Parliament – bulldozing it for personal gains when Uganda’s future remains largely obscure and meters show that no change is about to happen in the country.

The opposition should be apportioned blame. They seem to be opposing during daytime and get into bed with Museveni when dusk falls.

It is rare for the ruling party anywhere to assist the opposition. It was alleged that Mr. Museveni provided a jet and some assistance to save Norbert Mao’s life in the run up to the 2016 election. Mao is the Democratic Party President whom a section of DP leaders accuse of betraying them by failing to deliver to the party’s expectations.

Mao’s lukewarm leadership is blamed for the internal party wrangles that grow into uncontrollable levels every passing day. A similar situation exists in other opposition parties, FDC included. Hence, NRM party takes advantage of apparent crisis in the opposition to stay in power much longer.

It’s incredible to see a government devoid of health insurance and quality education 31 years down the road. The poor transport infrastructure with a defunct Uganda Airlines and poor healthcare is another story.

Ongoing political events suggest that the independence and credibility of the opposition are under threat. Yet, the Nrm dominated Parliament needs a more credible and people centered opposition to make it more accountable.

Why do voters vote against Uganda’s future through endorsing incompetent legislators who exchange nation’s destiny with presidential handshakes?

Much as I am aware that seeing issues differently from the ‘power owners’ will cost me a Parliamentary seat of  Kassanda North  I will get my message across. A loss of the Constituency will show how much the truth costs in politics. Hon. Bidandi Ssali and late Hon. Eriya Kategaya lost Cabinet jobs for allegedly preaching against the third term project when Mr. Museveni was ostensibly to exit politics.

However, I have no regret for an Nrm diehard. My problem is a few Nrm acolytes.

Nrm has registered milestones in security and economy. Uganda was ranked the sixth best investment destination in Africa by Ernst and Young Attractiveness Index May 2017.

For the Muslim clerics that were assassinated in a similar manner – I am impatiently waiting for the Police report but the force says investigations are ongoing.

Uganda led the world in the fight against HIV/AIDS and became a model country. Mr. Museveni was at the forefront of reviving and fast-tracking the East African Community (EAC) federation from which Ugandans win big economically and politically.

NRM government revitalized discipline in Uganda’s Army and UPDF symbiotically exist with the Wananchi- a departure from the past regimes.

Uganda leads in peacekeeping in the region with military presence in Somalia and South Sudan. On many occasions the African Union (AU) has assigned President Museveni a mediation mission in conflict-engulfed nations of Burundi and South Sudan. All such efforts have rebranded Uganda’s image from a corruption nation to a peacekeeper regionally and globally.

Hundreds of media outlets speak volumes on media freedoms. Ugandans can have their opinions heard. Ugandans should fathom why the government sweeps major concerns under the carpet. For instance, public outcry to respect the 1995 Constitution is neglected under the guise of “Ugandans still want President Museveni’s leadership”.

Do Presidents in the USA, France, Tanzania and South Africa first become enemies of their populations to leave office? Tanzanians still revere Mwalimu Julius Nyerere for his legacy there.

By George Kalisa

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