The debate over a proposal to scrap presidential age limit has polarised Ugandans and placed the country on the tenterhook. Tabling of the motion has twice failed in Parliament. Prof Apolo Nsibambi, a former prime minister and delegate to the Constituent Assembly that enacted the current Constitution, says no one should fiddle with Article 102(b) that caps upper age for a prospective President at 75 years. Daily Monitor’s Patience Ahimbisibwe spoke to him
As a political scientist, what do you make of President Museveni’s game plan?
I don’t know. I won’t speak for him.
In the Constituent Assembly (CA), you argued in favour of age limit because Uganda had weak institutions. One could argue that Uganda’s institutions have since matured. Would you still say the upper age limit is necessary?
Correct. I have not changed my views. They should not tamper with the age limit provision.
Because somebody who is 75-years-old and above becomes tired and it is essential they should give chance to others.
What role should Uganda’s intelligentsia play in the context of the ongoing debate?
Don’t interfere with politics.
If you may, why wasn’t Article 102 (b) entrenched by the CA so that its amendment could only be through a referendum?
I don’t know.
You worked with Museveni. What type of person would you say he is when it comes to power?
He has performed well and I wish him good luck.
You wish him good luck on changing the presidential age limit?
I have said he has performed well and I wish him good luck.
Do you think he wants to rule Uganda for life?
I don’t know.
Makerere University where you were a lead academic was the hotbed of intellectual and political activism. Do you see the university and others capable of re-igniting that aspiration?
I think so. They are capable and some lecturers have done that.
What must Ugandans do to stop President Museveni or NRM party from scrapping the presidential age limits?
I have said this before and I say it now: It is not worth scrapping. Some people think that it is his (President’s) view, but he has not said so.
Do you have faith in the ability of Parliament to legislate for the people when it appears the NRM Caucus has hijacked that function with its majority in the House?
I was disappointed the other day (last Thursday). Members of Parliament misbehaved.
There is ongoing mysterious but killing of women; raids and gun grabs at police posts and increased criminality. What do these symbolise when seen through political lenses?
It is very bad. But the President has visited the scene [of crime near Entebbe]. I hope government comes up with measures to end this.
As a former Leader of Government Business in Parliament, how do you think this planed motion on scrapping the age limit should be handled?
Before coming to Parliament, government should sit with the opponents and agree. It is essential.
What is your reading of the environment in the House for such a consensus?
It is terrible and shameful.
How should Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, as Leader of Government Business, handle the situation?
He should persuade them (dissenting MPs).
Is the Constitutional provision capping the age for a President discriminatory?
It is not.
What are your views on a person aged 75 years or above leading a country like Uganda?
There are some people who still have capacity to lead at 75 years, but generally, one should retire.
A section of people supporting the age limit removal have indicated that they have magye (army) support?
The army should stay outside this debate.