Why The ‘Age Limit Bill’ Could Be Non-Existent

 By Arinaitwe Rugyendo

This week’sTELEPATHY picks from last week’s observation that there is a strong possibility that, while the agitation for lifting the ‘age limit’ cap from the Ugandan constitution is high, the assumed beneficiary, President Yoweri Museveni, might be planning otherwise.

We observed thus:

“While Ugandans are devoting their energy to fighting the Bill thinking it is going to benefit him, Museveni will quietly work out his succession plan and front one of his cohort as the beneficiary.”

Two days ago, details of the ‘controversial’ Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 leaked on several social media platforms. In that document, there was no mention of the controversial proposal to amend Article 102 (b) of the Constitution to remove the age limit cap of 75 years for a person wishing to run for President of Uganda.

Instead, the main thrust of the Bill is to amend article 26 of the Constitution in accordance with articles 259 and 262 of the Constitution to resolve the current problem of delayed implementation of Government infrastructure and investment projects due to disputes arising out of the compulsory land acquisition process. Cabinet argues that the problem of delayed Government projects has caused significant financial loss to the Government amounting to millions of dollars in penalties paid to road contractors for redundant machinery at construction or project sites.

Cabinet then, clearly, spells out the roadmap;

“The procedure for amending article 26 of the Constitution is by Parliament through a bill for an Act of Parliament supported at the second and third readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all members of Parliament as provided for by article 262 of the Constitution.”

If passed by Parliament, the central government and any local government or state authority will be empowered to take possession of any property to pave way for public works after depositing with court compensation amounts awarded by government until disputes over ownership of the said property are resolved. This in essence would allow government projects to proceed without any delay.

From the above, we see that the content of this Bill has nothing to do with article 102 (b). Instead, we see a state hell bent on pushing through the infrastructure agenda and pounding parliament on it very fast like a woodpecker on a tight deadline. What is the meaning of this?

Something unfolding:

My Telepathy tells me the National Resistance Movement (NRM) supreme leader is at that critical stage of building lasting landmarks that might not only be the whole mark of his legacy, they might be defining moments of his presidency.

Like we observed last week, Museveni has very much admiration for the former Tanzanian President Mwalimu Julius Nyerere whose legacy he looks up to.

The man behind this new Bill, Gen Kahinda Otafiire, the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, a well-known consummate intelligence operative, having worked with Museveni since the early days of the NRM Revolution in the 1970s, a known stealth former Director General of External Security Organization (ESO) in the 1990s, a period during which Uganda nearly had a foothold in the vast sub Saharan Africa, is suspiciously behind this wave of ‘age limit’ speculation to divert attention from Museveni’s post-presidential plan. While we yap and yell about the age limit, we are losing sight of something that is quietly unfolding leading up to a surprise turn of events by 2021.

Having firmly resolved the security question, Museveni’s pet subjects- Regional Integration and Infrastructural Development- are the bedrocks of a self sustaining economy he might want to bequeath the country before he quits.

Some factors lend credence to this development.

The first one is the military. A few weeks ago, a number of mid and high level senior ranking military officers were said to be on their way out of the Ugandan military in a process that will end around 2022. Many of these are part of Museveni’s core the pre- and immediate post 1986 fighting force. There is sufficient belief that the Ugandan military has gained ideological professionalization enough to a level that it can withstand any leader at the helm – beyond its founder.

The second factor is the East African Federation dream. This dream is not only Museveni’s but also actually Nyerere’s. But come to think of it. How will it succeed when the rest of the countries, apart from Uganda, have clear political succession plans well laid out in their constitutions? Already, the talk of unease in Tanzania, Kenya and lately Burundi (who now say Uganda has no business preaching term limits to them) about Uganda’s political process not being well aligned with the rest of the boys has been gaining currency. Museveni cannot be the person to scuttle Nyerere’s dream of a united East Africa just because of a constitutional provision. The East African Federation dream is a dream that will only succeed if the five countries’ constitutions are aligned on a generic cross border political culture of respect for the constitution. Museveni being its biggest promoter is consciously aware of this.

The third factor being that Museveni has stated that his name should be delinked from the age limit debate.

In conclusion therefore, the Constitution Amendment 2017 is a very good indicator of things to come. Having fixed Security, Education and Health, Museveni’s last political economy card will be fixing the economy through infrastructure and regional integration. Museveni’s vision cannot hold without these.

Using this Bill, Museveni might want to be remembered as the president who fixed Roads, ICT cables, built Railways, Dams, an Oil Pipeline, an Oil Refinery and Factories, setting a firm foundation for future generations.

 We return next week!

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