The Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is set to commence investigations into allegations that the hotly contested Article 102 (b) was smuggled into the constitution of Uganda. This comes at the heels of a heated national debate on a proposed constitutional amendment to have the Article repealed.
Article 102 (b) states that “The person is not qualified for election as President unless that person is not more than 75 years of age”.
The reveleation alleging that the Article was initially not part of the constitution arose on Wednesday while the Committee interfaced with the leaders of the NRM led by the Deputy Secretary General, Richard Todwong. Todwong told the committee that in their findings, the Article pertaining to the upper age limit for one to be President of Uganda was never agreed upon by the members of the Constituent Assembly (CA).
In his written submission to the Committee, Todwong stated that “There was no upper age limit in the Odoki Commission Report. The Constituent Assembly (C.A) debated this matter with amendments proposed by Hon. Chepsikor, Hon. Atwoki and Hon. Mayombo”.
It further states during the deliberations on the constitution, Hon. Chepsikor proposed the lower age limit at 25 year while Hon. Atwoki proposed it to be at 35 years and Hon. Mayombo supported Atwoki’s proposal, but added that there should also be an upper limit of 75 years.
Todwong told the Committee that in the same CA debate, another member (Hon. Kabayo) had introduced a motion to delete Paragraph 102 (b) as proposed by Mayombo which motion was seconded by delegates.
According to Todwong, the CA then agreed that no age limit should be taken and that it should instead be left to the people.
The CA Chairman James Waphakabulo had stated that; “Hon. Delegates, let us pronounce ourselves on this one. The question is one of deletion that instead of talking of any age, we leave it to the people, that is the underlying rationale in this Motion that we delete Paragraph b”.
According to the Parliament record (Hansard), the Chairman put the question to the delegates and they agreed.
“The existence of Article 102 (b) in the constitution is unfortunate because it was clearly not the wish of the majority Hon. Members of the Constituent Assembly,” the NRM Deputy Secretary General told the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.
One of the members that had opposed the idea of the age limits was now opposition leader Kizza Besigye who in his submissions to the CA questioned how the Assembly would dictate who becomes President when the Preamble of the Constitution stated that power belonged to the people.
“We have said that power belongs to the people. We have already taken the decision Mr. Chairman that the President will be directly elected by everybody,” Besigye said at the time.
“The decision on who becomes President is no longer in our hands…. I think it will be unfair of us having taken that fundamental decision…. to now limit them [people] as if they can not take a decision themselves,” he submitted.
The question that the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs will now pursue is who overruled those that vouched for leaving decision of who becomes President to Ugandans unencumbered by age limit.
The Committee Chairman Jacob Oboth Oboth said that the Committee will embark on another task to investigate into Todwong’s claims and establish whether there are clauses that could have been smuggled into the constitution and why.
Oboth asked Todwong to provide all the necessary evidence before the committee as well as providing a copy of the Hansard of the CA backing up his claims.
Bugweri MP Abdu Katuntu who sits on the same Parliametary Commitee warned that signing false documents or forgery is a crime and, therefore, the investigations should as well focus on the one who signed the Constitution.