85 percent Ugandans oppose age limit amendment

A survey conducted by a section of civil society organizations has indicated that 85 percent of Ugandans do not support the proposed constitutional amendment to lift the cap on the presidential age.

The study, titled Citizen’s Perceptions on the Proposed Amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution was commissioned by Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy (CEEDU) and Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform (UGMP).

The survey sampled 50,429 citizens in 80 constituencies across the country. It covered 22,926 females and 27,503 male respondents.

The findings released in Kampala on Friday indicate that 95 percent of citizens in Eastern Uganda do not support the proposed age limit removal. In Northern Uganda, 86 percent of the respondents rejected the proposal, while 76 percent of respondents in western Uganda objected. Buganda had the least rejection rate of 66 percent.

Kyegegwa North in Tooro sub-region has the largest number of citizens supporting the amendment of the constitution to remove the presidential age limit with 92 percent of the sampled population in the area endorsing the amendment. The one question survey didn’t delve into the reasons for supporting or rejecting the age limit amendment.

In Igara East, 83 percent of the sampled females and 88 percent males don’t support the amendment. The constituency is represented by Raphael Magyezi, the mover of the private member’s Bill on which the proposed amendment is based.

Constituencies such as Mbale Municipality, Bulamogi (Kaliro District) Bungokho South (Mbale District) registered 100 percent rejection rates.

The Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS) Executive Director Godber Tumushabe who presented the survey findings at Olive Gardens, Bugolobi said it shows Ugandans are unanimously opposed to the constitutional amendment.

He said the findings also mean that government needs to subject the amendment to serious public scrutiny.

The report suggests that there is a need for parliament to come up with minimum standards on conducting consultations on matters concerning constitutional amendments.

The report also suggests that there is a disconnect between the assumptions made by MPs about the people they represent on amending the age limit.

The three-months survey conducted between September, October and November was supposed to cover 100 constituencies but Tumushabe says it fell short of the targets because some research assistants were arrested or data confiscated by security agencies.

Dr Livingstone Sewanyana, the Executive Director of Foundation for Human Rights Initiative says the survey shows amendment of the constitution is not a priority for Ugandans.

He says Ugandans would like to see government tackle pressing challenges such as unemployment, poor remuneration of government employees as shown by striking government employees.

The Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee which is handling the Bill is now retreating at Lake Victoria Serena Resort- Kigo to draft the report anticipated to be presented to parliament on Tuesday next week.

Meeting Museveni
The committee chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth met the President Yoweri Museveni on Tuesday, December 5 who told them that Ugandans should have a final say on who leads them.

During the meeting, Museveni argued that the presence of age limits for any elective office goes against Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution, the bedrock of that supreme law, which says “Power belongs to the people.”

Since Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country, the President said, they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who should lead them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely “legalistic…If someone votes, why can’t he be voted for?” the President wondered.

The amendment has been interpreted as a ploy to give Museveni a leeway to contest again for the presidency. Museveni who has been in power since 1986 will be aged 77 in 2021 when Uganda is supposed to have the next presidential election.

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