Constitutional Lawyers Criticise MPs on Age Limit Consultations

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In short
Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa condemned the manner in which the process was conducted. He told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that the consultation targeted the knowledgeable people and was restrictive as MPs already had their positions on the Bill.

Two constitutional lawyers on Tuesday criticised the manner in which Members of Parliament have conducted their consultations on the proposed presidential age limit removal.
                              
Appearing before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa and Peter Mulira rubbished the manner in which the consultations have been carried out.
 
The Committee chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth is currently considering the Constitutional (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017. Tabled last month by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi, the Bill seeks to among others repeal Article 102(b) of the Constitution which puts 35 and 75 as lower and upper caps respectively on the presidential age.
 
According to those opposed to this amendment, the move if okayed by Parliament would eliminate the last hurdle for President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election when his current term of office expires in 2021. Born in 1944 and in power since 1986, President Museveni wouldn't be eligible to contest for the presidency in 2021, since he will be above 75 years of age.
 
MPs were last month given 29 million Shillings by the Parliamentary Commission to carry out consultations on the Bill in their respective constituencies. With a total of 13 billion Shillings spent on 436 MPs, they were required to consult Ugandans from 25th October to 8th November 2017.
 
Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa condemned the manner in which the process was conducted. He told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that the consultation targeted the knowledgeable people and was restrictive as MPs already had their positions on the Bill.
 
"The consultations should be free and include sensitisation of the population about the reasons for the amendments; and the positive and negative possible effects of the amendments. It achieves little if it is handled from the view point of hardened positions that are presented to the people as the correct line," he said.
 
Ssempebwa, who is 2004 chaired the constitutional review commission, said selling party positions to the population, locking out some people and donning various colours for and against the proposals was not useful to the consultation process. 
 
He noted that the consultation process has been characterised by the collection of a few citizens that were whipped to pander to the cameras by both sides over the age limit debate. 
 
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Lawyer Peter Mulira also rubbished the manner in which consultations were carried out.
 
He pointed out that a Constitution is a complicated matter which one does not address at a rally like he has seen several MPs doing. Mulira said that the relevant citizens have not been consulted.
 
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The Members of Parliament are scheduled to make their submissions in writing to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on Tuesday next week.

 

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.