African politicians, the constitutions and my mother’s Tin of treats

Uganda,progress or stagnation? 

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Growing up in the serene town of Entebbe on the shores of the breath taking Nalubaale, or as the colonialists named it, Lake Victoria, my mother kept a tin in which she kept all the treats a six-year-old child would dream of. They were usually rewards for good behaviour, she kept tabs on the contents of the said tin to a point that at any moment she knew the exact number of sweets, chocolates or biscuits in the tin. Kids will always be kids, on a few occasions, I tried to sneak in and get a few more extra treats beyond my allocated daily quota, my efforts were always rewarded with a thorough spanking and a week of no treats. I had no choice but to concede defeat and live by the rules.

Last Wednesday 27 September Igara west Member of Parliament Raphael Magezi requested for leave from house duty to draft a private members bill that seeks to amend article 102(b) of Uganda’s constitution which bars anyone older than 75 from running for president. This is widely seen by many as a move to make it possible for the incumbent president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to seek re-election in the 2021 general elections.

Under the current law, the age limit for a presidential candidate is capped between 35-75 years. Museveni at 73 will be ineligible to run for re-election in 2021. The violence that engulfed the house there after makes the few bar brawls witnessed in the past, look like mock ups.

Plain clothes security operatives rumoured to be members of the Special Forces Command, a unit tasked with protecting the president swooped in to bundle out legislators who had prevented proceedings. Shortly before they had been ordered out of the house by speaker Rebecca Kadaga for trying to block the first reading and repeatedly failing to heed the orders of the speaker to maintain silence. This caused outrage among different segments of society. Former Forum for Democratic Change presidential candidate Kizza Besigye has resurrected the infamous Walk to work protests from post-election 2011.

These have been spruced up to include red coloured articles of dress as a sign of protest. Several opposition leaning legislators have promised civil action. The public has been the most vocal with the “TOGIKWATAKO” campaign which literally translates to “Don’t touch it”

But then African politicians have mastered the art of tweaking constitutions to favour the situation at hand. Between 2005-2015, leaders in Senegal, Burkina Faso, Congo Republic, Congo, Uganda and Rwanda worked out ways to extend their terms in office through constitutional or other legal amendments. Gone are the days of military coups. This won’t be the first time Yoweri Museveni tweaks the constitution, in 2005, he changed the constitution to lift presidential term limits which has enabled him to stay in power for 30 years and counting.

It appears that regional organisations like OAU leaders lack the moral authority to address this issue in the continent. For instance, in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame is enjoying a third term, thanks to a referendum that approved constitutional changes that would allow him to stay in power until 2034. In the DRC, Joseph Kabila, president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is widely believed to be engineering a constitutional amendment that would allow him to stay for a third term.

Ordinary people in Uganda and across Africa are far less accepting of the idea of a president serving for life. But countered with brute force, a payoff to a few legislators here and there, in addition to the opposition MPs being outnumbered in the parliament (The ruling National Resistance Movement has 294 seats compared to the 123 of the other parties and independents combined) the age limit bill shall be passed.

For the umpteenth time, a sitting head of state shall tamper with the constitution against the will of millions and put their hands in the national tin of treats. I look back and wonder how I failed to find a cunning way of bypassing my mother’s stringent laws that governed her tin of treats. I guess that’s why I am just a spectator in this game of politics, just not cunning enough for these dirty games of politics in Africa

May God save Africa and Africans from these so-called leaders whose appetite to rule by force is fuelled by their selfish interests and hunger for power.

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