10 Reasons Why Uganda Should Keep the Presidential Age Limit in Constitution

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By Norbert Mao

Just a few weeks after the Democratic Party launched the K’OGIKWATAKO CAMPAIGN to ensure that the presidential age limit stays in our constitution the NRM parliamentarians have shown unprecedented panic by deciding that this contentious issue cannot await the process of a broader consultation. Some people say the whole circus is not motivated by conviction but rather the transactional politics of the day. News broke that some youth where being facilitated to promote the lifting of the age limit. Not to be outdone, the Commission Agents in the NRM Caucus had to start something to show that they are working and thus get State House to loosen the purse strings. Unfortunately given the stakes, these overzealous MPs may “die twice like charcoal” which dies as the tree is burnt and then again in the stove. The MPs will not get any money and in addition lose their parliamentary seats! Groupthink will not save them.

For such a polarizing issue, you would have expected MPs to take time to feel the pulse of the general population. That they have rushed to judgement shows that they are out of touch. If only they knew that the man they’re fighting for can actually do without them in the long run. A visit to the NRM political graveyard would be instructive.

Anyway here are some ten reasons why they should defend Article 102(b) without fear.

1. Age limit will facilitate peaceful and constitutional transition of power. All Ugandans yearn for change without bloodshed. The age limit is the last remaining bulwark against the ever present temptation to resort to unconstitutional means to bring about change.

2. The presidency is not a career. The age limit keeps fresh ideas and new points of view in the vicinity of public office, it ensure that no individual can focus more on keeping the job than public service. Official decisions and actions of an incumbent will be made more carefully because the office bearer knows that within a definite time he will return to be an ordinary citizen without title or power.

3. Age limit controls graft and corruption of power. A rolling stone gather no moss. Long serving incumbents tend to focus more on simply getting re-elected rather than doing the right thing for the people

4. It periodically clears the top deck. Age limit clears the ballots after a certain period and allows a new group of potential candidates to make themselves known and to vie for office. In the absence of age limit, many talented potential leaders will simply not contest because of the challenges and risks of facing a well-entrenched incumbent.

5. The argument that the nation benefits from the experience of a perennial ruler is bogus. Infact, new leaders can benefit from the experience of long serving civil servants. This insulates the state against the fear that new comers lack the experience accumulated by the incumbent who has to leave.

6. It limits chances of state capture by powerful moneyed interests. Government is supposed to serve the public but with time a long serving incumbent bent on being re-elected perpetually becomes a captive of the financial oligarchy and starts to serve their interest rather than the public interest.

7. Democracy is about limiting power of individuals for the greater good. The age limit will encourage us build and prepare potential leaders and establish the fundamentals of public service and democracy as opposed to individuals as a cornerstone of our society. It builds institutions and prepares leaders.

8. Scientifically, with advanced age, leaders can simply become fatigued and less energized but the adoring public may just not see what is actually happening because an incumbent has money, name recognition and influence to continue being re-elected and citizens only realize much later that a leader has become less effective over time and has lost touch.

9. Age limit creates opportunities for new fresh faces. Long serving and entrenched incumbents deter opponents who see the virtual futility of mounting a challenge against an incumbent, the re-election of an incumbent should be because they have done a good job and not because other more qualified people do not have the financial muscle and political machinery to mount an opposition.

10. Age limit will end the era of indefinite presidencies. Only the age limit will remove the fear that there will never be a predetermined end to a single person’s ability to rule for life. This will enhance the prestige of the office of the president and restore its nobility as an office to serve the people and not a job.