Age limit: Let’s also do away with presidential immunity

Steven Senkeezi

What you need to know:

  • The spirit. In my humble opinion, however, what was envisaged by the Constituent Assembly was a situation where one would and/or should (as president) have immunity in both civil and criminal matters for an aggregate period of 10 years.

We all have watched a clip from an interview of President Museveni by NTV’s Patrick Kamara where the former stated that he does not contemplate being president after clocking 75.
The clip is usually contrasted with the President’s current stand which is loudly silent, evasive at times or diversionary in relation to this issue. These days, he innocently gives out free land titles, lets an official say something about it to the excited recipients without him interrupting the ensuing swaying talk on letting him rule past the age of 75.

This reminds me: Buliyebaka, Yekyusa. I understand this to be referring to involuntary matter-of-course change in position by one in a fragile position. And, when I think about what is happening in relation thereto, I now understand the meaning in President Museveni’s recent asking for medical opinion on whether or not one cannot be president after attaining 75 years of age!

While teaching us Constitutional Law at Makerere University, Prof Joe Oloka-Onyango taught us that the Constitution has to be read as a whole for proper interpretation. Looking at the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (as promulgated), it provides in relation to the tenure of any president for presidential immunity, term and age limits to mention, but some.

The framers of this Constitution must have included the provisions on presidential immunity against the background of term and age limits! The Constitution does not require a sitting president, who intends to offer him/herself for re-election, to step down. Elsewhere, this is a legal requirement. The net effect is that this absolute presidential immunity remains unbroken for all the time one serves as president in Uganda!
In my humble opinion, however, what was envisaged by the Constituent Assembly was a situation where one would and/or should (as president) have immunity in both civil and criminal matters for an aggregate period of 10 years (i.e. two five-year terms).

Also that one would not be entitled to aspire to get this immunity unless one is at least aged 35 and of not more than 75 years of age! No doubt this limit would help make the period of absolute immunity bearable. It would also help avoid the inevitable excesses that may be allied to possession of power at a young or old age!

Noteworthy also is that the limiting of terms would help to avoid making cases stale: If a musician like Barbeque composes a song titled Kikoofira and a one candidate Yoweri Museveni picks it up for his election campaign in 2016 without paying for it or even recognising Barbeque in any way, then Barbeque demands to be paid by candidate Museveni’s party, but is told to approach the person of Museveni because the party never launched the song……!

Candidate Museveni’s party then quickly pays some money to a handful of more established musicians who then hastily record another song titled Tubonga Nawe!
The new song is then launched by the party and is used instead of Barbeque’s song! Although Barbeque may have a good case, he then has to wait for an indeterminate period before he can get justice (should he, anyhow)!

The only way to avoid this situation is by also requiring a sitting president to step down when offering him/herself for re-election, to restore presidential term limits, to do away with the notion of substantial stealing of the vote before an election can be nullified and to avoid tinkering with the constitutional provisions on age limit!
Yes, Buliyebaka, Yekyusa. But I believe Mr President that you are awake. Minister Beti Namisango Kamya actually declares that you are more awake than your entire Cabinet! Yet we see that you are into inevitable and involuntary changes in position from that stated in your interview with Kamara.

But, if this encourages you: You are safe in the current position! You need not shift or change position! More importantly, Ugandans needs to know that you still believe that you do not have to change position and you shall not!

Should you, however, really feel like you want to and must pursue the lifting of the presidential age limit, then let presidential immunity also be completely done away with and let the sitting president be required to step down when offering him/herself for re-election. That way, we shall safely ride with you paka last on this issue of removing presidential age limit.

Mr Senkeezi is an advocate and lead counsel at Senkeezi-Ssali Advocates & Legal Consultants.
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