Ugandan parliament defers age limit debate due to heavy security deployment

Ugandan parliament speaker Jacob Oulanyah has deferred the presidential age limit debate to next week over heavy police deployment around the House, the capital Kampala and some parts of the country.

The speaker’s decision follows a motion for adjournment filed by the leader of opposition Winnie Kiizahas who described the action by the police as a “parliamentary coup” and a siege to humiliate members.

There was tension Thursday morning when police arrested five Makerere University students and the Mayor of the capital city Kampala Erias Lukwago, while offices of the opposition Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) were sealed off to stop planned protests against the removal of presidential age limits.

The police had deployed heavily armed security officials to parliament with a helicopter hovering around the area and members stopped from entering the vicinity with their cars including the speaker who was made to access the House from the back door.

Members of Parliament had to walk to parliament and some had their houses surrounded while cars of some members were impounded, Honourable Winnie Kiizahas explained on the floor.

“We all have mobile phones and if you thought there was danger, you could have called us to stay at home. It is more dangerous to make us walk to parliament in the glare of the danger you are protecting us from,” she said.

The Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda explained on the floor that there were tensions for about a week and some members had seen violence on their way to the parliament.

He was heckled by the members, especially the opposition to prove his statement.

“There are two problems here. It looks like members don’t want to sit and the speaker does not want to preside over members who don’t want to sit. The House is adjourned to Tuesday,” the speaker declared.

The Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura said in a statement on Wednesday that planners of demonstrations can use other forms other than processions to allow parliament to “debate in peace”.

He explained that they received information about groups planning to use the cover of processions to “cause violence and mayhem” and that the police is obligated to keep law and order.

Members of Parliament of the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and some independent MPs passed a resolution to debate the removal of the presidential age limit currently pegged at 75.

If the amendment is approved, President Yoweri Museveni can contest in the next elections.

In 2005, a constitutional amendment was made removing the two-term limit for the presidency to allow the president to run for a third-term which he won.

Museveni, who is now 73, will be two years older than the current age limit in the 2021 election.

Author: Ismail Akwei