President Yoweri Museveni has commended the 317 Members of Parliament (MPs) who recently voted in favor of the removal of the Presidential age limits, for what he called defying intimidation, malignment and blackmail.
The President said that by passing the constitutional amendments, the MPs chose democracy by making the constitution flexible over neocolonialism.
On December 20, Parliament took to a vote that resulted into the scrapping of the constitutional age caps for one to be an eligible candidate for Presidency. The contentious move had been strongly contested by the opposition which argued that the amendment would pave way for a Museveni life presidency.
A total of 317 MPs, majority in the ruling NRM party voted in favor of the removal of the age limits while 97 voted against it and only 2 abstained.
While delivering his New Year’s message to the nation on Sunday evening, President Museveni said; “I want to thank the 317 MPs who defied intimidation, malignment, blackmail and pep talk for a flexible constitution to deal with the issues of our destiny”.
Museveni spoke in a one hour and fourty five mimutes live televised address from his country home in Rwakitura, Kiruhura district on New Year’s Eve.
He said that the MPs who supported the amendment “have played a crucial role in this historical crossroad” and equated them to the 43 NRA fighters that liberated Uganda from the administration of Milton Obote in 1986.
Museveni labeled the critics of the amendments as “liars” who are frustrating Uganda’s achievements.
“Those liars who talk about Life Presidency should be exposed for what they are – uninformed individuals, evils who do not want Uganda to achieve,” Museveni lashed out.
Contrary to accusations by the opposition that the proponents of the Age Limit Bill were greedy and self seeking, Museveni said that in his political tenure, he has not earned any material gains.
“I heard people talk of greedy politicians. What material benefits do I gain from politics or this government? For the last 52 years, i have worked for either no pay or little pay,” the President stated in his address to the nation.
Alluding to former Tanzanian President, Mwarimu Julius Nyerere’s fight for East African federation many years ago, Museveni said that some causes (like the age limit amendment) are not motivated by selfish interests but rather to serve for future generations.
Earlier, he had castigated the opposition and religious leaders for being agents of “pseudo democracy” and advancing the interests of foreign governments.
“Some of these elements leave undone what they ought to do and do what they ought not to do. There is no truth in them,” he said, making reference to critics of the NRM government.
“They are in cohorts with foreigners to meddle in our politics. The independence we fought for said power belongs to the people through universal suffrage and regular elections not pseudo democracy where power is constrained by term, age limits and education qualifications”.
He further lambasted his critics for concentrating on peripheral issues as opposed to core issues like the fact that the constitution grants Ugandans the power to decide their destiny.
In the aftermath of the passing of the contentious Bill, several clerics condemned Parliamentarians for supporting what they called an unpopular move. They said the Bill was not passed in good faith and could sharply divide Ugandans.
But in retaliation, the President accused some of these religious leaders of being arrogant and strong worded on issues they are ignorant about. He faulted them for being silent on “critical issues” pertaining to regional integration.
“They should be humble. Do not pretend to know everything and talk with too much power. Some are full of arrogance. They talk authoritatively on everything without bothering to seek the truth,” Museveni commented.
He consoled the NRM MPs and cadres whom he said have been targets of intimidation, appealing to them to be happy since they are fighting for the right cause. He said NRM had survived tougher days like the Idi Amin tyranny and thus mere insults amounted to nothing.