Uganda’s parliament is considering an amendment to the country’s constitution on land issues, but it is another proposed revision, not on the table, that is sparking the fiercest debate.
Uganda’s constitution sets the age range for president at 35 to 75 years of age.
Born in 1944, President Yoweri Museveni will be 76 years old at the next elections in 2021. That means after three decades in power, he will not be eligible to stand for re-election.
But Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana has discussed amending the constitution.
The public reacted quickly, urging legislators not to touch article 102b.
“The first thing that was done, was to make sure all our telephone contacts are thrown on the Facebook," explains Ruling party MP, David Abala. "Anybody can say anything. They say members of parliament have been paid $100,000, and some of them have called me. They harassed us. They said we trust you, but please, do not tamper with that article 102 about age limit.”
No amendment to the age limit has been put before parliament, but that has not stopped the opposition.
Last week, Democratic Party President Norbert Mao and some members of his party marched to the Constitutional Square to hang a banner. Mao and 14 other people were arrested. They were released later the same day.
“Our slogan, 'If you dare and touch it', meaning that provision of the constitution, there will be a reckoning," he said. "This is the last barricade against life presidency. It is the last defense against Museveni’s family’s despotic ambitions. We had the term limits. The term limits were removed. We thought this one now would not be able to be removed. It turns out the age limit is also a false bottom because it will not hold Museveni.”
The president’s supporters also sprang into action.
Presidential advisor on political affairs David Mafabi held a meeting for ruling party youth leaders, legislators and academics. He told VOA they are launching a countrywide campaign to lift the presidential age limit.
President Museveni has defended Mafabi, saying his advisor was provoked.
“I hear, that there is a debate about age limit and I do not know what, what are you debating, who has brought a proposal? So, those un-disciplined people, they should know that there will be counter action, political action, because if you play games, the other side will react, so you should not waste your time with people who have no work to do,” he said.
Museveni has not said whether he supports lifting the age limit.
Opposition legislator Ssemuju Nganda of the Forum for Democratic Change says this is characteristic of the president.
“He will act through proxies, so therefore this is a legitimate matter, so even if Museveni wanted or he did not want, this is the right time for Ugandans to begin discussing the transition either from Museveni to Museveni or from Museveni to any other person,” said Nganda.
Only the attorney general can introduce a constitutional amendment to parliament. The proposed amendment on land rights is currently before a parliamentary committee.
The attorney general’s office has not said whether it will propose any further amendments to parliament at this time.