Ugandan MPs on the committee of legal and parliamentary affairs were involved in bitter verbal exchanges, and angry face-offs during the first public hearing of the emotive Constitutional Amendment Bill.
Popularly referred to as the Age Limit Bill, the proposed amendment seeks to delete the upper age limit in article 102b to allow three-decade president stand for reelection beyond the age of 75.
First was the controversy on the venue of the meeting. Opposition chief whip Ibrahim Semujju Nganda complained that the parliamentary Conference Hall A where the meeting was opened at, had been the meeting point for the elite Special Forces Command (SFC) where the operatives planned an attack on parliament on September 27.
Last month, SFC operatives ejected 24 MPs opposed to age limit removal after they defied an order by speaker Rebecca Kadaga to vacate the chambers after she suspended them for singing down Magyezi the previous day.
“I do not feel safe in this room. Can we get another venue?” Ssemujju told committee chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth.
Oboth-Oboth turned down Ssemujju’s request. But opposition MPs on the committee, including Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba and Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga, added fire in their disdain for Oboth-Oboth ruling.
Sergeant at Arms Ahmed Kagoye, then whispered to Oboth-Oboth that the South Committee Room could be used as an alternative venue since it was not occupied.
Finally the venue was changed and the meeting temporarily called off.
SSEMUJU TAKES ON OBOTH-OBOTH
Hell broke loose when Ssemujju claimed that Oboth-Oboth was representing Museveni’s interests on the committee. Ssemuju claimed Oboth-Oboth had attended Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement-NRM party parliamentary caucus that backed age limit removal.
But Oboth-Oboth shot back, albeit dodging Ssemujju’s point of attack.
“ I know that some of you have already taken decision before you even listen to both sides, I am open, let someone convince me as chairman, that where we will vote, and I will take a vote,” said Oboth-Oboth.
The opposition chief whip then used the occasion to sting the committee chairperson.
“I am sorry I don’t want to make this a pin pong between me and you but you are aware the caucus meeting you attended, those who were not agreeing were thrown out and you were not one of them. You cannot say you have no side; you certainly have a side,” he said.
Oboth-Oboth’s response then drifted the exchange into political lines and how they were voted.
“When you see me with Mr Museveni, don’t get worried, for you when something is not on your side whether good or bad, you will disagree. I am not like you and that’s why I have been independent for two terms. You can not be in my position,” said Oboth-Oboth.
“So you did not become an independent as a choice, you stood twice and failed and u became independent,” stung Ssemujju.
And more personal the exchange got.
“You Ssemujju cannot stand as independent and win.”
“Because I will never stand in West Budama.”
“No you cannot…”
The two politicians could have gone on and one had Mpuuga not posed a point of order.