Crispin Kaheru, CCEDU

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It is quite unfortunate that at a time when Uganda is struggling with evils such as insecurity characterized by unresolved murders; widespread land evictions; natural disasters and unabated corruption, some politicians have in that heat of the moment chosen to instead pay attention to promoting and sponsoring debate around the amendment of article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution of Uganda – to remove the age limits (35 – 75) for presidential candidates. First, this not only demonstrates how non-empathetic the agents of that debate are but it also speaks volumes to the levels of insensitivity that exist in Uganda as a whole.

With the hierarchy of issues that the country is facing now as already enumerated, the discussion on age limit would ideally be at the lowest of the ladder. But be that as it may, we have to contend with it, because it is now here before us. To amend or not to amend article 102(b) is an issue of the Constitution. In my humble understanding, once you move to touch on the Constitution, then you have advanced to touch on the heart and soul of the nation.

No discussion around the Constitution can be deemed complete without summoning the entire nation to pronounce itself on any alterations being made. Therefore, any discussions on Constitution amendments must reflect the will of the people – not just the will of their representatives. If there is going to be anything such as a discussion around the amendment of the Constitution, members of Parliament must in all honesty consult with their constituencies and represent the voice of their electorate. The bottom line is, citizens must stand at the center of any discussions around the Constitution – if it is truly their constitution.

There must be a genuine consultative process to determine if that soul of the nation must or must not be tinkered with. But in any case, where we stand now at the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reasons as to why we must at this point in time amend article 102(b) and not any other articles in the Constitution. There has been longstanding pursuits from nearly all quotas of society to amend article 105 of the Constitution to reinstate two-five-year term limits on the presidency – these calls have not been heeded; what makes the amendment of article 102(b) a matter of life and death?

Again, why amend it before it is tested to know whether or not it is defective? Someone once said, “if it ain't broke, don't fix it”. Some of those in positions of influence seem to be pre-occupied with fixing things that are not broken and leaving those that are (too) broken unfixed. A few years ago the country pronounced itself on the need to amend article 60 of the Constitution to have the Electoral Commission (EC) appointed through a public, transparent and competitive process – rather than it being appointed just by the President; many elections have come and gone by, and the mode of appointment of the EC has not been changed. And here we are confronted with elections that go challenged every time, leading to endless by-elections; by-elections where lots of money is injected with little or no return on investment.

What makes the removal of the age limits a case of emergency at this particular point? Again, isn’t it more urgent to deal with the insecurity that is resulting into multiple murders and death of Ugandans every other day? Is it not more crucial to deal with the creeping culture of impunity in both public and private spaces? How I wish I could be helped to understand how the amendment of article 102(b) will foster peace and social cohesion in an increasingly divided and intolerant society that we are seeing. What sort of loss will the country face if the age limits are not tampered with? Will global stock markets crash or will Uganda cease to exist?

How will the amendment of article 102(b) create more jobs for Ugandans, generate more power, fix the bad roads? Will it take the economy out of the debilitated position in which it currently is? Only how I wish I were told that the amendment will ease the terrible traffic jams in Kampala or better still reduce the cost of public administration, curb poverty, reduce the rising inequality and sort out the wave of disasters.

Those routing for the amendment should show Ugandans how the change will create more investment opportunities for Uganda, result into better quality social services, provide food to the hunger stricken or better still, drive the country to a middle income status. Where we stand now, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation between removing age limits from the Constitution and delivering on those things that Ugandans want and need most. Proponents of the amendment could easily pass for self-seekers who are sightless to the plight of Ugandans. This is a sting project and the promoters can only be seen as individualistic and opportunistic figures who may, for all we know, be exploring their own vested interests and personal gain out of this venture.

It ain’t broken, don’t fix it!

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