Uganda's problem is not aged leaders, says Tanga Odoi

Ugandans should not look at age as an issue in leadership but focus on the capability and ideological orientation of a person seeking a leadership position, renowned academician Dr Tanga Odoi says.

Odoi, also the chairperson of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party electoral Commission, was appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of parliament, which is collecting views on the proposed constitutional amendment to lift the cap on the presidential age.The current constitution bars people below 35 and those above 75 years from contesting for the presidency.

But proponents of the amendment say that the article as it stands is discriminatory.

Its opponents, however, argue that if amended to lift the cap on the presidential age, parliament would have lifted the last hurdle for President Museveni to seek re-election when his current term of office expires in 2021.

Born in 1944, Museveni wouldn't be eligible to contest for the presidency again since he will be above 75 years of age. Museveni has been President since 1986.

Dr Odoi, who based his submission to the committee on the constitutional events Uganda has gone through since independence said that the country's political problems are not as a result of its climate or aged population and leaders rather the personalities of leaders and ability to harness goodwill of the people towards the country's stability and political progress.

"There is no record anywhere in the history of Uganda that people or rulers of above 75 years have been the source of our internal problems, at independence our leaders were between 30-45 years but failed the country adversely," Odoi said.

He added that the current president took power at a tender age but that due to correct ideological lines, he managed to reconfigure Uganda out of a failed state to one respected internationally.

"If it was age and especially the lower age bracket (30-45 years) that could have liberated Uganda from poverty and other ills of 3rd world economies then Uganda for sure would have done better at independence and the proceeding years with our young leaders," he added.

He said that the destruction and the mindless killings and state collapse that informed the preamble of the 1995 Constitution should be blamed on inexperienced and young leaders of between 30-45 years, not the aged.

Odoi told MPs that the NRM party under the now 73-year-old leader has become synonymous with peace, stability, democratic debates and fewer political mistakes.

He then noted that it is not the issue of how aged or old but capability.

Kumi Woman MP Monica Amoding said that Odoi seems to suggest in his submission that the age group of 30 to 45 years are almost incapable to lead or a source of trouble in Uganda's history.

She asked Odoi whether he believes that without President Museveni Uganda would come to a standstill.

Amoding also appealed to Odoi to address the committee on the effects of leaders who overstay in power.

Bufumbira South MP Sam Bitangaro also challenged Odoi saying that basing the performance of Uganda's past presidents on just age was being narrow saying that there were other challenges the leaders faced that made them fail to lead well.

However, Odoi maintained that youthfulness of the past leaders and lack of experience largely contributed to their failed leadership.

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