Tension, tempers, drama, insults and disorder dominated Tuesday 19th, December 2017 plenary as an unprecedented number of legislators debated the controversial ‘presidential age limit’ Bill.
The Bill presented to parliament by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi seeks to among others amend Article 102(b) that caps the presidential age limit between 35 and 75 years.
From morning to evening, the House was still full to capacity with no MP showing impatience to move out of the chambers to attend to other work like it has been the case in the past.
By 6:30pm, the opposition side was still coloured red and the government side also remained fully packed with the cabinet bench unusually filled to capacity. The attendance board in the chambers by this time displayed that out of the 451 MPs, 391 MPs had signed in while 379 MPs were present.
Parliament will require 290 MPs voting in support of the proposed amendment by roll call and tally at both second and third reading of the Bill for it to pass.
With not much business handled in the morning session after issues of invasion of places of worship were raised, the afternoon sitting started debating the Bill with one MP after the other presenting the views of their voters on the Bill.
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga allocated each MP four minutes to debate. Some MPs were booed by colleagues because of not being in agreement with their views while others received hugs, thumbs up and applauds for their submissions.
MPs sitting on the government side continuously stood up shouting every time their colleague stood to support the amendment and this was the same for the opposition side.
WHAT MPs SAY
Reagan Okumu (Aswa County)
Okumu said that the debate was to define the future of Uganda warning that they could not amend a constitutional provision without testing it or specifically for an individual.
Okumu in a bitter tone told parliament that the people of the north were ready to secede from Uganda – threatening that there is no way they are going to allow to be sat on by the majority.
“I want to assure you, we shall secede from this country. We have the resources to get our own economy. Let us not just argue that we have the numbers, we have a responsibility as leaders. Politics and democracy is about consensus and not the majority otherwise the nation is to break,” said Okumu.
Musa Ecweru (Amuria County)
Contrary to the views of Okumu with whom they come from the northern region, Ecweru attacked Okumu that he should not use parliament as a platform for intimidation and that Uganda was to remain together.
“The question of secession is in the mind of the person who said it. He is in dreamland because Uganda will remain one, this country will never break up and it will stand together, nobody can come and intimidate us,” Ecweru asserted as he received applause from the government side.
With these statements, Okumu walked back on the floor pointing rudely at Ecweru and requesting Speaker Kadaga to allow him respond to Ecweru but Kadaga said the member should be left to speak out.
Ecweru then said that he was given authority by his voters to support the amendment of Article 102(b) since in Amuria, age is synonymous to wisdom.
Sam Lyomoki (Workers)
Away from this bitter exchange, the mood in the House further shifted as Workers’ MP Sam Lyomoki took to the floor and prayed that Members of Parliament get wisdom to make history by rejecting the removal of the presidential age limits.
While he prayed, the state minister for Lands Persis Namuganza moved to dramatically stop him only for Lwemiyaga County MP Theodore Ssekikubo to stop her as he stood in guard of Lyomoki to protect him so he could carry on with the prayer.
Lyomoki’s praying was unfortunately cut off after the 4 minutes he had been allocated elapsed.
Asamo Hellen (Eastern region PWDs)
The representative of the People with Disabilities (PWDs) told parliament that she carried out 5 consultations in the eastern region and that her voters told her to support the amendment of Article 102(b).
“The power to vote lies with the people of Uganda. It is the people to vote out the president or vote them in. President Museveni did not bring himself on that seat, it is the people that brought him,” said Asamo.
“Persons with disabilities support the removal of presidential age limit and the entire age limit bill. PWDs are tired of being called for elections all the time; a 7 year term for will save us”, she said.
Bright Rwamirama (Isingiro)
Rwamirama told parliament that he supported the amendment of Article 102(b) since it was to cure inconsistencies in the Constitution.
He noted that Article 1 of the Constitution gives powers to the people on deciding who to govern them and how. He however says that Article 102 (b) departs from this provision by giving with one hand and take away with another hand.
“The people of Isingiro empowered me to speak on their behalf that we support the amendment. I also oppose the reinstatement of term limits and allow people to decide,” said Rwamirama.
Lilly Adong (Nwoya Woman)
The Nwoya Woman MP also took to the floor to tell parliament that her voters sent her with strict instructions that Article 102(b) should not be touched.
“We love President Museveni, but we should let him go, let him rest. Magyezi said that the Article is discriminatory but all other qualifications set for presidency are also discriminatory,” said Adong.
Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Kyadondo East)
The musician Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu popularly known as Bobi wine turned politician told parliament that he had a rare opportunity of traversing the country and that Ugandans are saying the Constitution should not be amended because they want to avoid a life president.
“I stand in defence of the minority report which in my opinion carries the views of Ugandans and therefore the majority report. We are mandated to enact laws for peace, development and good governance of Uganda. We have the opportunity to make or break our country,” said Kyagulanyi.