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Four ‘Lame’ Excuses NRM MPs Give for Age Limit Removal, Museveni Life Presidency

OPINION: ABUBAKER MATANDA

Frequently Used Excuses of Supporting Lifting The Age Limit

1. It is not illegal to amend the constitution; and since the age limit cap was not entrenched, it means that the framers foresaw a possible amendment.

This is a smart argument and on the face of it looks reasonable. But that is until you understand the idea called constitutionalism. There is a constitution which is the letter or body, and then there is constitutionalism, which is the spirit or soul. To have a prosperous society, both the letter and spirit of the constitution should be respected. For example, you will note that apartheid was legal as per the letter of the law of South Africa then, but it reneged on the spirit of constitutionalism which is premised, among others, on the edicts of equality, equity and justice.

To come back home therefore, amending the constitution per se is not criminal. It is an okay and welcome act as future generations cannot be held hostage by the propositions of their ancestors. But we must always ask: in what spirit do we want to change the law? Is the amendment in the interest of the citizenry or merely an individual/group of individuals? In the instant case, the latter is true and therefore an abortion of constitutionalism. Reference should be made to the first and third Articles as to what the letter of the constitution provides for on such.

2. There is no one who can lead this country; we only have a single visionary.
I do not even know why I’m responding to this one. It’s the most pathetic of all. First of all, this is totally not true: there are so many people, so many of us who can lead this country to even better heights. You only cannot know it when they do not have the opportunity at this particular time. Those a little advanced in age may remember the “Baba wa Taifa; hakuna mwengine kama wewe.” These were notions in Kenya in reference to President Jomo Kenyatta. Many believed that without Kenyatta, Kenya could not last for a minute hence such statements like “No one like you” likening him to God in the process. Do not be deluded my dear people even for a minute that we cannot lead this country beyond an individual. We have the will and some have the capacity to lead this great nation. In any case, a leader cannot live forever, so what is the point in fearing to sleep not to dream?

3. The President has caused peace, stability and security and thus should not be pushed.
I must admit that the greatest, if not the only achievement worthy celebration under this regime is stability. We however have to put some things in perspective. First of all whereas Museveni takes the credit for leading this process, it’s is not just about him. We have people of capacity now who have sacrificed their lives and interests to secure this country, we have commanders at various levels; we have a cooperative population for stability among others which can still maintain the same.

Otherwise, if the argument is that the stability is tied to an individual, then we have just wasted another three decades trying to run away from our violent history without doing anything meaningful about it. I don’t think this is true. Just like Kenya and Tanzania have demonstrated to us over time, our gallant men and women in uniform can salute another head of state without wrecking havoc – that we have not seen it does not mean it’s impossible.

4. The age limit is discriminatory and thus unfair.
To borrow from President Museveni’s words, the discrimination is based on the idea that after 75, the body starts to give way in various ways and the vigour is not as robust. Despite having leaders who are above 75, this idea has a lot of logic. It should be understood that there is something called positive discrimination. It is why people retire and cannot work beyond a certain age, it’s why we have parliamentary seats reserved for a certain gender; it is why we have academic qualifications for certain seats among others. It is not that an S.4 dropout, for example, cannot lead well: history is replete with unschooled great leaders but the idea is that on average a person without certain conditions may not perform to the maximum yet we wish for the best of the best for this country.

Matanda is a youth activist

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