Rugunda exposes Todwong lies that age limit was smuggled into constitution

PM Rugunda

All clauses of the 1995 Constitution were properly debated and rightly included in the final document during the Constituent Assembly, the Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda has said.

Rugunda’s position contradicts that given by the National Resistance Movement, the party in government and to which he subscribes, to the Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs last week.

The NRM party led by its Deputy Secretary General, Hon. Richard Todwong, on Thursday presented a copy of the Official Report of the Constituent Assembly claiming that it was evidence that the Assembly rejected and deleted the proposal to impose lower and upper age restrictions to persons wishing to stand for President.

Dr. Rugunda appeared before the Committee now receiving public views about the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017, which seeks to amend the Constitution and provide for among others, to lift the upper and lower age limits for persons standing for district chair and President.

“I don’t remember any provision to be smuggled into the Constitution (during the Constituent Assembly). All articles were thoroughly debated and passed,” said Dr. Rugunda adding that “I respect people’s views even if they may vary from mine.”

Dr. Rugunda was part of the Constituent Assembly in 1993 – 1995 where he represented Kabaale Municipality.

He said that the Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) Bill, 2017 has the support of Cabinet and the key organs of the NRM including the Central Executive Committee and National Executive Committee as it addresses “key loopholes in the governance of the country.”

Members wondered why government had failed to present its own comprehensive Bill to amend the Constitution or to set up, as promised, a Constitution Review Commission to address all issues in the Constitution and others raised by the Supreme Court during the Amama Mbabazi Vs Yoweri Museveni and others following the 2016 presidential elections.

Members also wondered what conditions had changed since 1995 that a deletion of Art. 102(2) was aiming at improving.

Rugunda admitted that observations and criticisms about government failure to present a comprehensive Constitution amendment Bill were legitimate but added that the private members bill presented by Hon. Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West) addresses issues raised by the Supreme Court during the Amama Mbabazi Vs Yoweri Museveni petition.

He also said that the delay to set up a CRC is due to the consultation process that has taken longer than anticipated, but promised that the Commission will eventually be established.

The Prime Minister said that government supports the proposal to delete Art. 102 (b) “to remove the discriminatory spirit and practice” preventing citizens of sound mind” below 35 years and above 75 years from running for President of Uganda.

“The issue of presidential election should be left to the people to decide. Political parties should be at liberty to determine who their flag bearer is,” said Rugunda adding that “Consideration should be on one’s ability to lead the country to address the challenges facing the people. A leader whether young or old, should be given the opportunity to present himself or herself to the people to make their choice.”

He said that providing more time to file a presidential election petition; for the Supreme Court to determine the petition, and to hold a fresh election after the annulment of a presidential election would provide enough needed time for the processes.