ARCHIVE: Why Besigye Supported Age Limit Removal

The debate on the amendment of the presidential age limit is raging on but Uganda’s four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye seems to be treading carefully on the subject because of his position on the matter 24 years ago.

Last week, a group of ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) Party MPs resolved to table a bill with the intention of removing the age limit clause that bars all those below 35 and those above 75 from standing for president.

Born in 1944 and in power since 1944, three-decade president Yoweri Museveni will be over 75 and article 102b bars him from standing for president.

But Besigye, Museveni’s harshest critic thus far, will cautiously call on MPs not to lift the age limit since he himself thought there was no need to put a presidential age limit.

Besigye, formerly a doctor to Museveni during the five-year war that brought him and his boss to power in 1986, also participate in the making of the Ugandan constitution that up put age limit.

According to the Constituent Assembly hansard, delegate Besigye reasoned was one of the opponents of the age limit as debate raged on in the assembly.

Then, Besigye reasoned that the age limit would be an infringement on the sovereignty of Uganda and her people.

“We should respect the sovereignity of Uganda and I do not think that we should engage in putting the age limit here,” Besigye told the assembly on March 13, 1995.

To drive his point home and seal his position, Besigye added: “I support the deletion [of the age limit.”

Besigye also thought that the term limit clause was a great safe guard to leaders who would want to overstay in power.

But the term limit clause was scrapped 12 years ago in 2005 to allow Museveni stand after the expiry of his two terms.

Reactions to this record have been mixed.

According to journalist Andrew Mwenda, also a sworn supporter and “friend” to Museveni, since Besigye has changed his mind, it should also be okay for Museveni to change his on key issues like when to retire.

“But if it is okay for the great hero of the hooligans and radical extremists on social media to change his mind on such key issues, why shouldn’t President Yoweri Museveni enjoy a similar right to change his mind on the same matter. And if there are rationalization of why Besigye has changed (he said that because there were “term limits”), why doesn’t he and his radical extremists think Museveni’s supporters also have a similar right to cook up similar rationalizations?” Mwenda gleefully wrote.

Democratic Party President Norbert Mao said: “It’s called “Point of View”. From where he [Besigye] stood at that time, the people looked sovereign. Now he knows better…”

Samuel Kamugisha