The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda-IRCU has turned down an invitation to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of parliament where they were requested to share views on the proposed ‘Age Limit’ Bill.
The Council, an umbrella for all religious denominations, now joins the Makerere University Law Dons and former Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi who wrote to the committee declining to appear as requested.
Instead, they have written back to the committee advising that members make use of a press release issued on September 12, and a petition to the Speaker of Parliament dated September 18 to form an opinion on the proposed amendment.
The two documents were signed by seven religious leaders who include the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Stanley Ntagali, the Mufti of Uganda Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, the Archbishop of the Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga and the Archbishop of Kampala Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga.
They were also signed by the President of Seventh-day Adventist the Uganda Union Dr Daniel Matte, President Born Again Faith in Uganda Dr Joseph Serwadda and Bishop Joshua Lwere, the general overseer of the National Alliance of Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches in Uganda.
In the petition, the Council called for a Referendum before any amendment to Article 102 (b) of the constitution. The religious leaders argued that the age limit debate goes beyond partisan politics and citizens with divergent views must be listened to before any amendments are considered.
They noted that the framers of the Constitution did a good job for four years collecting views from all Ugandans and that they thoroughly reviewed the country’s turbulent history and sought safeguards to secure a stable future for Uganda.
“They realized that it is not enough to have regular elections; those elections must be free and fair and held on a level ground. It was against this background that, in their wisdom, they inserted two major provisions on the age and term limits as safeguards against plunging the country into another round of political turbulence, tyranny and despotic rule,” the petition reads.
They expressed concern that the first major safeguard on term limits was removed without being tested and that the second safeguard is being threatened through the private member’s bill tabled by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi.
The bill seeks to delete article 102(b) of the constitution which caps the age of president candidate between 35 and 75. Once deleted, the bill will give President Yoweri Museveni a legal backing to seek another term of office when his current term ends in 2021. He is now aged 73 and would not be eligible to contest for the seat after more than 30 years in power.
“As religious leaders, we strongly believe that as a nation, we can build posterity and attain prosperity, if we build a nation on a culture of respecting the Constitution. Great leaders are distinguished from transactional leaders by the way they respect fundamental rules that govern society,” they add.