Pressure is mounting on Uganda’s President Yoweri Musevi to retire after his current term ends in 2016. Senior religious leaders have urged him to plan his smooth exit to allow for a peaceful transfer of power.
Now, some members of parliament are planning to introduce a constitutional amendment bill to restore presidential term limits.
Museveni, who has been in power since 1986, says he will retire only if his party decides so.
In 2005, parliament amended the constitution and removed the article which had provided that an individual could only be president for two five-year terms. It paved the way for President Museveni to seek re-election in 2006 and 2011.
“It is very important to restore term limits,” said Gerald Karuhanga a member of parliament for youth (Western) and one of the members behind the bill.
He said in Uganda’s 50 years of independence there has not been peaceful transfer of power.
“It is also adding a voice to a call to President Museveni that his time is up. He has been president for 27 years; he will have been president for 30 years when he completes his current term,” said Karuhanga.
The parliamentarian said he and his fellow legislators want to discourage the practice of leaders overstaying in power.
“We don’t want it to be the norm that in Uganda once you become president you become president for life,” he said.
Karuhanga said the bill for the constitutional amendment is ready and so is the motion seeking leave of parliament to allow members present this bill. What is left, he added, is meeting the speaker and agree on when this issue can be discussed.
Passing a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in parliament. Karuhanga is optimistic they will have the numbers.
“So far it is quite promising. Members are supportive and if things go on like this we should be able to get the 250 members we need.”
The bill, if passed into law, would take effect after the 2016 elections, which means Museveni would be eligible to run for office again if he so chooses.
“Apparently we cannot legislate retrospectively,” Karuhanga explained, but added that he hopes Museveni will get the message and realize that time is up.
“Surely [Museveni] running in 2016 will be probably the worst mistake he will make in his life.”
He said the bill has a lot of support among the people because it was wrong in the first place to remove it [presidential term limits] from the constitution.
If it gains passage, the law will put Uganda at par with the rest of countries in the East African community which all have presidential term limits.