The misguided attempts by a coterie of opposition MPs, and the usual NRM attention-seekers to violently obstruct Raphael Magyezi, MP Igara West, from tabling his Constitutional Amendment Bill in parliament has fallen through, and so the Bill was formally tabled for First reading and referred to the committee on Legal and Parliamentary affairs for detailed consideration.
During this period, it is expected that different stakeholders including the general public will have an opportunity to state their case justifying why the constitution should or shouldn’t be amended as Magyezi has proposed which ought to be the normal dynamics in a functioning democracy.
Fortunately, Magyezi presented his proposals which among others seek to vary the period for filing petition, holding presidential re-run, fresh elections in case of annulment, and allowing those below 35 years to run for president, district and sub-county chairperson to the NRM caucus and received overwhelming support through a vote.
The backing by NRM MPs, who constitute over two thirds, as well as some independents, is a strong political signal that the proposals may indeed easily succeed contrary to the rancor being raised by the opposition, and sections of partisan and dishonest civil society, academia, and media.
The endorsements set ground for NRM party organs to robustly engage the general public so that as MPs hold consultations in their respective constituencies, consensus and convergence on different issues are generated amicably. Some of the disquiet within NRM is partly because official position hasn’t been harmonised, and it’s hoped that with time many of the naysayers, some, busybody self-seekers, will return to the fold.
However, NRM must reject the infertile proposal by Sam Lyomoki seeking to ‘grant immunity’ to President Museveni from prosecution once he retires from office because he (Museveni) hasn’t committed any crimes with impunity, and therefore doesn’t need it. We must avoid giving leaders the false impression that they can behave with impunity expecting immunity in future.
Lyomoki’s self-attention seeking ruse should be exposed. The NRM, led by President Museveni ended impunity by state functionaries and cannot be seen shielded from deliberate bad political behaviour. It is naïve of Lyomoki who behaves like a lone misguided missile publicly insulting colleagues who support the age limit removal and are a majority, to now expect his proposal to succeed without them.
While we know that the decision will be made by MPs, supporters of the age limit amendment, win the national argument if we make our case all over Uganda among NRM supporters, opposition, and general public as it offers us a direct and honest connection with the public.
Recent NRM victories in bye-elections and new constituencies strongly suggests the NRM has support and therefore shouldn’t fear debate however hostile the opposition has polluted the environment. In fact, resources permitting, we could even dare them to a non-binding national referendum or district council resolutions on age limit removal specifically tagging President Museveni, and prove if they can win it.
Those opposed to the amendments should equally engage democratically with the diverse public to logically solidify their justification, and if possible convince the majority, especially NRM MPs to reject the amendment by denying Magyezi the two thirds required at each stage of passing the motions. Certainly, it will be an uphill task for the opposition and its allies, but they should demonstrate that they are ready to move from hollow resistance to power.
But unfortunately, it is the kind of campaign the opposition is running, and much of the issues they are raising that make them pale in the age limit duel, because by constantly pointing at President Museveni they admit their collective inability to defeat him. Merely stating President Museveni’s alleged mistakes, failures and broken promises to Ugandans doesn’t add much value because citizens evaluate him using different multiple scales.
The opposition and sections of the partisan civil society, and religious leaders have been out and about weighting in the unfolding drama claiming to be representing the ‘true’ will of Ugandans, which many of us doubt. Last week, when FDC president Mugisha Muntu was asked if FDC would make submissions to the committee, he said it was ‘pointless’, a sign he is incapable of offering strategic leadership and direction.
This is because even if the opponents of the age limit campaign don’t end in victory on this single issue, there is value in mobilizing the people and offers them an opportunity to build local and possibly national infrastructure to effectively compete in 2021. Their worry that Museveni is unstoppable in a straight general universal adult suffrage because he ‘enjoys’ state privileges is hollow and proof of their collective inability to organise better.
And while no law or parliamentary procedures have been breached, Catholic prelate, Archbishop John Baptist Odama of northern Uganda even had the ludicrous audacity to allege that amending the constitution was tantamount to committing “treason,” for which government leaders must be resisted by all means possible.
Unfortunately for Odama and his ilk, they don’t have the monopoly to infinite wisdom or access to the Ugandans on whose behalf they always purport to speak on matters spiritual and temporal. Very soon, they will be disproved as having peddled the narrow view.