Uganda: Age Limit Vote Tops Christmas Sermons Across Country

Ugandan MPs debate the age limit bill.
27 December 2017

Countrywide — The passing of the controversial Bill to amend the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit dominated church messages during Christmas prayers across the country.

Various religious leaders called for reconciliation and asked the President to rescind his position on the amendment.

At Rubaga Cathedral in Kampala, Vice President Edward Sekandi and Butembe MP Nelson Lufafa faced the wrath of Christians over the passing the Constitution amendment to remove the age limit.

Christians booed Mr Sekandi and refused to listen to him as he tried to justify the Constitution amendment.

He escalated the rage when he used figurative language to say they "used gloves to touch the Constitution".

Last week, Parliament voted by majority of 317 MPs against 97 to change the Constitution and remove the 75-age limit on the presidency and to extend the term of a president and Parliament from five years to seven.

The Bill now awaits the President Museveni's assent to become law. The President has publicly declared he supports the Bill, which allows him to stand for another and more terms.

Christians walk out

At Bugembe Cathedral in Jinja District, worshippers walked out of church when Butembe MP, Mr Lufafa was given a microphone to deliver his Christmas message.

When he stood up to speak, many worshipers walked out of church accusing him of misrepresenting their views in Parliament during the voting on the age limit Bill.

In Kanungu, Kinkizi West MP James Kaberuka (NRM) told believers at St Peter's Cathedral Nyakatare that government should not abuse its numerical strength in Parliament to frustrate views of the majority Ugandans.

"This arrogance that we have the numbers will not help. If we have numbers, why don't we use them to fight poverty? I am happy that I represented my people. My voters are the winners," he said.

Bishop Dan Zoreka of Kinkizi Diocese in Kanungu District during his Christmas sermon, appealed to MPs who voted for the removal of presidential age limit to reconsider their decision.

"I know the Bill that was passed (by Parliament) is not yet assented to by His Excellence. My appeal to all the legislators is that they have already done it but let them listen to all Ugandans and see the wishes of the majority. Sometimes the majority may not be considered but they have a point in this amendment of the Constitution," he said.

Bishop Zoreka said it is not too late for the 317 MPs who voted for the removal of the presidential age limit to rethink and consider the voices of the electorate.

He also asked President Museveni to listen to views of the majority Ugandans and desist from signing the Bill into law.

Archbishop of Gulu John Baptist Odama said the passing of the Bill has divided the nation and bred friction among the population.

Archbishop Odama, who also heads the Catholic Episcopal Conference, warned that the removal of the presidential age limit will breed hostility at a time when the country is consolidating peace and reconciliation.

He was leading Christmas prayers at St Joseph's Cathedral in Gulu Municipality.

"Africa needs unity, peace and working together to develop the continent. We cannot be agents of destroying our continent because we shall be betraying humanity," he said.

In Luweero, two clerics scolded some MPs for misrepresenting the views and opinions of their electorates on the age limit Bill and extending the term of Parliament.

The clerics said the MPs exposed their greed and deceitful tendencies from which Jesus Christ was born to redeem mankind.

"Some of our legislators chose to lie in broad day light that you told them to extend their term of office and lifting of the presidential age limit," Bishop Eridard Nsubuga told Christians during the Christmas sermon at St Mark Cathedral, Luwero Diocese.

Kasana-Luweero Catholic Bishop Paul Ssemogerere said: "The MPs do not want to listen to religious leaders because we do not have money to give them. They forget that they derive their mandate from the people."

Bishop of Namirembe Diocese Wilberforce Kityo-Luwalira said the country has undergone a big test due to troubles, disappointment and fear caused by the age limit Bill.

"You can see the effort invested in this struggle as if it is the only issue for the country to resolve and others have resolved to demonstrate. It has now gone to another level but while the situation is at that, others were in the chapel pretending to pray and were found eating," Bishop Luwalira said in reference to intrusion of security personnel in the Parliament chapels hours before the passing of the Bill last Wednesday.

At St James Cathedral Ruharo, Ankole Diocesan Bishop Sheldon Mwesigwa asked those who do not agree with the removal of presidential age limit to petition court.

"We have to pray that court handles the matter fairly. Do not go to the bush, do not get into riots; do not disrupt peace in Uganda," he urged.

Masaka Diocese Bishop John Baptist Kaggwa urged government and Opposition to reconcile.

"Let the birth of Jesus, who is the prince of peace, bring forth reconciliation amongst us and with God. Although majority who opposed the amendment of the Constitution are furious, they should leave this to God who cannot forget his own people," Bishop Kaggwa said during prayers at Our Lady of Sorrows Church Kitovu.

At Rubaga Cathedral, Kampala Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga accused MPs of rushing to endorse the removal of age limit against the voters' will.

He also castigated security personnel for abusing people's rights.

"The way police and other security officers have been handling suspects is quite alarming. We pray that such use of force should stop. Also, let the issue of age limit be tabled through a referendum so that people decide," Archbishop Kizito said. He urged Christians to always be honest.

At Our Lady of Africa Catholic Church Mbuya, the Parish Priest Rev Fr. John Mungereza condemned political wrangles instigated by MPs.

"We need leaders who must serve the interest of the people they represent. Corruption is rampant among Ugandan politicians yet it is not what God expects of them. They are milking the nation for their personal interest at the cost of ordinary people who are suffering," he said.

In Mubende, Rev Fr Emmanuel Mwerikande of Our Lady of Fatima Parish Church appealed to leaders in the district to act fast about the increasing land wrangles.

"During my interaction with the prisoners at Kaweeri Prison, I discovered that about 80 per cent of the inmates have been implicated by land grabbers into land- related cases and jailed after which they take over their land," Fr. Mwerikande said.

At St Paul's Cathedral in Kako, Bishop Henry Katumba-Tamale of West Buganda Diocese condemned Christians who have transgressed against the Church, saying they betray their baptism and Christian faith.


Prophet Samuel Kakande of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Mulago asked believers to utilise Christmas to forgive their tormentors.

At Mamre Prayer Centre in Namugongo, the recently consecrated Bishop of Evangelical Orthodox Church Jacinto Kibuuka said: "Whether you were for togikwatako or gikwateko (for or against Constitution amendment), it is time to work for peace. Let us pray for the stability of our country for development."

At the Anglican Church Shrine Namugongo, Rev Can Henry Ssegawa urged Christians to promote good behaviour during the festive season.

At St Mathew Cathedral Kyamate of South Ankole Diocesan Bishop Nathan Ahimbisibwe castigated domestic violence in the country.

He also called for tolerance of diverse views, saying the country belongs to everyone. He did not specify any matter which has raised divergent views.

North-West Ankole Diocesan Bishop Amos Magezi, leading Christmas prayers at St Paul Cathedral Ibanda, condemned greed, gossiping and envy among Christians.

He challenged rich Christians to share with the poor, especially during Christmas. His call was reiterated by his counterpart at Bukedi Diocese in Tororo Bishop Samuel George Bogere Egesa who urged the rich to share with the poor to earn blessings from God.

At All Saints Church Nakasero in Kampala, Archbishop Stanley Ntagali observed: "There is no peace between husband and wife; children and parents, there are increasing conflicts with neighbours because people who claim to be Christians are working contrary to what Jesus wants."

Tororo Pentecostal Outreach Ministries Bishop Girado Olukol asked the people to desist from tribal hatred and live harmoniously.

He condemned the conflict between the Jopadhola and Iteso.

"I do not think shedding blood will be the lasting solution but bringing them together would play a big role because each one of us is related," the bishop said, appealing to President Museveni to intervene between the two warring tribes.

At St Peter's Cathedral Bweranyangi in Bushenyi, the Minister for General Duties, Ms Mary Karooro Okurut urged Christians to use Christmas to make peace with their neighbours.

At Sacred Heart's Church, Tororo, State minister for Health Sarah Achieng Opendi lauded the church for advocating peace and unity.

At Burare Catholic Parish, the Buhweju District Woman MP, Ms Oliver Katwesigye Koyekyenga, warned parents against overspending in the festive season.

Reported by E. Kasozi, C. Kisekka, M. Muwulya, D. Wandera, J. Ocungi, Z. Amanyisa, L. Afedraru, J. Omollo, J. Namyalo, F Wambede & L. Mukooli, F. Ainebyoona, A. Tumushabe, P. Rumanzi, S. Otage & Elly Karenzi

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