- The worried narrator speaks of happenings 35 years ago, when his little brother, Yokana and his fiancée, Diana, were killed during the war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power. He says he escaped narrowly on that occasion.
- “I still hear the sound of gunshots blistering through the air, snuffing out all our dreams with every bullet,” the narrator says. “While a new President came to power, my only family and all my hopes and dreams were lost. We cannot shoulder the cost of violent political change again.”
Kampala. A video bearing a passionate message by an unnamed narrator is being shared on WhatsApp.
The worried narrator speaks of happenings 35 years ago, when his little brother, Yokana and his fiancée, Diana, were killed during the war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power. He says he escaped narrowly on that occasion.
“I still hear the sound of gunshots blistering through the air, snuffing out all our dreams with every bullet,” the narrator says. “While a new President came to power, my only family and all my hopes and dreams were lost. We cannot shoulder the cost of violent political change again.”
“Speak out about the lifting of age limit,” the narrator says, introducing the subject of his latest worry.
Activity around the rumoured plans to amend Article 102 of the Constitution to enable Mr Museveni to run for president in 2021, having already surpassed the current age cap of 75 years, is already frantic.
Apart from the video, social media is awash with many other initiatives.
Heated discussions are happening in a WhatsApp group that also has some ministers and ruling party MPs as members, for example.
The ministers and MPs, some of whom have publicly spoken in favour of lifting the age limit to the presidency, are constantly accosted by members, who are opposed to the idea, with the discussions often degenerating into open quarrels.
In another initiative, activists have collated the telephone numbers of all MPs in the 10th Parliament, on whose shoulders the decision to lift the age cap could eventually rest if a Constitution amendment Bill is tabled in the House with that clause.
The phone numbers are being widely shared on WhatsApp with pleas for people to call their MPs and urge them not to change the Constitution. In yet another initiative, some Ugandans have drafted petitions addressed to President Museveni, copies of which we have seen, urging him not to change the age limit for the presidency.
Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, who could be charged with tabling the rumoured amendment proposals, was not in the mood to speak to us, saying he had no comment on the subject.
But in an earlier story by the Observer newspaper, Gen Otafiire was quoted as urging Ugandans to be patient and wait to see whether the rumoured amendments will be tabled, in which case the will of Ugandans, he said, will prevail.
But the waiting is arousing anxiety among Ugandans, hence the initiatives to try and stop the plan for lifting presidential age limit.
Sunday Monitor reached out to a number of individuals involved in these early initiatives to prevent the lifting of the age limit to the presidency and members of the ruling party and security services.
The picture that emerges is that a comprehensive plan has already been drawn to see through the lifting of the age limit and an initial deadline to have achieved the amendment has been set for end of 2018.
Multiple sources told this newspaper that the designers of the plan favour a quick and early move so that by the time arrangements for the 2021 elections begin, the amendment to the Constitution will already be some distance in the past.
“They are keen to ensure that the amendment is a distinctly different affair from the 2021 elections,” one source told Sunday Monitor.
President Museveni, who officially turns 73 in September, will be only four months shy of 77 by the time his current term expires in May 2021. He will legally be able to rule beyond 75 years old because the Constitution only prescribes age at standing for election and does not require one to relinquish the presidential official if they hit maximum age in the course of their term.
Mr Museveni has already benefitted from a change of the Constitution, when in 2005 the two five-year term cap to the presidency was removed. Both the term and age limits were written into the 1995 Constitution, whose making Mr Museveni was accused by colleagues like Dr Kizza Besigye of having tightly controlled.
If the two five-year term limit had been observed, Mr Museveni would be over a decade into his retirement, having hung his political gloves in 2006.
The removal of the term limits in 2005 was in a way sweetened by the return to multiparty politics, which Mr Museveni’s ruling Movement had proscribed for the first decade of their rule.
It therefore appeared like give-and-take, with Mr Museveni’s opponents being allowed some leeway to organise through their parties while Mr Museveni had the road block to extending his rule removed.
A source conversant with the ongoing plotting to remove age limit to the presidency told this reporter that as a sweetener, the proposal to remove age limit will come alongside another proposal to reinstate term limits, so that one may be elected president at any age, but may not rule beyond two terms.
The discussion around this, we have been told, has explored whether then Mr Museveni, who is into his fourth decade as President, would not be deemed ineligible to run again, having done much more than two terms during the current constitutional order. We are told an exception for him in this regard is being broached.
When Mr Museveni pushed through with the lifting of term limits in 2005, another leader, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, then president of Nigeria, failed to push through a similar amendment in Nigeria despite having paid a visit to Mr Museveni late during his presidency in what was widely interpreted as an attempt at seeking advice.
In the current planning for lifting the age limit, this reporter has been told, a team was sent to Burundi on a fact-finding mission.
Burundi president Pierre Nkrunziza plunged his country in bloodshed when he insisted on running for a third term despite an existing two-term limit to the presidency.
Mr Nkrunziza argued that he had only served one term under the existing constitutional order and was entitled to running for another term since his first term predated the constitution. Scores were killed, a coup was announced but quelled, many Burundians fled the country as refugees. (NMG)