Mao on Age Limit: Why Kadaga Must Resign Immediately

Opinion: Norbert Mao

Today is a sad day in the history of Uganda. This is the first time that the chamber of parliament has been invaded by members of the armed forces dressed in civilian clothes.

We condemn in the strongest terms the invasion of parliament by the military in a manner most undignified. If the aim of the Speaker’s order (unjustified as it was) was the suspension of the members, it could have been enforced in another manner without violence.

The Speaker could have adjourned the house and simply denied the affected members access to subsequent sittings. As it turns out the purpose was not suspension or indeed the enforcement of rules relating to parliamentary decorum.

The aim was to humiliate the MPs and subject them to torture and arrest. The Speaker thus turned herself into a pawn in Museveni’s ever increasing power quest.

Speaker Kadaga has failed dismally in her task of protecting the prestige, sanctity and independence of the parliament. The unwarranted and intimidating siege of parliament by the military should be denounced by all those who love law and order.

The presence of security forces should be to maintain law and order not order without law. And their role is not to take sides in what is clearly a political dispute. It is obvious that the police and army have taken sides – the side of Museveni.

While speaking to students at Makerere the IGP, Gen. Kale Kayihura, representing Museveni (I wonder why) questioned the motives of those who don’t want Museveni to rule beyond the age of 75. We expect the police and army to be politically conscious but above all we expect them to be impartial.

Our constitution envisages three co-equal pillars of the state – the Legislator, the Judiciary and the Executive. These pillars are supposed to be independent so that the principle of separation of powers and checks and balances may reign. What we have seen today is the final nail in the coffin of parliamentary democracy.

The opposition has for too long remained silent in the face of provocation by a reckless NRM parliamentary majority. They have been pushed to far. With their backs against the wall they did the only thing they could do. With their bare hands but knowing that they represent the silent majority in the Ugandan population they took a stand in defence of our constitution.

For this they deserve praise. It is not up to the silent majority to rise up and with one voice denounce the capricious and malevolent attempt to impose Museveni on Ugandans for life.

Ugandans expected the Speaker to have the backbone to demand that the Executive complies with her ruling that a constitutional amendment is not a casual affair to be initiated by every Tom, Dick and Magyezi. Constitutional amendments, especially one as contentious and controversial as the lifting of the presidential age limit should be done in a Consultative and inclusive manner. It is not enough to merely impose the will of the parliamentary majority on the country.

Our MPs were thus right to resist the tyranny of the parliamentary majority. The Speaker unreasonably turned a deaf ear to all reason succumbing to pressure from the executive. Where reason fails other means have to be deployed. Those who refuse to see the see the light must be made to feel the heat.

After all the so called parliamentary majority is not proportional to the the numbers in the population opposed to the ignominious amendment. We should also be mindful that no majority is permanent. The minorities of today will be the majorities of tomorrow and vice versa.

It is for that reason that the principles of constitutionalism do not exclude minority rights. Certain decisions should be put beyond mere parliamentary majorities.

The aim of K’OGIKWATAKO CAMPAIGN is to keep the brakes in our ship of state. It is the last remaining safeguard to violent and unconstitutional change of government. Tragically, we are in a situation where Museveni has refused to talk to the opposition choosing instead to deny political parties and political leaders the freedom to organize, assemble, protest or even express themselves.

The only way for us to untangle ourselves in this situation is to seriously begin a process of National Dialogue. Leading voices have denounced the lifting of the age limit but the proponents, with ostensible backing from Museveni, are adamant.

Surveys have shown that the idea does not have the support of at least 74 per cent of Ugandans but the agitators for a Museveni life presidency are adamant.

Everyone can tell that the removal of the presidential age limit will be a virtual DECLARATION OF WAY against the sovereign people of Uganda. I don’t expect the people of Uganda to look on without fighting back resolutely.

We call for the unconditional release of the MPs that have been arrested. Whatever happened should be understood in the context of the manner in which the Speaker chose to ride roughshod over parliamentary procedures and even went against a precedent she set herself.

Those who are injured should be availed urgent medical care. Investigations should be carried out on the circumstances under which UPDF officers under the Special Forces Command were allowed to intervene and violently eject unarmed MPs. There is no way parliament can continue in the fouled environment where military might is the rule.

Norbert Mao is the Democratic Party President General