By Max Patrico Ocaido
Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has said that inclusion of age and term limits in the Constitution is discriminatory.
Dr. Rugunda said that discriminatory clauses such as age and term limits deny Ugandans their constitutional right to elect their political leaders through a free and fair election.The Prime Minister said this while appearing before the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that is currently scrutinizing the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 dubbed Age limit Bill.
"Let people of Uganda choose their own leaders. Let's not deny Ugandans that chance. It's unfair to have limitations on leaders on basis of age. There is a variation in age; some people are able to perform very well at the age of 70, others not and others perform even beyond 70. Ultimately power belongs to the people, so there should not be any matter of restoring term limits," Dr. Rugunda said.
His response was prompted by NRM's Aston Kajara, Mwenge South County MP who asked if there is need for government to restore presidential term limit that was scrapped off in 2005. Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu also put the Prime Minister to task to explain if he knows of any person before 1995 who contested for president when he/she was below 36 or above 75.
Rugunda however, insisted that Igara West County MP Raphael Magyezi's private member's Bill is consistent with some of the issues in Supreme Court ruling and government is in full agreement with proposed amendment.
"This amendment is proper and should be supported. Uganda like many democracies has given the people through article one of the constitution, the power to elect their leaders through regular free and fair elections. So, the issue of presidential election should be left to the people. A leader; young or old should be given the opportunity to present himself or herself to the people to make their choice," Rugunda said.
He also denied the recent position by NRM deputy secretary general Richard Todwong who while appearing before the same committee a few days ago said that the age limit clause was 'smuggled into the Constitution by members of the Constituent Assembly.'
Rugunda said, "I was part of the Constituent Assembly, and as far as I know, no clause was smuggled into the Constitution. But all in all I wouldn't want to dispute his [Todwong] position because everyone is entitled to their opinion."
Rugunda faced a hard time from opposition MPs who sit on the committee when they put him on the wall to respond with a yes or no on if academic qualifications for political leaders is "discriminatory" or "limitation"
The cunning Prime Minister downplayed the pressure from the MPs saying, "I am the prime minister and a disciplined cadre of the NRM party so I will only give my stand on academic qualification after discussing with my party."
Rugunda told the committee that whereas it is a right to differ in political ideology, there is need to build consensus and live in harmony. He also expressed regrets on the recent raid in Parliament chambers, but cautioned leaders against making unnecessary provocative confrontations.