Age Limit: Opposition make U-turn on Committee appearance

Uganda’s opposition political parties have made a U-turn on the proposed ‘age limit’ bill probe and decided to appear before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee they had previously vowed to shun.

The parties had earlier decided they would turn down an invitation to the Committee where they were invited to present views on the proposal to lift the presidential age limits from the Constitution.

Different opposition political parties including Democratic Party (DP), Conservative Party (CP), Justice Forum (JEEMA) and others were expected to appear before the Committee on Thursday, November 2, but only the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) showed up, questioning the legality of the Constitution. NRM said articles of age limit were smuggled into the Constitution.

Now, in her letter dated November 2, Leader of Opposition (LoP) Winnie Kiiza informs the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth that the political parties will make a joint appearance before the Committee.

“As you may be aware, the leaders of the political parties were scheduled to appear before your Honorable Committee for purposes of submitting their view on the Age Limit Bill. I have been requested by the leaders of the Democratic Party (DP), Conservative Party (CP) and JEEMA to formally request your esteemed office that their scheduled individual appearances be deferred,” reads part of Kiiza’s letter.

The LoP further requests that the date for the appearance of the leaders of political parties be deferred to Tuesday, November 7 at 10:00am to enable them make a joint appearance.

Meanwhile in her capacity, Kiiza who is a member of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party, requests the committee in another letter dated November 2, that her appearance be deferred from Tuesday, November 7 to Thursday, November 9.

“As you may be aware, I was scheduled to appear before your Honorable Committee on 7th November, 2017 for purposes of submitting my views on the Age Limit Bill. I had scheduled to be in my district on that day to consult my people about the same,” reads part of Kiiza’s letter to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

Last week, opposition political parties including FDC, DP and Peoples Development Party (PDP) had all indicated that they would not legitimatise a process that seeks to entrench what they called ‘life presidency’ in Uganda.

DP President Norbert Mao then said the entire process was unconstitutional.

“We will not attend the discussions even though we have been invited, in fact as DP we have taken the matter to court challenging the unconstitutionality of the proposal,” Mao said in an interview with this publication.

Also the acting FDC president Alice Alaso said that their party position is not to attend the discussion which is intended to scrap safeguards of democracy from the 1995 Constitution. PDP’s Abed Bwanika said that the matter of lifting the presidential age limit can only be decided by Ugandans through a referendum.

The pronouncement came after the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee started public hearings into the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017 tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi. The bill seeks among others to amend Article 102(b) of the constitution by removing the 75-year age limit on persons intending to contest for the presidency.

Once amended, the article will give President Museveni a legal backing to seek another term of office when his current term ends. He is now aged 73 and would not be eligible to contest for the seat in 2021 when he will be above 75.