Age limit: MPs, ministers clash at church ceremony

Some of the MPs at the ceremony. Courtesy Photo.

An ordination ceremony for two priests and two deacons in Kabale Diocese on Saturday turned political when ministers and MPs exchanged words over presidential age limit and proposals to amend land laws.

The ceremony at Kakore Parish was presided over by Bishop Calist Rubaramira of Kabale Diocese.

Deacons John Fisher Byomuhangi and Jeremiah Tumwijukye were ordained priests while Augustine Munyandutse and Benjamin Tukamushaba became deacons. Father Byomuhangi was posted to serve in Nyarushanje Parish while Father Tumwijukye will serve in Christ the King Parish.

Bishop Rubaramira asked the new priests to live by example to the people they lead. Rubaramira also challenged the priests to intensify the crusade against corruption and immorality among the Christians.

Drama however unfolded when legislators who had attended the function started exchanging words over the proposals to amend Article 26 of the Constitution to allow government take over private land for development projects. Also up for discussion was Article 102(b) of the Constitution that puts a ceiling on the age of a sitting president at 75 years.

Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba vowed to fight the said proposals. He also asked locals to join him and reject the amendments.

“I actually wanted them to know that people of Uganda do not support life presidency. Actually, those who support the idea of a presidency for life are the selfish ones, they are there, [and] they are doing it for selfish material gains. They do not love this country; they do not even love Museveni whom they claim they love,” Niwagaba later said.

Niwagaba was backed by Lwemiyaga MP, Theodore Ssekikubo, who accused all those supporting the amendment proposals of denying other potential Ugandans a chance to lead the country.

Ssekikubo also said that once Article 26 is amended, Ugandans could lose their land to a few greedy individuals who are hiding in government.

“Government is not convincing so far. Without fear or favour, (I can say) that this constitution amendment is ill-fated, it has no merits. Government has failed to justify why it wants to take away land. And moreover, government is busy giving out public land to crooks. Now, the effort of government at this stage should be geared towards recovering public land given out unscrupulous persons around without necessarily talking of trying to have a leeway to have access to private land,” Ssekikubo said.

In response, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the State Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development attacked MPs Niwagaba and Ssekikubo accusing them of diverting Ugandans on proposed amendments.

Baryomunsi, who is also the Kinkiizi East MP, said that the amendment of Article 26 should not incite panic among Ugandans since it is aimed at making sure that government projects run smoothly.

“Do not be scared, and, Members of Parliament give the locals the right things not disturbing their mind. The government has a program of sitting with you [locals] and will not harm you. The owner of the land will be paid so that government projects meant to benefit Ugandans do not stall. I am minister of Lands, the amendment is meant to harmonise any misunderstanding between the owner of the land and the government,” he said.

The guest of honour, David Bahati the State Minister Finance for Planning said that much as some legislators like Niwagaba and Ssekikubo are against the constitutional amendments, they will not succeed because many Ugandans still need President Museveni to rule.

“We’ll call you to discuss together what Chris [Baryomunsi] and Niwagaba are saying. We shall discuss them together without fear. Because when you stand in a Catholic church where the Bishops are and you say those things, you wonder. Those who still love President Museveni raise up your hands and we see…Niwagaba and Ssekikubo you see! You can say these issues 9elsewhere0 but not in Rubanda,” Bahati said.

Government early this month tabled the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 with the main aim of amending Article 26 of the constitution. There has also been a debate about reports that members of the ruling NRM party were pushing to have Article 102 repealed to allow President Yoweri Museveni stand again in 2021.

Article 26 of the Constitution provides for the right of persons to own property and how it can be acquired by government. The proposed amendment gives government powers for compulsory acquisition of land if the owner rejects the valuation.

Under the current provision in Article 102, President Museveni would not be eligible to contest for the seat in 2021, as he would be 77 years.

URN