Uganda’s three-decade president Yoweri Museveni met members of his ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Central Executive Committee (CEC) Tuesday evening and a heated debate ensued, with a few members strongly rejecting the age limit removal plot.
After the meeting, acting NRM secretary general Richard Todwong issued a statement saying CEC resolved to “fully support the bill for the Act entitled Constitution (Amendment) (No.2) ACT.2017, moved by Hon. Rapheal Magyezi” and to “popularize the decision to all structures and membership of the NRM, and the entire country, guiding and mobilizing them accordingly”.
But The Tower Post has learnt that CEC discussion on the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017, popularly referred to as the age limit bill, moved by Igara County West MP Raphael Magyezi was more heated that Todwong’s statement seemed to suggest.
NRM CAUCUS VS CEC
First, CEC members reportedly expressed anger that the NRM caucus had usurped their powers on this “important issue”.
Recently, Museveni met NRM MPs on the issue.
The president told the NRM MPs caucus that he fully backed the age limit amendment bill that seeks, among other things, to delete the upper age limit in article 102b of the constitution to allow him stand for president beyond the age of 75.
Born in 1944 and in power since 1986, Museveni will be in over 75 when Uganda next goes to the polls in 2021.
According to party rules, the role of the parliamentary caucus “is to consider and adopt a common position on any parliamentary business before the matter is tabled for debate in the House”. CEC, on the other hand, is charged with propagating and formulating policy for consideration by NEC, advise the president and ensure other party organs work well, among other functions.
Ahead of the CEC meeting, The Tower Post reported that one of the reasons Museveni called the meeting was to seek support of this party organ after it emerged that some of this top organ’s members had openly rejected age limit removal.
It has indeed emerged that three of the 26 members openly told Museveni to leave the age limit and retire in 2021.
Most vocal of the trio, The Tower Post has learnt, was NRM western Uganda vice chairperson Maj Gen Matayo Kyaligonza who reportedly told Museveni to retire when people still love him.
Kyaligonza was a senior commander in the 1980-86 bush war that brought Museveni to power in 31 years ago, and is currently a member of the army’s historical high command, and Uganda’s ambassador to Burundi.
About three weeks ago , Kyaligonza told CBS FM: “The president should listen to what people are saying. He should stop pretending to be very busy. He should use this chance [to retire] now when we still love him, not to give a chance to everyone to say he is tired.”
The others were NRM Youth League chairman, Gaddafi Nassur and NRM Karamoja chairperson Simon Aleper.
Nassur has been quoted as saying other NRM CEC members were “cowards” who could not speak out their mind.
On Tuesday, Todwong said CEC had endorsed age limit removal. Rightly so if the signatures appended to resolution drafted by Museveni’s aide David Mafabi are anything to go by.
But Museveni felt he needed to convince CEC members the more. He thus asked them to return Wednesday.
The whole of Tuesday, Museveni reportedly kept out of the meeting allowing Moses Kigongo, his deputy, and chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa to chair the morning and afternoon sessions respectively.
Sources have revealed that Museveni would later enter the meeting hall later Tuesday after the meeting turned stormy. It was at this point that Kyaligonza was openly expressing his disdain for the age limit removal plot.
Museveni watched some of this heated debate in the late afternoon.
He then told members that CEC’s powers had not been usurped but it was rather prudent to work with the parliamentary caucus since the contentious bill had come from an NRM MP.
Before Museveni closed the Tuesday meeting, he reportedly told members to submit a budget for marketing the age limit removal scheme.
The Tower Post has since learnt that CEC members have drawn a Shs 8bn budget for the same.