15 September 2017

Uganda: Yoweri Museveni President for Life? Uganda's Limitless Presidential Age

Photo: The Observer
President Yoweri Museveni

Political scenarios would be ludicrous if played out in any other arena, but the African political scene is never without its antics. Uganda's constitution may be changed to remove the Presidential age limit and give current President Museveni a chance to be President for Life.

A motion to amend the Ugandan Constitution to remove the presidential age limit was unanimously backed by Members of Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement. A step that may ensure that 72 year old President Yoweri Museveni can run for re-election in 2021 and consequent elections that could well turn him into a "president for life" like his counterpart President Robert Mugabe.

This was the second attempt to make the change. The first effort in a "Private members Bill" by Nakifuma County MP Robert Kafeero was dismissed by Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga who ruled that the debate was unmerited at the time.

Read: When more is less: What Museveni's inauguration means for Uganda

Simeo Nsubuga, a legislator from Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, told Reuters the move to amend the constitution was agreed in a special meeting of the party's House members.

"We had agreed that a private member should come up with a constitutional amendment bill to remove the age limit," Nsubuga said.

Since then, Members of Museveni's party and State House staff have been engaged in low-key, but intense mobilization for the amendment. Resolutions from Kisoro, a remote district on Uganda's border with Rwanda and the DR Congo, Mbarara, the main city of the Ankole sub-region, and a demonstration in Arua District, the headquarters of the West Nile sub-region supporting the lifting of the age limit, passed peacefully with police protection in a country where political gatherings, mainly for opposition activists, have often been violently broken up by the security agencies.

Selfish Constitutional changes

If the motion is successful, this will be the second major change to Uganda's 20-year-old Constitution, which will directly favour President Museveni's interests when he is already one of Africa's longest-serving rulers. Museveni has been in charge for more than three decades.

The first was in 2005, when an amendment was passed to remove term limits at the end of President Museveni's two elective terms. Museveni who got in to power in 1986 after a five-year guerrilla war, ran the country un-elected for 10 years before presenting himself as a civilian in the 1996 elections under the individual merit movement system.

Then in 2006, President Museveni returned as candidate for the National Resistance Movement, which had been registered as a political party after the ban on parties was lifted.

President Museveni who was initially, praised for helping restore stability after two dictators known for torture, extrajudicial executions and directing the suppression of a brutal insurgency known for mutilating civilians and kidnapping children has over the years, met criticism over the mounting suppression of the political opposition, widespread corruption and a poor human rights record. He may despite all this and should the constitution change become another President for Life.

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