The opposition in parliament have launched a new campaign dubbed ‘kogikuteko’ (Now that you have touched it), in which they intend to traverse the country consulting voters on what should be their next course of action.
The campaign was launched by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament and Kasese Woman MP, Winnie Kiiza in Kampala.
Ms Kiiza said that they have finalised arrangements to sue the speaker to the east African Court of Justice, challenging the manner in which the amendment of the constitution, specifically article 102 (b) was passed.
She disclosed that they have proof of illegalities were sighted from the time the bill was presented on the floor of parliament to when SFC forces attached to the president raided the session on September 27.
The Kasese woman representative said that during yesterday’s passing of the bill, speaker of parliament violated the voting procedure by allowing doors open and calling members to come and vote at the time when voting was closed.
The group has also challenged the extension of the tenure to seven years in parliament. The seven years’ tenure will extend to district local government councils among others.
With a total of 315 votes, Members of Parliament on Wednesday evening voted to approve the controversial ‘Age Limit’ Bill that sought the removal of the 75-year age limit cap from the Constitution.
Only 62 legislators voted against the Bill that has since its tabling in September 2017 by Igara West MP caucused tension and for the first time in the history of parliament, saw a brawl in the Chambers with the invasion of security personnel. Only two MPs abstained from the vote at the Bill’s second and third reading.
The success of the Bill came after MPs earlier at its second reading overwhelmingly approved its continuity with 317 MPs voting in support at the stage, 97 against and two abstained.
These numbers of especially those against reduced at the third reading of the Bill since a number of MPs left the Chambers and were recorded as absent. The smooth sailing of the Bill at its second reading led to the proposal of new amendments to the Constitution which were not in the original Bill at the committee of the whole House chaired by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga.
MPs Approve Extension of Tenure
Before Parliament could even approve the controversial lifting of the presidential age limit, Mbarara Municipality MP Micheal Tumusiime took to the floor to propose amendments on the extension of the term of office for elected offices from five years to seven years and suggested that the extension should be with immediate effect apart from the Presidency where approval is by a referendum.
He immediately tabled a certificate of financial implication from the Ministry of Finance saying that his amendments do not have any financial implications to the country.
The amendments were approved even when some legislators including Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, Budadiri West MP Nathan Nandala Mafabi and Buyaga West MP Barnabas Tinkasimire disagreed with the move of trying to extend their term in office.
“Members have interest in this, we came here for five years and we cannot make it retrospective. There is no way you can amend for yourselves. I don’t agree with the seven years, five years are enough for us,” said Nandala.
Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga questioned how sure the MPs were that if they extend the tenure of parliament, Ugandans will in the referendum extend the tenure of the president as required by the Constitution.
These could hardly stop the amendment that seemed like a tradeoff for the removal of age limits. Majority on the government side led by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana defended the amendment and were determined to have their way considering their numerical strength.
With Speaker Kadaga also being in agreement of the amendment, the majority took the day after she put the question and the Ayes had it sending the government side in celebrations.
“It is only this House which can legislate for the country on issues of governance, we legislated on five years and we can legislate again. What I understand with these proposals is that henceforth, instead of holding elections every five years, they will be held every seven years,” said Kadaga.
MPs Lift Age Limit
After getting an extension of their tenure in parliament, the legislators then voted on the amendments in the ‘Age Limit’ Bill among which they lifted the upper presidential age limit of the president of 75years and reduced the lower limit to 18 years under Article 102(b).
The move eliminated the last hurdle for President Yoweri Museveni to seek reelection when his term of office ends in 2021. He is now aged 73, and will be eligible for another term of office. Museveni has been in support of the amendment telling the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that, “politics is about ideology and service and not sport where one needs to compete physically.”
This was a move from his earlier stand in an interview with the nation media in 2005, where Museveni categorically stated that if a country needs very active leaders, “it is good to have those below the age of 75.”
Opposition Legislators Arrested, Suspended
Six Opposition MPs who strongly opposed this amendment where on Monday suspended from parliament sittings by Speaker Kadaga for misconduct and did not take part in the voting exercise. These include Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Allan Ssewanyana, Gerald Karuhanga, Jonathan Odur, Akol Anthony and Mubarak Munyagwa.
Their Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba and Shadow Constitutional Affairs Minister Medard Lubega Sseggona were equally arrested on the voting day just outside parliament as they attempted to serve Speaker Kadaga with a court injunction stopping the sitting.
Kadaga later defended the arrest saying that the MPs engaged in an illegality when they tried to serve an institution when it was in session.
Term Limits Reinstated
With the success of the amendment of Article 102(b), MP Nandala moved an amendment to have presidential term limits reinstated and entrenched in the constitution. Term limits were lifted by parliament in 2005.
The two Presidential Term Limits had been imposed in Article 105 (2) and were removed through the Constitution (Amendment) Act, No.11 of 2005. In 2005, Term Limits would have barred President Yoweri Museveni from contesting in 2006 elections, having completed the two five-year terms from 1996.
Nandala’s amendment was supported since it had also been recommended by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
However after the approval of this reinstatement, Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana took to the floor saying that the reasons why parliament had removed the age limits is that same reason why term limits were removed in 2005.
He pleaded with Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga to reconsider and they first debate effectively their reinstatement but Kadaga declined saying that a question had already been put and nothing could be done.
Surprises During Vote
During the vote, more NRM MPs voted against the amendments after their constituents demanded that they do not support the amendment of especially Article 102(b).
Some of those who took their stand in agreement with the voice of their voters include Mbale Woman MP Connie Nakayenze, Mukono MP Johnson Muyanja Ssenyonga, Bududa Woman MP Justine Khainza, Pader Woman MP Lowila CD Oketayot, Rubanda West MP Eng. Denis Sabiti, Buliisa County MP Stephen Biraahwa Mukitale, Bugabula South MP Henry Maurice Kibalya and others.
Other surprises in the voting pattern on the Bill came from Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party independent leaning candidates Anita Among the Bukedea Woman MP and Kitgum Municipality MP Beatrice Anywar who voted in support of the Bill.
MP Changes Position
Busia Municipality NRM MP Geoffrey Macho who first voted against the Bill at its Second reading would later change his stand at the Bill’s Third reading when he voted in support Bill. This action sent the government side chanting and shouting out his name in praises and saddened the opposition side which had earlier praised him for taking a brave stand.
Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) Party
With a number of 6 MPs in the Tenth Parliament, UPC has one of them as Minister for Lands (Betty Amongi) and with them waiting to say how she votes considering the party position not to support the Bill, Amongi took to the floor and voted in favour of the Bill receiving praises from the government side and chants of ‘Our girl, our girl.”
This was after her husband and UPC party president Jimmy Akena and other UPC MPs voted against the Bill. While voting in support of the Bill, Akena looked at Amongi in a resigned look while other opposition MPs booed her.