A significant majority of Ugandans are opposed to the idea of adjusting the constitution’s Article 102 (b) to rid the presidential age limit.
The research places this majority at 75 percent, drug with only 24 percent supporting the removal of the age limit. The latter believe that blocking a person aged 75 and above from running for president is discriminatory.
The research was conducted by Afrobarometer, — a survey project that measures citizens’ attitudes on democracy and governance – between December 26 2016 and January 8 this year.
Afrobarometer says it sampled up to 1200 Ugandans, from all five regions of the country with rural/urban areas in proportion to their share in the national population.
The debate on the age limit largely hinges on President Yoweri Museveni who is serving his fifth and last term according to the current constitutional provisions. He will clock the maximum age of 75 before the next general elections in 2021.
The President is disinclined to discussing this topic at length, insisting every time it comes up that he “will follow Uganda’s constitution.”
In an interview with Aljazeera recently when asked about this constitutional change, the president said, “I cannot change the Constitution because I do not have that power.”
Reports however, continue to suggest that plans are in motion inside his ruling NRM party, to tamper with the constitution once again to his favour.
One such attempt was nipped in the bud late last year, when Member of Parliament, Hon. Robert Kafeero Ssekitooleko sought to introduce a Bill in Parliament that would seek, among other things, to raise the retirement age of Judges and to provide electoral commissioners with life tenure; seemingly as a stepping stone for the removal of the presidential age limit.
A few days ago, opposition FDC’s Col Dr Kizza Besigye alluded to this ongoing ploy, suggesting rather luridly that government has been orchestrating the lasted wave of murders in different parts of the country to cause fear, as a way of diverting people’s attention from the constitutional amendment.
If the findings of this report are anything to go by, NRM members of parliament rooting for the removal of the age limit could be facing an uphill task of getting support from their constituents.
Such shots at emending the national constitution to benefit individual interests have many Ugandan political analysts worried about the country’s future.
Makerere University Constitutional Law Lecturer Dr Busingye Kabumba says, it is clear now that the country’s path towards constitutionalism and democracy is difficult; noting that since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution a number of safeguards against the creation and entrenchment an imperial presidency have been whittled down.
In 2005 from instance, Parliament voted to remove the presidential term limit which was restricted to only two.
Meanwhile this Afrobarometer research found that 74% of Ugandans want this very Article [105(2)] of the Constitution reinstated to restore presidential term limits.
The percentage is a significant increase from 67% in Afrobarometer’s survey last year.
On the African continent, presidential term limits are most popular according to Afrobarometer studies, in Benin, (93%) and least popular in Mozambique (50%).