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REPORT: ‘Central Region Most Supportive of Age Limit Removal’

A 3-month study on removal of the presidential age limit carried out by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) has showed that, of the four regions in Uganda in which the research was conducted, Central region has the highest number of people rooting for revision of the article which bars anyone below 35 and above 75 years from standing for presidency.

Conducted under the observation of main CSO and NGO coalition bodies — Uganda Governance Monitoring Plaform (UGMP) and Citizen’s Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda (CCEDU) – the study involved 50429 participants from 80 constituencies across Uganda.

44% of the participants were female and 56 percent were male. (The age bracket was not mentioned.)

Why the Study

From the time the sponsor of the age limit bill, Raphael Magyezi also Igara West Member of Parliament announced the idea, a lot of unbecoming scenes have unfolded in the country.

Notable among them was an unprecedented chaos that occurred in parliament on September 27, where several MPs were arrested and some suffered serious injuries, when security officers raided parliament.

MPs and other civil society actors recently petitioned the East African Court of Justice, seeking a response on the government actions on that day. (The court is yet to respond.)

In the days that followed, when the motion was finally tabled in parliament, chaos erupted in multiple constituenties across the country during consultation meetings by legislators.

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Lots of people were hurt during the run-ins with law enforcement bodies. In Rukungiri district, a youth named Edison Kakuru was shot dead.

Basing on the above divided opinions, according to the background statement in the report, CSOs decided to make countrywide consultations about changing of Article 102(b) of the constitution.

The selection of the 80 constituencies, the researchers say, was based on “public pronouncements that were made by the constituency MPs in support of, or opposition to the proposed amendment.”

(Constituencies to be sampled were 100, but they reached only 80.)

CSOs, who believe lawmakers “did not cover diverse sections of the populace”, want the study to “challenge MPs to base their decisions on empirical evidence” rather than “emotions”.

The study, the hope, will “encourage parliament to listen to citizens’ views and reflect on them while debating.”

Additionally, they want the facts to provide for meaningful engagement of citizenry by MPs in the process, make public aware of impact of constitutional changes on governance and development, while providing citizens with a voice in the process.

Results of the study

Carried out through face to face interviews and questionnaires, the research done between October and December, found out that 85% of citizens are opposed to removal of age limit, while 15% are in support of revising article 102(b).

The study question asked was “Do you support the proposed constitutional amendment to Article 102(b) of the constitution of the republic of Uganda to remove the lower and upper age limits?”

The gender ratios were also 85 percent opposed to amendment, and 15% in support of age limit removal.

When it came to regions, Central region had 66% of the participants against amendment of the Article, while 34 percent support amendment.

In other regions, those who oppose and support age limit removal were as follows respectively — Eastern (95:5), Northern (86:14) and Western (76:24).

When you compare the results, overall Central region had more participants supporting revision of Article 102(b) compared to the other regions.

In terms of gender, all the regions apart from northern Uganda, more males than females are opposed to age limit.

For eastern region, the percentages are the same at 95.

In central and western regions, more females than males support amendment.

With tribes, in eastern region which is composed of Bugisu, Busoga, Sebei, and Teso — the last two had the highest number of people opposed to age limit removal.

For northern Uganda, which is made up of West Nile, Acholi and Lango – people in the West Nile are more opposed to age limit removal than the others in the same region.

In western region — Ankole, Bunyoro, Kigezi, Rwenzuru and Toro; Kigezi has the highest number of people saying ‘Togikwatako’.

At sub-regional level, the general results show most people are opposed to age limit.

It is only in Kyegegwa district in Toro sub-region, where both males and females generally support age limit amendment; with 96% males and 88% females supporting changes.

At constituency level, the results do not differ from what is reflected above except that in some counties like Oyam South in northern region, Bulamogi, Bungokho South and Mable Municipalities — all show 100% opposition.

The study also shows that counties of Buikwe South, Lugazi, Gombya West, Bamunanila, Bukoto mid-west, and Bukoto mid-east all in central region, registered the lowest number of citizens who are opposed to amendment, averaging at 65% of the citizens sampled.

Most of the places in other regions are above 80%.

Will the researchers come to see what they anticipated?

The legal affairs committee of parliament, which scrutinized the bill and will be presenting their report next Tuesday recently met President Museveni who many say is the biggest beneficiary of the bill, for an interview.

During the meeting, Museveni arged that since Ugandans are the custodians of the Constitution and their country, they should be given the ultimate duty of determining how and who should lead them through regular free and fair elections instead of being merely “legalistic.”

He wondered: “If someone votes, why can’t he be voted for?”

Citing various examples, the president argued that Africa is faced with many challenges, which can be solved by selecting leaders basing on “substance and not form.

“In a continent like Africa, where we have had a leadership crisis and still faced with many challenges, we need to be flexible, not merely legalistic and utilise all the potential from both the young and old. This is because it is more about our safety, survival and prosperity and not who leads us on that journey,” Museveni said.

Citing cases of the United States of America, China, Russia and Israel, among others, President Museveni explained that many of these countries, in their push to develop and transform, had been guided by leaders who were of advanced age and led the countries for decades.

“Israel has since 1948 been rotating leaders young and old. Today Israel is a super power yet in a largely hostile environment. The great leaders that transformed China, Deng Xiaoping and Deng Yingchao, were of advanced age,” he said.

“The great United Kingdom Prime Minister Winston Churchhill was leader up to the age of 81 and offered some of the best leadership to his country.”

Museveni also cited the case of Tunisia, which in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, had seen 91-year-old Beji Caid Essebsi elected President to stabilise the political situation.

He added: “I think the problem of Africans is concentrating on trivialities yet our issues should be about the African destiny and how to guarantee our future.”

With Museveni maintaining his stance, chances are that the amendment process will continue as it is.

Challenges of Study

According to the report, the scope of the study was “limited to 100 constituencies due to time and resource constraints.”

They therefore recommend a more comprehensive study with wider coverage.

They also say they face security challenges, where they received “threats and intimidations from the state security apparatus.”

While the age limit bill encompasses lots of issues than the amendment of presidential age limit, researchers said, they focused on only article 102(b).

They also cited attacks on CSOs since the introduction of the bill. Several of them were raided by security operatives, with some having their bank accounts frozen.

Conclusion

Given that the study shows most Ugandans are opposed to the development, the researchers suggest that government “needs to take responsivity and subject the attempts to amend the constitution to serious citizen scrutiny before any decisions are made.”

The engagement of public, they add, could help government “to make informed decisions.”

The report also shows that the findings show a crystal-clear “disconnect between the assumptions made by some MPs about their constituents and the actual views of their voters.”

Government has also been advised to prevail upon security organs and individuals to desist from “disenfranchising citizens and their organizations who hold divergent opinions from those held by some members in government.”

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