Elders Forum has no Position on Age-Limit – Ogoola

2820 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
The chairman of the forum, retired judge James Ogoola told Uganda Radio Network in a telephone interview that they were unable to appear before the committee because the elders had not convened to come up with an opinion on the Bill.

 The Elders Forum Uganda, an umbrella body for eminent citizens, has turned down an invitation to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament where they were requested to present views on the proposed 'Age Limit' Bill.

The forum is envisioned as a non-state platform providing neutral space for citizens and political actors to exchange ideas and build consensus on issues of national importance. Members of the forum were expected to interface with the committee today, as it draws closer to the conclusion of its public hearings on the controversial bill.

But the chairman of the forum, retired judge James Ogoola told Uganda Radio Network in a telephone interview that they were unable to appear before the committee because the elders had not convened to come up with an opinion on the Bill.

"We gave our apologies, we are not able to make it today," said Ogoola.

Asked whether the Elder's Forum will appear at a later stage to present their opinion after carrying out the necessary consultations, Justice Ogoola without giving a definite answer said 'we are working on that.'

The Elders Forum now joins the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda-IRCU, Makerere University Law Dons and former Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi, Women's Democracy Network and others who have previously written to the committee declining to appear as requested.

Sources on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee also told URN that when contacted on Tuesday evening, Justice Ogoola noted that the Forum has not had time to consult its membership for them to come up with a position on the Bill. The source said that the retired Principal Judge of the High Court was non-committal on whether the Forum will appear before the committee on a future date. 

However, Justice Ogoola while meeting with other elders last month including the former Prime Minister Apollo Nsibambi and former Chief Justice Samuel William Wako Wambuzi criticized those plotting against the presidential age limit cap and wondered why the age limit proponents are rushing to amend the constitution without involving the citizens.

The elders who had convened in Kampala to discuss the proposed national dialogue called for wider consultations and warned that if the Bill is rushed through Parliament, there will be consequences citing that it is likely to sow seeds of disunity in the country and undermine peace and stability.

Besides the Elders Forum, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth was today also expecting National Youth Council and Women's Council. However, officials from these two groups also did not turn up hence calling off the Committee meeting.
 
Instead, the National Youth Council has written back to the committee requesting MPs to extend their appearance to another date preferably late November to allow them first convene the National Youth Council Delegates meeting upon which a common position shall be derived on the matter.

Dated November 13, 2017, the letter signed by Lillian Aber, the Council's Chairperson noted that the National Youth Council Act requires issues like the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2017 to be deliberated on by the entire Council prior to taking a position on the matter.

Tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, the bill seeks to delete article 102(b) of the constitution which caps the age of president candidate between 35 and 75.

According to those opposed to the Bill, once deleted it will give President Yoweri Museveni a legal backing to seek another term of office when his current term ends in 2021. He is now aged 73 and would not be eligible to contest for the seat after more than 30 years in power.

The Bill also seeks to remove the 30-year-old lower cap limit and the 75-year upper cap limit for those contesting for the post of Local council V chairperson provided under Article 183 (2) (b) of the Constitution.

The Bill also seeks to amend Article 61 (2) of the Constitution to give the electoral commission more time for organizing elections before the expiry of the term of the office of the President. Currently, Article 61 (2) requires EC to conduct general elections within the first 30 days of the last 90 days before the expiry of the term of the office of the President.

The Bill proposes an amendment to Article 104 (2), (3) and (6) to provide that a petition challenging a presidential election shall be lodged in the Supreme Court registry within 15 days, up from 10 and that the Supreme Court will inquire into the matter not later than 45 days, up from 30.

 

About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.