Age limit clause was not smuggled into the Constitution – Rugunda

Age limit clause was not smuggled into the Constitution - Rugunda
Prime minister Ruhakana Rugunda before Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee. Courtesy Photo.

ll the provisions in the Constitution were debated and agreed upon by the Constituent Assembly, according to Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda.

He disclosed this on today, Tuesday while appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Committee, which is conducting public hearings on the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017.

Rugunda, who represented Kabale municipality in the Constituent Assembly, was asked by the shadow attorney general, Wilfred Niwagaba whether some provisions were smuggled into the Constitution as indicated by ruling party, National Resistance Movement (NRM).

In his response, Rugunda said all the provisions in the Constitution were debated and agreed upon by Constituent Assembly delegates.

“On that issue, I was in the Constituency Assembly, I don’t remember any provision of the Constitution being smuggled into the Constitution. To me, the Constitution and constitutional provisions were thoroughly debated and passed and the Constitution as a whole”, said Rugunda.

Rugunda’s submission contradicts claims by Richard Todwong, the deputy NRM secretary general last week that Article 102(b), which restricts the president’s age to between 35 and 75 years was smuggled into the Constitution.

“The existence of Article 102 (b) in the Constitution is unfortunate, because it was clearly not the wish of the majority honourable members of the Constituent Assembly,” said Todwong in a statement to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee last week.

When tasked about the NRM party stand on Article 102(b) to which he belongs, Rugunda said he respects people’s views even if they vary from his.

Rugunda said government supports the proposed scrapping of Article 102 (b) to remove the discriminatory spirit and practice that bars citizens of sound mind below 35 years and above 75 years from offering themselves or being fielded by their political parties to run for the Office of the President.

“Uganda like many democracies has given the people, through Article 1 of the Constitution, the power to elect their leaders through regular free and fair elections. The issue of presidential election should be left to the people to decide,” said Rugunda.

Rugunda said age limits are unfair to the discriminated people and deny Uganda a chance to have “intelligent” persons below 35 years and above 75 years to contest for presidency.

Opposition Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda tasked Rugunda to explain whether government wants to amend the Constitution to remove all qualifications.

“Can we do away with retirement in all sectors in government so that we can wheel people in their offices?,” asked Ssemujju.

Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko asked Rugunda to tell the Committee whether Article 102(b) is a discriminatory or a limitation clause and also come out clearly on whether all the academic qualifications requirements set in the Constitution should be scrapped to allow all people to seek election to different offices.

In his response, Rugunda insisted that it would be unfair to stop anybody of a particular age to stand for the presidency. When tasked to address his response to other qualifications set in the Constitution, the premier said that he is a senior and disciplined cadre of the ruling NRM party and that he would rather his party comes out first on the issue of academic qualifications and other criteria in the Constitution before he pronounces himself.

“The other issue of academic qualifications, are they discriminatory? Well one doesn’t know what will happen in future…Whether there are discriminatory or limitations, you know I better let you know my main purpose of coming here was to explain a few issues. As to the gymnastics of discriminatory and limitations, I will let the lawyers to handle that.”