Opposition leader and 53 Ugandans arrested over presidential age limit protest
In the early weeks, Ugandans woke up to hearing the Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda, announcing that the government was to embark on to reviewing the Constitution of Uganda, with an aim of lifting the presidential age limit.
In Uganda’s Constitution, article 102 (b): A person is not qualified for election as president of Uganda if he or she is less than thirty five years and or more than seventy five years of age.
On hearing the announcement, Ugandans including some members of the parliament have since then been in verbal arguments expressing their thoughts about the issue, until they have decided to take it to another level.
With hopes up, Ugandans have been looking up to 2021, when the next presidential elections will be, for them to then have a new president since the current President, Yoweri Museveni, by that time, would be considered ineligible according to the Constitution.
Museveni who will be 77 in 2021 as he is 73 currently, will be able to run for presidency if the Constitution will be amended.
On Thursday, at least 53 Ugandans including Nobert Mao, the leader of the Democratic Party (one of the opposition parties in Uganda), were reported arrested by the police as they protested against the planned Constitutional amendment.
“The writers of the constitution had a reason why they discussed it before we even debate whether or not to remove it,” Daniel Ruhweza, a professor of constitutional law at Makerere university in Uganda.
“I think it will be prudent for us to test whether the reasons for which they placed it in our constitution are justifiable reasons. Ours is a young democracy and indeed the debates around constitutionalism need a mature democracy,” Daniel explained.
The professor emphasized that amending the constitution just to remove the age limit will be catastrophic.
However, despite the concern in Uganda, Presiednt Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself off the accusations claiming that he doesn’t know about a thing.
“Part of the rumor is that there is debate about age limit; what are you debating? Which proposal are you debating or talking about? Where is the proposal?” Museveni queried the audience, in a meeting with reporters.
President Museveni allegedly said that those agitating for constitutional amendments are mere idlers.
Opposition groups on the other side have described Museveni’s denial of the whole plan to remove age limit as a ploy to hoodwink Ugandans and push it through his cadres or members of the parliament from his party.
To ensure that the constitution is not touched, some Ugandans have also embarked on threatening some members of the parliament, that are in favor of the constitution being amended, to change their minds and think other wise.
Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of the Ugandan parliament said that some legislators have been threatened not to amend the constitution.
“Parliamentarians are being targeted. They are receiving threatening messages not to engage in amending the constitution. There is anger everywhere,” said the speaker.
However, Kadaga also claims that the bill has not yet been tabled in the parliament.
Correspondent: Shamilah Namuddu