Clerics warn army, police on age limit removal

Saturday September 23 2017

Crime preventers helping police to put a

Crime preventers helping police to put a Makerere University student on police patrol after his arrest during the age limit protests on September 21, 2017. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 

By JOSEPH KATO

KAMPALA. A total of 150 religious leaders from the different sects have warned the army and police against unleashing violence on people opposed to the planned removal of the presidential age limit cap.

Addressing journalists inn Kampala, religious leaders under their umbrella body, Justice and Peace Network, the clerics warned security forces against partisan politics, warning that such actions could plunge the country into turmoil.

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.
“We condemn the violent attacks on peaceful citizens and siege of NGOs opposed to age limit. We call upon the commanders of security forces to acknowledge that they have a duty to protect the sovereignty of the country but not to engage in partisan politics,” Rev Fr Gaetano said. Rev. Fr. Gaetano is an outspoken religious leader and one of the longest serving church leaders in Kabale diocese.

At least 70 people were arrested in Kampala by army and police during the Monday and Thursday protests against the impending amendment of Article 102(b) that bars anyone below 35 and above 75 years to contest for presidency. A group of NRM MPs backed by Cabinet is in the process of tabling a bill in parliament to remove the age limit caps. Those opposed to the move claim that the amendment seeks to clear the way for President Museveni, 73, to contest in the 2021 polls.

Police on Wednesday raided offices of Action Aid in Kansanga and Ntinda’s Great Lakes institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS), an independent policy think tank with exclusive programming on regional and international public policy issues. The police authorities claimed there was intelligence linking the two NGOs to funding of violent activities in Kampala.
But Rev Fr Gaetano and his group reminded fellow religious leaders that they have a role to play in providing and safeguarding peace. He challenged the clergy not to operate as state servants but as the keepers of the state pillars.

“As religious leaders we take side with MPs who have stood to their ground to oppose the alteration of the constitution. We encourage all Ugandans to use all the possible means to protect the constitution and resist intimidation,” Rev Fr Gaetano said.
Emeritus Bishop Macleod Ochola encouraged Ugandans not to accept the removal of age limit which he said was the only remaining essential organ for the body. He called upon MPs not to be blind folded by money and ministerial promises at the expense of the country.

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“If you allow the removal of age limit you will have cut off of the head and eventually the country shall die. I want to tell MPs that Uganda is much bigger than us all. You swore to protect and defend the country and constitution and you must fulfill the allegiance,” Bishop Ochola said.

Imam Idi Kasozi, the Imam of Mawanga Mosque in Munyonyo, a Kampala suburb has also cautioned those in authority against unleashing violence on citizens opposed to the planned age limit removal. He asked the MPs to protect the constitution and reject the planned land amendments in public interest.
Kyambogo University lecturer, Sr Maria Gorreti implored MPs to reflect carefully on our history and what they envisage for the country and children.

“Our MPs cannot be the ones that every time and again change our constitution because the safeguards built in the constitution have become inconvenient to individual leaders,” she said.
The clerics 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’.

jkato@ug.nationmedia.com

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