Makerere University political science scholar, Dr. Sallie Simba has weighed in on the ongoing controversy surrounding the proposed amendement of the constitution to repeal the Presidential age limits of 35 and 75.
The ruling NRM party including President Museveni has largely supported the move to remove the age caps which they argue are discriminatory in age and deprive some Ugandans of the right to lead.
On the other hand, the Bill has attracted harsh criticism from opposition political parties which say the amendment seeks to favor President Museveni by extending his 31 year presidency.
While reacting to the contentious debate, Dr. Simba said that removing the age limits exposes Uganda’s political governance to abuse of power. He argued that the age and term limits were included in the constitution as checks for leaders who attempted to abuse power, and that repealing both provisions defeats democratic principles.
“The issue is not about age. History is rich of people above the age of 75 who have been perfomers, and those below 75 who have been political failures. History is also rich with young people below 35 who have been performers and those who have failed,” Dr. Simba who teaches Political Science at Makerere University told the press on Monday.
He was speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a press briefing organized by the Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) of the African Union held in Kampala.
He opined that the age limit debate was more of a political succession issue than an age issue. “Pegging the debate on age is misleading. The issue is political succession,” he said.
Quoting philosopher Lord Acton, the academic said “power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
“For that reason, every constitution should have safeguards to ensure that people don’t abuse it. So, removal of term limits and age limits to some people means removing all safeguards for misusing power,” he said.
He said that those supporting the amendment have not given any alternative safeguards to check abuse of power.
NRM supporters including Cabinet Ministers have argued that the constitution still provides for elections as safeguards to limit leaders who may not want to leave power.
But Dr. Simba described this as a “simplistic” argument which doesn’t qualify in Africa’s context.
“Everybody knows that in Africa, those in power are rarely voted out of power through elections. So, the electoral process is not a good safeguard for voting out a bad leader because it has many problems,” he said.
For the age limit amendment to be logical, Dr. Simba proposed that government considers the restoration of Presidential term limits which were repealed in 2005.