Doctors release report on mental ability of 75-year old to lead Uganda

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Doctors have recommended that all presidential candidates undergo a full mental and physical examination in order to ascertain their cognitive ability to lead.

The doctors under the Uganda Medical Association (UMA) were meant to appear before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to give their views on whether at 75 years a leader is fit to perform cognitively. They, however, presented their report to the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga on Thursday.

This comes as the debate on the proposed removal of presidential age limits continues. Parliament will on Monday start debating the report of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee which has been gathering views on the Constitution Amendment bill that seeks to amend Article 102(b) and do away with the presidential age limits in the constitution. The bill was tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi.

The doctors led by Dr Ekwaro Obuku say they do not have the authority to answer a political question like whether at 75 years someone has the capacity to still perform effectively. Obuku says they focused majorly on the cognitive part of aging which involves thinking and learning.

He says they looked at the speed of information processing as one grows old, which reflects the efficiency of cognitive operations. They also looked at attention as one grows old, the capacity for processing information with issues to do with memory and the executive functions like regulation of behavior among others.

He says the report also looks at reasoning ability, language function and intelligence among other things. Obuku says they have concluded that following the scientific evidence available, people aspiring for the office of President should be subjected to tests.

Obuku says that their role was to answer to a scientific question meant to empower parliamentarians to make a decision in regards to the age, but not giving a political answer on whether President Yoweri Museveni can still lead at 75 years. He says as Uganda Medical Association, they are willing to offer these consultancies for free if the MPs are not satisfied, but emphasised that the scientific answers are provided.

President Museveni will be 76 at the end of his current presidential term in 2021.

In the report, the doctors say in general there is a decline in the cognitive functions as one ages, and the decline is a complex process that is neither linear nor constant.

The report also notes, however, that the fact that life expectancy is increasing means careful consideration needs to be given to what defines cognitive aging for younger older adults as compared to the oldest older adults.

The report also says it's possible that aging can be successful without deleterious effects. The report further states that there is significant inter-individual and intra-individual variability in age related changes in cognitive abilities.

"The trajectory is not the same for everyone…The differences seen in the degree to which an individual's cognitive functions change with age are due in part to a lifetime of differences in experiences, health status,  lifestyle, education, attitudinal and emotional factors, social economic status and genetics," it reads.

Speaker Kadaga received the report and stated that she will have a look at it as the house prepares to debate the age limit bill next week. The report is addressed to the chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee Jacob Oboth-Oboth.

The debate stems from concerns once raised by president Museveni on the performance of someone of 75 years of age.

 

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