Uganda: Opposition Launch New Anti-Age Limit Campaign

Members of Parliament opposed to the new constitutional amendments have announced a new campaign following their futile attempts to stop the removal of the presidential age limits from the Constitution.

On Wednesday, parliament chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga passed the Constitutional Amendment (No.2) Bill, 2017 that scrapped the upper and lower presidential age limit, reinstated term limits and extended the term of parliament from five to seven years.

Now those opposed to the amendments, led by the Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza, have dubbed their new effort “Ko’gikuteko” loosely translated to mean ‘now that you’ve touched it’.

It is a slightly edited phrase from ‘Ko’gikwatako’, or dare touch it’, coined by the Democratic Party early this year to oppose the move to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution. As the age limit debate gained momentum, the campaign changed from Ko’gikwatako to Togikwatako, loosely meaning ‘don’t touch it’.

Even though Kiiza declined to delve into the specifics of what their new campaign will entail, she noted that the opposition was getting ready to challenge the new amendments to the Constitution in court.

“The Togikwatako was a people’s word, they were telling us don’t touch. We want to go back to them and give them the same message; ‘We came to you and collected your views. We tried to give your views, Ugandans saw those who gave the views’.

We just want to go and tell them, some of the people you gave your views, abandoned the views along the way – Ba’gikuteko [they have touched it]. The campaign is now for the people. Did they send us to [touch it]?, I know the answer is no, because even majority of the people who said my people  said ‘yes’ have feared to go to their people”, Kiiza said.

Kiiza states that the opposition will go back to the people during this campaign to seek their views on what they perceive should be the way forward now that their aspirations have been dashed by the new amendments.

Kiiza says that the amendments were against the wishes of over 85% of Ugandans who feel aggrieved and betrayed, warning that the current state of affairs will breed a climate of apprehension that must be addressed before it escalates out of control.

“We have touched it; so what next since we have touched? Do we go by the provisions that are in the new Constitution or we break them? We have to go to the people and find out how they feel and even be able possibly to cool them down otherwise what Ugandans are feeling currently, if there is no body to go and talk to them, you could see fire in the country,” said Kiiza.

She noted that the entire process, right from the tabling of the age limit motion in September by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, has been based on a number of irregularities and illegalities.

Kiiza cited the speaker’s decision to suspend a number of rules of procedure including Rule 98(4) that requires the chamber doors to be closed when voting is being conducted. Kiiza says Kadaga had no right to suspend the rule without a motion being raised by a member of parliament.

“You saw even the speaker becoming a member of parliament, deciding on her own suspend rules. When we went into the voting process, rule 98 and specifically sub rule 4 that when members have gathered and a vote is going to be taken, the doors must be closed…

Actually it goes further to say that no member should be allowed in and no member should be allowed out. The speaker herself even when the voting was going on, allowed members [saying]; can you come from the gallery. Come and vote, the chamber is small’. Yes we accept the chamber is small but that shouldn’t have been the duty of the speaker.

Meanwhile, former Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) president Kizza Besigye has called on Ugandans to push for the reclaiming of their Constitution starting next month.

Besigye said Ugandans were let down by “disgraceful” MPs who lent themselves to the criminal process of amending the Constitution to lift the age limit.

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