Heavy police presence as Uganda age limit debate flops

Police arrest Uganda's opposition Democratic Party leader Norbert Mao at Parliament over the anti-age limit protests on September 21, 2017. ABUBAKER LUBOWA | NATION MEDIA GROUP  

A much anticipated Private Member's Bill to remove age limits in Uganda’s Constitution did not make it to the House on a day characterised by chaos in and outside the National Assembly.

Chaotic scenes ensued in Parliament after the Speaker and the Leader of Opposition had made brief statements as several MPs rose to sabotage a statement from Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda.

Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza had questioned the circumstances in which Parliament was sitting literary under a police and military siege.

Dr Rugunda had tried to explain away the heavy deployment, inside and outside of Parliament, key areas of Kampala City and at the two main public universities; Makerere and Kyambogo.

Were not ready

He said the deployment had been necessitated by threats detected ahead of the seating.

The MPs objected and demanded that the House be adjourned, insisting they were not ready to debate “under the barrel of the gun”.

Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanya, who presided over the House, was forced to adjourn sitting until next week.

Members complained the security agents had denied them access to Parliament in their cars.

Makerere University was the centre of clashes between security agents who laboured to avert demonstrations.

Press conference

One student was reportedly shot and killed while several others were injured or arrested.

A number of opposition leaders, including Kampala Lord Erias Lukwago, were arrested.

Before Parliament sat for the day’s business, Members of Cabinet addressed a press conference in the Prime Minister’s Office to endorse a decision of the ruling NRM party Caucus on Wednesday for MP Raphael Magyezi to present a Private Members Bill seeking amendment of Article 102 (b) that restricts eligibility for one to contest as a President between the ages of 35 and 75 years.

The NRM members want this removed in a move seen largely as aimed at benefiting President Yoweri Museveni, 73.

President Museveni would be disqualified from contesting the next elections if the Constitution remains as is as he will have surpassed the cap.

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