President Yoweri Museveni has hailed parliament for passing the controversial age limit bill on December 20, saying in doing so, the MPs had saved Ugandans from "the more complicated paths" that would have been required.
Without specifying these "complicated paths", Museveni, in his New Year's address forced upon broadcasters on Sunday, suggested that had parliament not passed the age limit bill, "more complicated paths" would have been required as "the destiny of Africa can't be under-cooked or be badly cooked."
Uganda has never had a peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1962, with presidents having to shoot their way to power. Without the constitutional amendment that removes the requirement for presidential candidates to be under 75 years of age, Museveni would have been ineligible to contest for the presidency in 2021 after the expiry of his current term.
"I want to salute the 317 MPs who defied intimidation, malignment and blackmail and opted for a flexible Constitution to deal with the destiny issues of Africa instead of maintaining Uganda on the path of unimaginative, non-ideological, neo-colonial status quo. By so doing, they enabled us to avoid the more complicated paths that would have been required. We cannot kukonesa (under-cook or badly cook) the destiny of Africa." he said.
A total of 317 MPs last month passed the age limit bill which lifted the upper 75-year age cap and also lowered the 35-year lower cap to 18 years for those contesting for presidency. 97 MPs voted against the bill while two abstained.
The MPs, mainly ruling party MPs, voted to remove the upper age limit and also extended their term of office by an extra two years claiming the five years are not enough for service delivery in their constituencies.
"The 317 MPs have played a crucial role at this historical junction (masanganzira) just like the 28 cadres of Montepuez, Mozambique played in the formation of the Fronasa army, the 43 fighters with 27 rifles played when they attacked Kabamba and the 232 MPs of the 7th parliament played in opening up the term limits that have enabled Uganda to cover more ground," Museveni added.
Museveni also hit back at his critics who accuse him of being greedy for power and selfish by hanging unto the presidency of the country.
Now into his fifth term of office, the recent constitutional amendment to lift the age limits was seen by many analysts as Museveni's latest move to circumvent the only remaining legal barrier to what some call his 'life-presidency'.
Museveni said he is not greedy for the presidency as some suggest because he gets no material benefits for being president of Uganda. He said his, is more of greed for sacrifice rather than greed for power.
"I heard some people talking of "greedy" politicians. Greedy for what? What material benefit do I get from being involved in government? In the last 52 years, I have either been working for no pay or for little pay. May be those people talking mean "greedy" for sacrifice," he said.
On the perceived 'life-presidency' project, Museveni said those accusing him of harbouring such a scheme, are either uninformed or enemies of progress for Uganda and Africa.
"Those liars who talk about "life-presidency" of Museveni should be exposed for what they say. They are either un-informed individuals talking about things they do not know or evil schemers who do not want Uganda and Africa to succeed.
When Mwalimu [Julius Nyerere] was advocating for the East African federation, some would malign him saying that he was ambitious and he wanted to dominate East Africa. Mwalimu is now long dead. What would have happened if the other leaders had gone along with his vision? Whom would have East Africa benefited? Obviously, we who are here and the future generations," said Museveni.
BETRAYING CLERGY, MEDIA
As expected, Museveni did not spare the media and clergy, whom, he accused of working with the groups they 'fancy' to make them get political power instead of working for the independence of Africa.
"The real democracy we fought for provides that: "all power belongs to the people", they are the ones to decide their destiny through universal suffrage at regular intervals or through their elected representatives. Some of the elements, however, mainly working with foreigners, try to impose pseudo-democracy where the power of the people is constrained by term limits, age-limits, even educational qualifications," Museveni said.
Museveni accused the clergy of playing the 'know-it-all' role, speaking authoritatively almost on everything. The clergy have been critical of parliament for passing the age limit bill. Even in their Christmas prayers and messages, many of them accused the MPs who passed the bill of being greedy and short-sighted. They asked Museveni not to assent to the bill.
"Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance. They talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse. That would make them into the Kayaffas, the Chief Priest, that betrayed Jesus.
This is in the Book of Matthew Chapter 26:57-75. It says: "And those who had laid hold of Jesus led him away to Caiphas the High Priest where the Scribes and elders were assembled. Now the Chief Priests, the elders and the Council sought false testimony against Jesus to put him to death" he said.
Museveni accused the media of being the "devil" that is holding back the continent by harbouring non-African interests. He particularly accused New Vision CEO Robert Kabushenga of using the state media to specialise in writing trivialities.
"The Monitor [news] paper is always working for non-African interests. Nevertheless, recently, Mr. Kabushenga was persuaded to publish, in his Christmas paper, the Uganda Argus of the 6th of June, 1963. I will never forget that issue of the 6th of June, 1963. I was in S3 at Ntare but already very much involved in politics. I had never been so happy nor have I been so happy since as I was happy on that day and for some months afterwards", he said.
"The headlines on the front page of the paper, with the pictures of Mzee Kenyatta, Mwalimu Nyerere and Mzee Obote, shouted: "Federation This Year", "Top-level talks end in Nairobi".
Ugandans this is the Photostat copy of that happy newspaper issue. Has any of our media houses that are supposed to "inform", "educate", "entertain", ever mentioned this to you? After a few months the devil that is always the enemy of Africa had killed this effort.
"Had this effort succeeded, East Africa would possibly today be where India is. Certainly, there would have been no Idi Amin, the genocide in Rwanda would never have been allowed to take place, the endemic problems of Burundi would have been contained, the problem of South Sudan would have been easier to solve and even the problem of Somalia would have been solved."