15 September 2017

Uganda: 'Do Not Intimidate Us, We Have the Support of the Army'

Photo: The Observer
Ruling party MPs dressed in T-shirts showing support for the lifting of the age limit.

Kampala — A section of NRM MPs behind the proposed amendment of article 102 of the constitution to lift the age limit of the presidency have said they will not be intimidated by anyone, stressing they have support of the army.

The group led by State Minister for Investment Evelyn Anite (Koboko municipality) were responding to issues raised Wednesday by another group of NRM MPs led by Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Mohammed Nsereko (Kampala Central), who threatened to fight anyone pushing forward plans to amend the constitution.

Nsereko had threatened that, "we are going to the gym, ready to flex and tear the age limit motion if it comes on the floor of Parliament."

A charged Anite dismissed Nsereko's threat , saying their section of NRM members are ready for both an intellectual and physical fight.

"We have numbers. We shall not go to the gym because we are fit. They should know that we are the ones in charge. If they can't outsmart us with reason, they should wait for Ugandans to give them their mandate", said Anite

Anite noted that the minority group of the MPs of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) that are opposed to the age limit proposal have already lost the battle since over 265 mps have already endorsed the plan.

"You can't tell us 'tojjiikwatako' when it's our job. It's like telling us not to do our job. We shall not succumb to intimidation. I heard Ssekikubo, Tinkasimire and other MPs threatening us. We are not intimidated. We have the support, even support of the 'majje (army)", said Anite at a press briefing on Thursday.

Army responds

The Uganda People's Defence Forces spokesman Brig. Richard Karemire disassociated the army from the remarks by the NRM parliamentarians, saying they have their own MPs who can talk on their behalf if need be.

"The UPDF has established structures and 10 Members of Parliament through whom it can make its views known when necessary," Karemire said

"UPDF shall always remain nonpartisan as per article 208 (2) of the Constitution."

Former MPs drawn into age limit debate

Former legislators Rhoda Kalema, Joyce Mpanga and Miria Matembe have jumped into the debate, urgning parliament to "protect and uphold the 1995 national constitution to avert a political conflict."

The former ministers represented Kiboga, Mubende and Mbarara districts respectively in 1994 in the Constituent delegates Assembly (CA) which subsequently promulgated the 1995 constitution.

The three legislators made remarks at a function held by parliament to mark the international day of democracy under theme of democracy and conflict prevention.

Kalema argued that the members of the 10th parliament must read the constitution and also understand the meaning of democracy which is to make decisions on behalf of the people.

Miria Matembe noted that after the removal of term limits by the seventh parliament, the current MPs have a second chance to keep the safe guard against life presidency by not lifting the age limit of 35 to 75 years.

"By the time we were making the 1995 constitution, we were like born agains. We were looking at Museveni as an angel. We shouldn't have trusted him to entrench the age limit or the term limit", said Matembe.

Matembe also expressed her disappointment with the First Deputy Prime Minister and Adjumani West MP Gen Moses Ali who said that the problem is article 259 of the constitution which gives parliament powers to amend most of its provisions.

Ali added that the ruling party NRM should not be blamed for ruling for the last 31 years.

"Stop blaming the NRM because the opposition or any other person cannot stand and win the various elections that have been held in the past," said Ali the parliament event.

He was responding to remarks by the president of the Uganda Law Society Francis Gimara that MPs must consult their voters over the age limit question and that those opposed and supporting the proposal should be given equal platform.

Gimara delivered a public lecture on democracy and conflict prevention in Uganda where he said that Uganda has gone through at least five phases of conflicts and must deal with about five disputes for peace building.

He named them as intolerance in the two largest political parties NRM and FDC, rising impunity, human rights violations, economic crises, poor facilitation of the judiciary yet it is the arbitrator.

The function also marked the 60th anniversary of women's entry into parliamentary democracy. An award was given to 99-year-old Florence Alice Lubega who was the first woman MP in Uganda's legislative Council in 1958.

Lubega represented Singo North West constituency which is in present day Mubende and Mityana districts.

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