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Age limit talk: We can shut you down, PM warns clerics

Ruhakana Rugunda, Prime Minister of Uganda. Courtesy Photo.

The Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has told religious leaders to chose their works carefully as they address the public on matters to do with amendment of Article 102 (b) of the Constitution, which bars individuals below the age of 35 and beyond 75 years from vying for presidency.

The 70-year-old issued this warming when he appeared before the National Resistance Movement (NRM) party leaders of Kanungu District at Kanungu District Council hall on Thursday.

“We have [the] capacity to shut them down,” Dr Ruhakana said, according to the Daily Monitor, as he urged religious leaders to “go slow on the words they say about the age limit bill.”

This development comes days since he refuted claims that Article 102(b) was smuggled into the Constitution.

Additionally, Dr Ruhakana’s statement to Clerics closely rhymes with several said by politicians including Mr Ofwono Opondo, a government spokesperson, who said Church leaders should keep off politics and instead focus on repairing what he called the “broken church”.

This was after remarks by Bishop John Baptist Odama and other Acholi spiritual leaders, who believe that removing age limits for the office of the President is ill-advised.

In September, a total of 150 religious leaders from different denominations talked of Article 102(b) as one of the remaining firewalls that the framers of the constitution put in the 1995 Constitution to avert ‘monocracy’ and ‘life presidency’.

The same month, religious leaders under their umbrella organisation, The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) said that, the debate on the removal of the presidential age limit is not a partisan issue to be monopolized by politicians and/or Members of Parliament (MPs).

Regarding the mounting violence, Rev Fr Gaetano Batanyenda, the Kabale Parish Priest, condemned the actions of army and police on gaging citizens expressing their dissatisfaction with the planned removal of age limit.

Just recently, social media went ablaze when the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Portal, Dr Robert Mihoorwa Akiiki  likened changing the constitution of Uganda to blasphemy. He castigated legislatures for seeking to change the constitution they swore an oath to defend.

“It is extremely patronizing to tell religious leaders to stick to church matters. Why not tell doctors, teachers, lawyers to stick to their professions as well? Does religion in itself make someone politically incompetent,” Fr Anthony Musaala responded to Mr Opondo’s claims.

“The more obvious reason for restricting religious leaders from the politics, though, is fear. Fear makes one insecure. Mr Opondo, like all who find autocratic harmless, there are several reasons to be very afraid of religious leaders,” he stated.

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