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Museveni Allies Renew Push to Abolish Presidential Age Limit

  • Halima Athumani

Uganda's long-time president Yoweri Museveni, 71, left, and his wife Janet Museveni, right, attend his inauguration ceremony in the capital Kampala, May 12, 2016.

Fierce debate continues in Uganda over the ruling party’s plans to remove the presidential age limit from the constitution. Parliament is expected to again take up the issue this week with the opposition pledging to continue its resistance.

Uganda’s ruling party says it will push ahead with its plans to scrap the presidential age limit despite street protests and stiff resistance from opposition lawmakers last week.

Peter Ogwang is vice-chairperson of the ruling party caucus in parliament.

“It’s provided for in this law, in this constitution of the Republic of Uganda. What are we doing? We are using the law which were made by the delegates in the 1995, which [is] the law which we have been using to amend provisions of this constitution, so I am within the law,” Ogwang said.

Uganda’s constitution sets the presidential age limit at 75. That means longtime President Yoweri Museveni would not be eligible to run in the next elections in 2021.

Watch: Debate in Uganda

Critics of the age limit say it is discriminatory.

Proponents say the age limit was implemented to promote the peaceful, democratic transfer of power, something that Uganda has not experienced since independence in 1962.

The opposition is showing no signs of backing down.

VOA spoke to opposition leader and four-time presidential candidate Kizza Besigye.

“It’s not about the principle of age, as to whether you know a 75-year-old cannot be president or not that is vital in this consideration,” Besigye said. “It’s whether it can check the presidency of Mr. Museveni who ascended to power through force of arms and has stayed in power with the assistance of the military rather than the will, the free will of the people of Uganda.”

The opposition and international human rights groups accuse the government of using security forces to squash dissent.

At least 28 university students were arrested during protests on Sept. 21, according to the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.

The opposition says several lawmakers have also been prevented from leaving their homes or detained.

“They tore my clothes. They lifted me high. They kicked me. They harangued...,” said Erias Lukwago, the lord mayor of Kampala, who was arrested on Sept.18, accused of trying to organize a protest against lifting the age limit.

“..They all grabbed me and dumped me in a waiting truck, because they had come with a van. I think it’s a custom-made van intended for that particular purpose, it looks like these trucks normally used to carry with hound dogs,” Lukwago continued.

As parliament prepares to reopen Tuesday, the opposition has called on Ugandans to wear red as a form of silent protest.

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