The National Resistance Movement-NRM party Deputy Secretary General, Richard Todwong, says Article 102(b), which restricts the president’s age to between 35 and 75 years was smuggled into the 1995 constitution.
Todwong made the claim when he and other NRM party members appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to make their submission on the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017.
The Committee chaired by West Budama South Member of Parliament Jacob Oboth-Oboth is conducting public hearings to collect views of different Ugandans on the bill. The Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017 seeks among other things to amend Article 102(b) of the constitution to remove the 75-year age limit on persons intending to contest for presidency.
Once approved, the bill will pave way for President Yoweri Museveni to seek another term of office when his current term ends. Museveni, who is 73 years old, would be ineligible to contest for the seat he has held for the last three decades.
Appearing before the committee in the company of some members of the NRM Central Executive Committee (CEC) and National Executive Council (NEC), Todwong claimed that the Constituent Assembly (CA) in 1995 agreed that no age limits should be imposed and that it should be left to the people to decide.
“The existence of Article 102 (b) in the Constitution is unfortunate, because it was clearly not the wish of the majority Hon. Members of the Constituent Assembly-CA,” reads part of Todwong’s statement. He acknowledges that although proposals were made to have a lower age limit of 35 years and an upper limit of 75 years during the CA debate, a motion was introduced by the former representative of Kassanda South, Dr. John Kabayo, seeking the deletion of paragraph 102 (b) and that it was agreed upon after the CA Chairman, the late James Wapakhabulo, put the question.
Following this claim, Abbas Agaba, the Kitagwenda County MP sought clarification from Todwong on whether he is saying the Article 102 (b) was smuggled into the Constitution. He asked Todowong to present evidence.
In his response, Todwong said they are puzzled and that is why they want the committee to revisit the Hansard of the Constituent Assembly.
However, some of the committee members couldn’t have any of this. Abdu Katuntu, the Bugweri County MP argued that the Constituent Assembly was navigated by the late James Wapakhabulo, one of the most respected lawyers in the Country.
“I do take the allegations made by the NRM party very, very serious, actually they impugning this Constitution, they are questioning its credibility that there are clauses in here, which were smuggled and I don’t take that lightly,” said Katuntu.
“Is it true that this constitution we have been holding sacred has smuggled in clauses? We have to interrogate it,” he added.
Medard Lubega Sseggona said the allegations made by Twodong were very serious and should be probed considering that the NRM government has been boasting about the 1995 Constitution.
“If there is anything that NRM has been bragging about is that they brought this constitution.”
Aston Kajara, the Mwenge South MP was part of the Constituent Assembly, said whatever is in the constitution was agreed upon.
Moses Kasibante, the Rubaga North MP accused the NRM side of dishonesty, saying the copy of the Hansard availed to the MPs indicates that Article 102 (b) was approved by the Constituent Assembly.
The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth directed Todwong to submit to his copy of the Hansard to the committee for analysis. He said the committee will invite people from the Hansard office and CA after analyzing the document.