This last week in Parliament has been dramatic, Ugandans witnessed their MPs come together, committing to amend the the constitution.
Article 262 requires that a bill for an Act of Parliament to amend any provision of the Constitution, other than those referred to in articles 260 and 261 of this Constitution, shall not be taken as passed unless it is supported at the second and third readings by the votes of not less than two-thirds of all members of Parliament.
NRM having a majority in Parliament together with independent NRM leaning MPs, age removal could be a reality.
For the introduction of a Bill, Parliament’s Rules of Procedure stipulate that the process starts with a motion. The motion would then be seconded, after its supporters have had a chance to speak on it. The speaker then puts it to vote, if they house votes yes, the mover of the motion is given leave of Parliament to introduce a private members bill.
Now what is a Private Member’s Bill? You may ask.
There are two types of bills; a Government Bill and a Private Member’s Bill.
A Private Member’s Bill is a piece of legislation sponsored by an individual MP and not the Executive while a Government Bill is legislation sponsored by the government.
Under Rule 110 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, every member of Parliament has a right to introduce a private members bill and if the motion is passed, the bill is then printed in the gazette. Government will then issue a certificate of financial implication then when bill comes to Parliament, the Speaker sends it to appropriate committee.
What is rather intriguing about the move by NRM MPs to table a Constitution Amendment Bill to among others, amend Article 102(b), is why a ruling party-that commands an overwhelming majority in the House-wants the bill privately sponsored and not Government backed.
The spirit behind allowing MPs to come up with private Bills was to ensure that proposing legislations is not the sole responsibility of the Executive.
In other words, a Bill that is not particularly likeable by the Executive can be sponsored by an MP and passed if it garners the requisite support.
However, the irony is that the NRM-Independent MPs joint caucus meeting, that resolved to back Igara East MP Raphael Magezi to table a motion seeking leave to table the Constitution Amendment Bill, was attended by 7 Cabinet Ministers.
Why would Ministers attend a meeting of ruling party MPs to kick-start a process for a Bill that the Executive is not interested in?
If the Ministers attended in good faith, then it was a vote of no confidence in the Executive.
The after effects of the meeting were the famous rebel MPs calling for a press conference, distancing themselves from proposals to amend the constitution for the purpose of lifting the age limit.
Important to note is that our Constitution usually gets amended when the clauses in contention do not favor President Museveni.
The 2005 amendment of Article 105 to remove presidential term limits is a sad case in point.
Proponents of the Bill to delete upper age caps on the presidency must be aware that a Bill/legislation/constitutional amendment “must not have an eye.”
A law can not be made to cure the predicament of one individual.
We can have a separate debate on the advantages and disadvantages of these caps in the constitution but I will not digress.
My issue is that if the NRM MPs want to pass a private members bill lifting the age limit in the constitution they can democratically. They have the numbers, it wouldn’t be illegal.
The question proponents of the age limit removal have to contend with is a moral one.
Is it all about political capital for those loyal to President Museveni?
President Museveni, like any parent rewards those loyal to him, we saw Minister Anite on her knees for the sole candidature proposal and the reward was a ministry. You can understand why removal of term limits has its own political capital.
The unfortunate sub-plot however about this discourse for removal or retention of age limits is that the average citizen has been completely left out.
As Ugandans, we have lost our moral compass to cast the first stone at MPs in a way, for MPs are a clear reflection of who we are as a society, the monetization of our politics, as citizens we partake in accepting the money.
It is also important to note that our Politics is a huge employer, just by looking at how many picked forms to learn, our MPs look ateadership not as a service but rather a source of employment.
It is time to have a robust citizenry that is willing to get dirty in fighting for what they believe, any form of activism should also interrogate who we are as a society, what sort of morals do we aspire to have and how to demand for what we deserve from those who are representing us. We have a restless impatience with politics in Uganda, for example the election of Bobi Wine to Parliament.
Whatever results may come from removal of the age limit debate or even the bill being passed, one thing is clear, the better kind of politics we need is should be oriented less to the pursuit of individual benefits but a politics of a social good.