Age Limit Puzzle: Why Ugandans should directly be involved in this Decision through a Referendum

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President Museveni

Opinion: Late last year, the UK Parliament called for a referendum to exit the European Union. Even though the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameroon, was against the call, he didn’t block it. That is the true use of power. Something that isn’t so common with African leaders. He did however promise to resign should the British people vote to leave the EU. That was the birth of the term we know as Brexit today.

A referendum in simple terms can be literally interpreted as momentarily taking power from the people’s representatives and placing it back in the hands of the people. Talk of true democracy! According to the constitution, any citizen has the right to invoke article 255 and call for a referendum regarding a national issue. That is the way to go now.

The parliament of recent has been debating about scraping Article 102 (b). This provides for the age limitations for presidential candidates. The Article impedes anyone below the age of 35 or above the age of 75 from contesting for Uganda’s presidency. By 2021, when presidential elections will be held again, the seating President Museveni won’t be legible to stand. Therefore, the media, as well as people who can read between the lines, have stipulated that this is an NRM move to keep Museveni running.

I wouldn’t argue otherwise. When the old man was caught up by the term limits, the constitution was revisited and Article 105(2) was scrapped as a result. So, we all saw this coming! After all that time as captain, Museveni wasn’t going to vacate just because the constitution says he should. Why not alter it if he can? Also, just because he has grown old, doesn’t mean he can’t rule. After all: eliiso lyo mukulu, awadugala wewalaba!

There is no doubt that scrapping Article 102(b) won’t in any way help the Ugandans. This is being sought by parliamentary ‘representatives’ totally for personal gains. Many MPs, including those in the shadow cabinet have had a hefty lot to gain from Museveni’s era. They therefore can’t just give it up! In that sense, they cannot make a fair judgement concerning the age limit.

The fact that they raised the argument at the time when age is closing in on Museveni is highly suspicious. This is why the call for a referendum is very coherent. We do believe that Uganda is a multi-party and hence a democratic political system. For that reason, having the people vote on whether to keep Article 102(b) is the best way to go. The MPs are incapable of making such decisions. The public should take the lead on this one.

Some members of Parliament and political scientists have argued that holding elections for this kind of thing, with Uganda’s electoral malpractices, isn’t ideal. This is evidently true! Uganda isn’t very good with holding free and fair elections. However, that has never stopped us from carrying on with the presidential elections or the by-elections or any other kind of elections. Therefore, the people should have a direct say in this age limit decision.

In his letter to the EC, a one Bukenya pushes for the restoration of Article 105(2). Another clause that is very vital for the underlying blocks of democracy. Term limits and Age limits to ensure a change in the person of the president. With those two clauses, Ugandans will never have to deal with the unending whining from the likes of Besigye.

The most democratic countries in the world have managed because of term limits. Having an individual serve no more than a conferred number of terms by law ensures change. This makes complaints about rigging elections and the sort a lot less relevant. Consequently, democracy will naturally develop.

Thus, if there is any discussion about those two clauses, it is very important that it is not done by the parliament. A decision made by the people is a way better choice compared to one made by a bunch of manipulative and misrepresenting members of parliament. Museveni’s time has come to an end. Trying to do away with the age limit is obstruction of democracy and subsequently, it is Uganda living in denial!

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Kenneth is currently a Mass Communication student at St Lawrence University. He holds a certificate in History and Literature. He is a social political critique, good creative writer and a poet.
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