Following demands by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi for the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to be reconstituted, the government chief whip has added six new ruling party members – probably to ensure that if it comes to a vote on the ‘age limit bill’ the ‘ayes’ will have it.
Until early this week, the committee comprised 23 members, 13 of them ruling party MPs but whose support is either doubted or are openly opposed to Magyezi’s Constitution Amendment Bill (No 2) 2017, which aims to scrap presidential age limits.
Ruth Nankabirwa’s announcement on Wednesday comes as a relief to Magyezi and most likely allays any fears that his bill would be frustrated at the committee stage.
The bill tabled on September 28 has since attracted controversy, with the masses across the country accusing the NRM of hatching a life presidency for their party chairman, Gen Yoweri Museveni.
Although she did not give reasons, Nankabirwa designated almost all the new MPs from four new districts and who recently won by-elections with the active participation of the president in their respective campaigns to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
They include Brenda Suubi Asinde (Iganga Woman MP), Robert Kasule Ssebunya (Nansana Municipality), Rose Lilly Akello (Kaabong Woman MP), Prossy Akampurira Mbabazi (Rubanda Woman MP), Taban Amin (Kibanda North) and Caroline Kamusiime (Rukiga Woman MP).
Magyezi had earlier complained that several members of that committee, mostly from the opposition, had openly expressed bias towards his bill, which seeks to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution to remove the 35-75 age cap for presidential candidates.
As it stands, the article would disqualify Museveni, 73, from running for re-election and extending his 31-year rule in 2021 as he will be older than the upper limit of 75 years.
Magyezi said opposition MPs and some NRM members on that committee needed to be replaced with neutral ones. The six legislators added to the committee, which is chaired by the ruling party, now brings the total number of MPs on the legal committee to 29. Nankabirwa’s calculation, may be that the new faces would be easier to be whipped into line.
The NRM lays claim to 19 members; two are from the Forum for Democratic Change; two from the Democratic Party and six Independents.