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Ugandan youths resist plot to scrap presidential age limit

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been in power since 1986. The 73 year-old Ugandan president doesn’t see the need to leave the seat of power, and seeks to extend it by any means possible, including a constitutional amendment. The age limit for contesting for president in Uganda is 75, but it seems Museveni wants to be Uganda’s life president. There have been protests from youths in Uganda but Parliamentarians are yet to take a position on this plan.

Uganda might be on its way to another major crisis after a plan to scrape the presidential age for contesting is being backed by the government. The constitution which states that any Ugandan below the age of 35 and above the age of 75 years is disqualified from running for president is likely to be amended to lift the age limit.

Uganda’s current president, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni who’s been in power since 1986 will not be able to contest for the next elections in 2021 if the constitution is not amended to change the age limit.

Read: On Stella Nyanzi: Where can public intellectuals do their work in Museveni’s Uganda?

In 2006, the constitution was amended for Museveni to run for a third term and the elections followed the usual harassment and imprisonment of the opposition. This time around, the opposition against the purported move by Museveni has sparked protests from women and the youths in the country. The police has been arresting protesters for holding what they termed unlawful assembly.

Janet Museveni (L), and Uganda’s incumbent President Yoweri Museveni (R) greet supporters upon arrival at Museveni’s last campaign rally in Kampala, Uganda, 16 February 2016. Photo: ANP/EPA/Dai Kurokawa

Museveni who is currently 73 years old has the whole government under his wings including the Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Ruukutana who told Reuters that “If anybody has been serving very well and the population thinks he still has a lot to contribute he should not be precluded from doing so merely because he has clocked 75 … as long as people are voting, age of the candidate doesn’t matter.”

The case of voting in Uganda is one that has been faulted with rigging so many times, including the past election that had Dr Kizza Besigye arrested and charged with treason. Many of the Members of Parliament have been evasive about the question of whether they support or oppose the purported campaign to remove the presidential age limit.

If Museveni succeeds in getting the age limit removed, he is  going to follow the footsteps of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who is effectively a president for life. This trend of changing the constitution has become all too common across the continent. In 2015 Rwandans voted overwhelmingly in a referendum to allow President Paul Kagame to contest for a third term.

Read: Uganda’s leader, Yoweri Museveni, treats pan-Africanism as a ‘pick and play’ game

The dissenting voices in Ugandan have been growing louder and critics have been challenging Museveni on a number of issues. Museveni’s latest confrontation with Stella Nyanzi who referred to him as a pair of buttocks still remains fresh.

The Ugandan youths are likely going to continue rallying against the constitutional amendment.

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