President Yoweri Museveni has said politics is about ideology and service and not a sport where one needs to compete physically. On the proposal to increase the of term of office for the President from five to seven years, Museveni said the leaders in Africa have much more to do and need adequate time to develop the continent and saw no harm in having longer terms. This appears to be another indication that the 73-year-old leader is determined to have the constitution amended and presidential age limits removed to enable him stay on beyond 2021 when his current term of office ends.
This appears to be another indication that the 73-year-old leader is determined to have the constitution amended and presidential age limits removed to enable him stay on beyond 2021 when his current term of office ends.
In an interview with NTV in 2005, Museveni had categorically stated that if a country needs very active leaders, "it is good to have those below the age of 75."
However, on Tuesday evening, Museveni who has been in power for 31 years told Members of Parliament sitting on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee that the presence of age limits for elective offices is against Article 1 of the Constitution.
"The presence of age limits for any elective office goes against Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution, the bedrock of that supreme law, which says "Power belongs to the people," said President Museveni.
During the interface, Museveni seems to have moved full circle on his initial position on presidential age limits and whether he will offer himself for reelection in 2021 when he will be above 75.
The MPs led by the Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth on Tuesday set off in the afternoon to meet Museveni at State House Entebbe over the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017.
The Bill tabled before parliament by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi seeks to among others repeal Article 102(b) which caps the presidential age to between 35 and 75 years.
According to those opposed to the amendment, the move would eliminate the last hurdle for President Museveni to seek reelection when his term of office ends in 2021.
A statement from State House quotes Museveni as saying Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country and that they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who leads them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely "legalistic".
"If someone votes, why can't he be voted for?" Museveni asked MPs who had gone to seek his views on the now controversial Bill. The Committee Chairperson Oboth-Oboth reportedly said that his committee was seeking views from Museveni as a former presidential candidate and leader of a political party.
The President also dismissed the notion that the amendment was tailored to benefit him, pointing out that the removal of the minimum limit for presidential candidates would instead give room to more young people who had been locked out to have a chance to run for the presidency.
The President also attacked the opposition saying they had nothing constructive to offer. Museveni's comments followed MPs' concerns about the hostility of the Opposition to the bill exhibited during the course of the age-limit debate.
The Opposition MPs sitting on the committee boycotted the meeting with President Museveni accusing him of being the sole beneficiary of the Bill.
All the MPs who met the President at State House are from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party while others are NRM-leaning Independents.
Other MPs who interfaced with Museveni include Vice Chairperson Robinah Rwakoojo, Gaster Mugoya, Aston Kajara, Veronica Elagu, Robert Ssebunya, Jackson Kafuzi, Sam Bitangaro, Richard Gafabusa, Paul Akamba, Rose Lilly Akello, Otto Macmot and Ongalo Obote among others.
Museveni, however, accused the opposition of intolerance and ideological bankruptcy saying they have nothing to offer to the country.
"They are desperate because the Movement has revamped the economy and generated revenue and we are able to deliver to the population. They now think that the only way to get rid of the Movement is to do away with particular players," he noted.
Museveni also dismissed claims that incumbency gives him an edge over his opponents, saying it instead placed a bigger burden on the candidate as the voters' expectations are higher.
"Incumbency in a way is a disadvantage. You get blamed all the time," he said, adding that where incumbents have been unpopular like it was with Kenneth Kaunda in Zambia in 1991, Kamuzu Banda in Malawi in 1994 and several other cases, they have lost elections.
Speaks Out on Term Limits
On whether presidential term limits should reinstated as a trade-off for the removal of age limits, the President said that at this stage of development, limits are not the most important issue for Uganda because the country has more pressing concerns.
He used the example of the United States where presidential term limits were only introduced in 1947, more than 150 years after they became a republic.
"It took America more than a century and half while developing their economy and political class to put presidential term limits in their constitution. When they finally did so in 1947, everything they wanted had happened. They had developed, the colonies had integrated. But here; what has happened? In Africa you behave like we are running countries and yet we are creating countries," he said.
Constitutional Review Commission
Speaking about the Constitutional Review Commission to handle several proposed amendments, the President said he had instructed the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister to handle the matter.
On the overwhelming support his government is giving to the private member's Bill, Museveni explained that his party had supported Magyezi's Bill because he had indicated that time was running out for amendments to do with elections following the Supreme Court's directive that they must be done within two years after the 2016 elections.
Asked about what he thought about retirement requirements for civil servants at 60 years and judges at 70 years vis-à-vis politicians, the President said the two were radically different.
"Civil servants and judges are about service. They are hired to provide a service. Politics, on the other hand is about representation. Do not mix service with representation. Service is technical," said the President.
He added: "Drunkards will meet in a bar and elect their fellow drunkard to represent them. Representation is about speaking for people, negotiating, lobbying. It is a different form of service from the technical type."
Supports Longer Presidential Term
On the proposal to increase the of term of office for the President from five to seven years, Museveni said the leaders in Africa have much more to do and need adequate time to develop the continent and saw no harm in having longer terms.
"For these countries with all these problems, two terms of five years is just a joke. Those who talk about this are just looking at improving their CVs. We might not discuss it now but there is merit at looking at the seven years. It would give some time to these young countries to develop. France has seven-year terms, I do not see what they have lost," said Museveni.
The latest proposal is being spearheaded by, among others, Arua Municipality MP Ibrahim Abiriga.