The AgeLimit Bill Update (#Togikwatako)

What would be the outcome and what impact could it have on ordinary Ugandans?

It has been an action packed two days in the parliament of Uganda. On Monday 19 December 2017, the legal and parliamentary affairs committee presented the majority and minority reports to the house for debate. However, nothing much was discussed as the house went down in legal arguments over procedural matters.

Hon. Odonga Otto led the charge citing that the session was illegal since Hon Raphael Magezi was granted leave of office to prepare the age limit amendment bill when the opposition members of the house were not present in the house and, yet this is a multi-party democracy. Because of the verbal chaos, Hon Allan Sewanyana, Hon Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, Hon Jonathan Odur & Hon Akol Tony were suspended from the house.

There were debates as to whether that suspension was legal since the speaker, Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga adjourned the house before handing out the suspension yet she was supposed to suspend the MPs before adjourning the session. Some of the suspended parliamentarians like Hon Allan Sewanyana face up to 7 days out of the house since it’s their second suspension while the others face 3 days.

Hon Jacob Oboth Oboth presented the majority report and Hon Monica Amoding, who belongs to the National Resistance Movement party, presented the minority report opposing the constitutional amendment. A debate ensued on the suspension of article 201(2) of the parliamentary rules of procedure. Which gives the legislators 3 days to read and internalize the reports presented by the committees of parliament after deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana requested to suspend the article 201(2) to fast track the discussion using article 16 of the same rules of procedure. The speaker adjourned the seating to Tuesday 19 December 2017.

On Tuesday, the speaker questioned the committee on parliamentary and legal affairs where they got the idea to add the return of the term limits and extension of the presidential term of office which was not included in the initial bill. Jacob Oboth Oboth, the chairperson of the committee responded that they picked up ideas from submissions by several witnesses who appeared before the committee including among others former Makerere university Vice Chancellor Professor Venansius Baryamureeba.

More drama ensued when the legislators presented suspicions to the house that there were security operatives hiding in the parliament’s Anglican and Roman Catholic chapels. Plates and cups were found in the chapels proving that indeed there were people camping out in there. There was a scuffle with security when the parliamentarians tried to take the utensils retrieved from the chapels to the speaker inside the chambers of parliament. Debate later returned to normal, Hon Adolf Mwesigwa argued that the 5-year term is not enough for the legislators to serve their constituents.

According to him, the first year is spent getting acquainted to the house, the second and third years participating in parliamentary duties, the fourth year is concentrated of getting re-elected in the party primaries and the final year is spent trying to get re-elected into the house. Therefore, the president and parliamentarians need 7 years to serve efficiently. To be decided by a referendum.

The anti-constitutional amendment side got its major boost from Kyadondo East member of parliament , musician Robert Kyagulanyi Sentamu alias Bobi Wine who presented a passionate plea for the constitution not to be tempered with citing the surveys carried out by several civil society organisations which showed that 85 percent of Ugandans were not in favour of the constitutional amendment. And giving a brief history of the parliament in Uganda and how the people have little trust in their representatives. Voting on the bill shall take place on Wednesday, 20 December 2017.

The National Resistance Movement has a total of 293 members in the tenth parliament, Forum for Democratic Change has 36 members, the Democratic party has 15, Uganda People’s Congress has 6, the independent members make 66 and special representatives (army, workers, people with disabilities) 25. In total the house has 436 members of parliament. Of these, the winning side needs to get the magic number of 290 votes, two thirds of the house to either nay or yay to the constitutional amendment as more drama unfolds

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