President Yoweri Museveni has said that the presence of age limits for any elective office goes against Article 1 of the 1995 Constitution, the bedrock of that supreme law, which says “Power belongs to the people.”
Since Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country, the President said, they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who should lead them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely “legalistic.”
“If someone votes, why can’t he be voted for?” President Museveni told Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee which had called on him yesterday (Tuesday) at State House, Entebbe, to seek his views on the proposed amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution.
The committee is scrutinising the private members Bill, presented to Parliament by Hon. Raphael Magyezi, which seeks to scrap the 35 and 75-year lower and upper age limits for candidates seeking the Presidency.
Committee Chairman, Hon. Jacob Oboth Oboth (West Budama South), who led the team of legislators, said they had sought the President’s views as a former Presidential Candidate and leader of a Political Party.
He revealed that President Museveni was the last witness to be interviewed by the Committee, which would then retreat to write its report that will be tabled in Parliament for debate.
At the Tuesday interaction, the MPs asked President Museveni a host of questions surrounding the age limit debate and he comprehensively responded to each of them in a session lasting about two hours.
Africa’s unique challenges
President Museveni told the committee that Uganda and Africa still face a number of challenges among them being under-developed and backward, and therefore, search for leadership in the continent must be tailored to her needs with focus on substance not form.
“In a continent like Africa, where we have had a leadership crisis and still faced with many challenges, we need to be flexible, not merely legalistic and utilise all the potential from both the young and old. This is because it is more about our safety, survival and prosperity and not who leads us on that journey,” President Museveni said.
Citing cases of the United States of America, China, Russia and Israel, among others, President Museveni explained that many of these countries, in their push to develop and transform, had been guided by leaders who were of advanced age and led the countries for decades.
“Israel has since 1948 been rotating leaders young and old. Today Israel is a super power yet in a largely hostile environment. The great leaders that transformed China, Deng Xiaoping and Deng Yingchao, were of advanced age,” said President Museveni.
“The great United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchhill was leader up to the age of 81 and offered some of the best leadership to his country.”
President Museveni also cited the case of Tunisia, which in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, had seen 91-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi elected President to stabilise the political situation.
He added: “I think the problem of Africans is concentrating on trivialities yet our issues should be about the African destiny and how to guarantee our future.”
The President also noted that another problem was the “shallowness” of some political actors on the African scene, “who seem to say our interest is to improve curriculum vitae (CVs) of individuals. They want to say ‘eyaliko President’. We are not here to give jobs to people”.