As the ‘no change’ slogan comes back to haunt president Yoweri Museveni who this time round wants a change in the 1995 constitution to lift presidential age limits, leading opposition parliamentarians are skeptical about holding a referendum citing the tilted political landscape in favor of Museveni.
This follows a government move to gazette the constitutional amendment bill 2017 in which article 102 (b) is part of those lined up to be amended. The article limits to 35 and 75 the age at which a person is eligible to stand as president. Museveni is officially 72 years therefore will be 76 by the end of his current political tenure making him ineligible to stand
Although article 102 (b) is not one of those that require a referendum, never the less, voice calling for it [referendum] have gained momentum with some politicians saying the people must have a say before age limits are abolished.
However as some politicians continue advocating for a referendum some strongly disagree arguing that all these avenues are likely to be influenced by the president given his support in all relevant institutions that will handle the referendum exercise.
Lutamaguzi Ssemakula, the Nakaseke MP told The Spear News that President Museveni is a wise man, who can never be defeated in his own game. “How can the opposition win a referendum yet we failed to guard the presidential elections,” Lutamaguzi asked sarcastically.
“We know president Museveni is tricking us, He has a group that is an extension of NRM but operating in the opposition which he installed that is saying that they are going to fight the age limit bill. People advocating for a referendum have been bought by Museveni. He is determined and he has whatever it takes to have the referendum in his favor, but we already know that money is exchanging hands to advocate for referendum” Lutamaguzi revealed that Museveni has used the hard economical times to take over the opposition and the independent members of parliament. With this, the outspoken legislators says, it will be difficult to stop the amendment.
For Muyanja Ssenyonga MP for Mukono South, a referendum will help Ugandans to reassert their voice in case on who and how they should be governed but was quick to add that as MPs they will consult the people to know what exactly their stand on the matter is .
He warned that although Referendum is a democratic form in which people can make their views heard, its nevertheless an expensive venture to undertake especially now that the economy is not doing well.
Simeo Nsubuga, the Kassanda South MP maintains that the parliament has the capacity to solve the puzzle without resorting to the referendum, after all members of parliament are voted for by the same people.
“When you are tabling something you have to consult within the law, this is a constitutional amendment issue; there are issues that are supposed to go to the referendum and some that are supposed to be solved on the floor of parliament.”, Nsubuga said.
Conversely, Allan Ssewanyana, the Makindye East MP says, on top of the bill being useless, there is even no need to debate it whether through referendum or on floor of parliament
“This talk of referendum and members deciding about the bill is trickery. Some people with selfish interests are behind this scheme for monetary and political favors; let them leave the constitution intact because it is clear when you are above 75 years you are barred from contesting for presidency”, Ssewanyana said.
Just like Ssenyonga, to Arua municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga holding a referendum will be costly for the country yet there’s a ‘shortcut’ through parliament. The self confessed Museveni admirer says the country still needs him [Museveni] “that is why they voted for him overwhelmingly.”