Full Text: Religious Leaders Position on the 'Age-Limit' Debate

3397 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Rt. Hon. Speaker, although the Presidential Age Limit is not an entrenched constitutional provision, we would like to counsel that the matter is critical that it be subjected to the attention of all the citizens via countrywide conversations or a national dialogue.

 PROPOSED AMENDMENT OF THE PRESIDENTIAL AGE LIMIT (ARTICLE 102 (b)
PETITION TO THE SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT
 
Dear Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament,

Preamble

On September 12th, 2017; some NRM Members of Parliament (MPs) convened and passed a resolution to support a motion for a motion for a Private Member's Bill seeking to amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995).

The rising tempo that followed in regard to the on-going campaign for and against the removal of the Presidential age limit as per Article 102(b) is, to say the least, worrying. Both sides have failed to take heed of the Speaker's advice to refrain from expending their energies speculating on an issue that has not, hitherto, been brought to the floor of Parliament. The President himself has guided Members of the Parliament and public that this debate is unnecessary and referred those engaged in the debate on presidential age limit as "idlers."

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda wishes to pronounce itself on this matter owing to its gravity and potential ramifications for peace and stability of our country.

For one to capture the spirit within which the Constitution was made, it is appropriate to read the PREAMBLE. It is categorically stated that Uganda's Constitution was influenced by the nation's history, characterized by political and constitutional instability.

It recognizes the struggles against the forces of tyranny, oppression and exploitation; and commits to building a better future by establishing a socio-economic and political order through a popular and durable national Constitution based on the principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress.

Rt. Hon. Speaker, it is our esteemed view that the issue of age limit is neither a partisan issue nor a monopoly of pro-NRM and opposition politicians. The issue is national in character and the debate should be cascaded to the people of Uganda, as they are constitutionally mandated to determine the destiny of our nation (Article 1 of the Constitution (1995).

 We believe that the framers of our Constitution did a good job for four years collecting views from all Ugandans. They thoroughly reviewed our turbulent history and sought to safeguard our Constitution to secure a stable future and ensure a peaceful transition of power, which until now, we have never had as a country.

They realized that it is not enough to have regular elections; those elections must be free and fair and held on a level ground. It was against this background that, in their wisdom, they inserted two major provisions on the age and term limits as safeguards against plunging the country into another round of political turbulence, tyranny and despotic rule.
 
The first major safeguard on term limits was removed without being tested. Now the second safeguard is being threatened. As religious leaders, we strongly believe that as a nation, we can build posterity and attain prosperity, if we build a nation on a culture of respecting the Constitution.

Great leaders are distinguished from transactional leaders by the way they respect fundamental rules that govern society. Members of Parliament occupy an important space in our Nation's governance that they should not desecrate the sanctity of our Constitution.

Rt. Hon. Speaker, proponents of removal of age limit have suggested that Article 102 is discriminatory. We believe that an eligibility criterion for any office is put there for an objective purpose and not as a tool for discrimination.

Indeed, there are minimum requirements for leaders at various levels, including education standards and retirement age for all civil servants. It is within this context that we do need to retain the age limit for the position of a President, the Fountain of Honor.

Rt. Hon. Speaker, it is also presumptuous to defend the removal of age limit by comparing Uganda to other countries that do not have a cap on the age of presidential aspirants.  As expressly stated in our Constitution's preamble, our nation's turbulent political history has no parallel. This grand singularity should, therefore, necessarily guide our thoughts, intentions and actions.

The way forward


Rt. Hon. Speaker, although the Presidential Age Limit is not an entrenched constitutional provision, we would like to counsel that the matter is critical that it be subjected to the attention of all the citizens via countrywide conversations or a national dialogue. It is significant to note that people have divergent views on the matter, hence the need to soberly listen to all sides without favoring one side and intimidating another.

 Recommendations;

1. The issue of 'age limit' together with 'term limits' should be added to the agenda of the proposed National Dialogue and people should freely talk about them.

2. The two provisions (i.e., age and term limits) should be entrenched so that their removal requires a referendum because of their polarizing nature.

3. The MPs supporting or opposing age limit should first seek advice and opinions from the constituents.
 

4. Security agencies should stop harassing one side and favour another (i.e those for lifting the age limit and those opposed to it).
  
5. The debate on age limit should be based on principles and not positions, dwelling on individuals instead of emphasizing the common good and posterity.
 
6. A Constitutional Review Commission should be established to address all issues of electoral reforms that were pronounced by the Supreme Court in its ruling on the 2016 election petition.
  
7. Parliament should call upon the president to address the Nation and dispel the mounting concerns that the promoters of amending Article 102(b) are doing it on his behalf, even when he publicly disavowed the debate and has been consistently clear that he does not intend to contest for president beyond 75 years.
 
Signed this 18th day of September 2017
 
1. His Eminence Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, Grand Mufti of Uganda, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council, Chairman, IRCU Council of Presidents
 
2. His Grace the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop, Church of the Province of Uganda, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents
  
3. His Eminence Metropolitan Jonah Lwanga, Archbishop, Uganda Orthodox Church, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents
 
4. Pr. Dr Daniel Matte, President, Seventh-day Adventist Uganda Union, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents
  
5. His Grace Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga, Archbishop, Kampala Archdiocese, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents
 
6. Apostle Dr Joseph Serwadda, President, Born Again Faith in Uganda, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents
  
7. Bishop Joshua Lwere, General Overseer, National Alliance of Pentecostal and Evangelical Churches in Uganda, Co-Chair, IRCU Council of Presidents

 

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.