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Museveni rejects clergy advice, signs age limit bill into law

President Yoweri Museveni (Photo: file)

President Museveni has signed into law the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2 of 2017 which was recently passed by Parliament, the Daily Monitor has reported.

The President’s press secretary, Ms Linda Nabusayi, told the Newspaper on Tuesday that Mr Museveni signed the bill into an Act of Parliament on December 27 before sending communication on December 29, 2017.

Don Wanyama, senior presidential press secretary told sources the president wrote to the speaker of parliament through the clerk.

“We have not yet received official communication as the communications department, but he has assented to the bill,” Wanyama told URN, according to the Observer.

With Museveni’s signature appended, a person above 75 years, and below 34 years, seeking to run for presidency in Uganda is now eligible.

Controversies surrounding this amendment dominated Clergy Christmas and New Year speeches last year across the country as many asked Museveni to closely review the decision by 317 MPs who after three days of heated debate voted in favour of the motion.

Bishop of Kinkizi diocese, Rt. Rev Dan Zoreka is among many who asked president Museveni not to sign the bill into law.

The Inter-religious Council added its voice to that of Uganda Christian Council urging legislatures to carry out a nationwide referendum on the amendment.

Top Catholic official, Archbishop  Cyprian Kizito Lwanga said legislators were told by their voters not to amend article 102(b) but they instead went to Parliament and did the reverse.

The Archbishop of Gulu who doubles as the chairman of Episcopal conference John Baptist Odama speaking to Journalists last Friday cautioned President Museveni against appending his signature on the bill.

“If what has been passed by Parliament is not the view of the majority citizens, then let him not append his signature because it will later torture his conscience. But if it is the voice of the majority, let him append it,” Archbishop Odama said.

Clergy aside, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) conducted a survey last year that claimed 85 percent of Ugandans were not in support the proposed constitutional amendment.

Commissioned by Citizens Coalition on Electoral Democracy (CEEDU) and Uganda Governance Monitoring Platform (UGMP), the survey sampled 50,429 citizens in 80 constituencies across the country. It covered 22,926 females and 27,503 male respondents.

Museveni in his New Year message on 31 December, hailed the 317 who moved for the amendment and accused religious leaders of neglecting their duty to focus on talking politics whenever they get chance, something he said does not take the country forward but rather stagnate it.

“Some of our religious people are so full of arrogance. They talk most authoritatively on all and everything even when they have not bothered to find out the truth. This is assuming they do not have evil intentions which would be worse,” he stated.

Hours later, Archbishop Lwanga hit back at the president, saying the clergy are simply playing their cardinal role as citizens to participate in nation building, and as well as resisting bad politics as President Museveni himself once asked Ugandans to.

“We have all the right to speak, Article 29 stipulates the protection of freedom of conscience, freedom of own expression, freedom of movement. This means, that every citizen or every person has a right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom of thoughts” he said.

“All of us should therefore be aware that the life of our nation is not a responsibility of a few individuals alone but a common social responsibility of all citizens of this country. I therefore appeal to all concerned especially politicians or even journalists, please read and understand the Constitution of Uganda before making abusive utterances on innocent people – be it religious leaders, politicians or others. That Constitution is for all us without any category of people,” he added.

Deputy Government Spokesperson Col (Rtd) Shaban Bantariza responding to Archbishop Lwanga on Tuesday, accused him of being partisan and said he is trying to propagate divisionism in the Church.

“In the Church,” stated Col Bantariza, “we are all sorts of people, united by faith and practice of our Faith! Anything, be it word, action, or position, from any our religious leader, that in anyway affects that unity, is certainly unconstructive in our faith and practice, and endangers our reverence and honour to such a religious leader.”

Meanwhile, author of the bill, Igara West Member of Parliament Raphael Magezi insists it is not intended to keep the incumbent president in power, as critics claim.

By Staff Writer.

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