President Yoweri Museveni has at last appended his signature to the Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 of the 2017, commonly known as the Age Limit bill.
Don Wanyama, Senior Presidential Press Secretary says the President wrote to the Speaker of Parliament through the Clerk.
“We have not yet received official communication as the communications department, but he has assented to the bill,” Wanyama told URN.
Parliament’s Director of Communication Chris Obore says the president signed the bill on December 27, just seven days after it was passed by the 10th Parliament on the night of December 20.
The presidential assent clears the way for amendment of Article 102(b) of the constitution to remove presidential age limit caps. The article barred people above 75 and those below 35 years from running for the highest office.
The bill also extends the term of office of parliament from the current five years to seven years.
The bill, however, restores presidential term limits which had been removed in a 2005 constitutional amendment that paved the way for President Museveni, in power since 1986, to contest again after his two five-year terms had expired.
This presidential assent comes amidst calls from religious leaders, many of whom openly opposed the bill, for President Museveni not to sign the now controversial piece of legislation into law. Its passing on December 20 came at the head of episodes of violence in and outside parliament as security forces roughed up those opposed to the bill, including Members of Parliament.
On September 27, the day Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi tabled the motion seeking leave of parliament to draft the bill, 25 MPs were forcefully evicted from the Parliament Chambers shortly after the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga suspended them for rowdy conduct.
At its second reading on December 20, a total of 317 Members of Parliament voted in support of the Bill, while 97 voted against. Two legislators abstained. After long hours of deliberations, as parliament considered the bill clause by clause, Speaker Kadaga put it to vote again, with 315 voting in favour and 62 against and two abstaining.
In his end of year speech, President Yoweri Museveni praised the 317 MPs who voted in favour of the bill saying they enabled him “to avoid a more complicated path that would have been required.” He likened them his bush war fighters that helped bring him to power 31 years ago and the 232 MPs of the 7th parliament who removed presidential term limits in 2005.
To the religious leaders, the president accused them of being arrogant meddling in politics, forcing Dr Cyprian Kizito Lwanga the Archbishop of Kampala to respond in his New Year ‘s Day homily that religious leaders have a right to comment on politics. Museveni in his New Year message lashed at religious leaders saying they they “talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth.”
“This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse,” said the president.
But Archbishop Lwanga said religious leaders are citizens whose freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 29 of the constitution “if it has not also been amended.” He said the “life of our nation” is not a responsibility of a certain group of few individuals alone.”
Before making abusive utterances against religious leaders and journalists, said Dr Kizito Lwanga, politicians should first read and understand the constitution and appreciate that it is for all Ugandans.