By Mirembe Martina
56 MPs agree with the plan to restore presidential term limits. According to the Daily Monitor, Of 70 MPs, only six are against the proposal while seven were undecided. Those in favor of the term limits have argued that the move would entrench democracy in a country that has never witnessed a peaceful transfer of power.
MP Gerald Karuhanga on Tuesday announced plans to table a motion seeking Parliament to allow him present a private member’s Bill for the proposed constitutional amendment. He said his Bill was intended to correct an error committed in 2005 when term limits were scrapped by President Museveni’s supporters.
The Private Members Bill that seeks to enforce the reinstatement of term limits. Information minister Mary Karooro said government has not seen the draft Bill so it was hard to comment. “We shall wait for the bill and when it comes up the party will look at it. MPs will also consult their constituencies but remember the term limit was removed by two thirds of the Seventh Parliament,” she said.
However, MPs against the proposal argue that if Ugandans are tired of an incumbent, they can still express their displeasure through the ballot. MP James Kakooza (NRM, Kabula County) said any attempts to restore term limits would deprive the country of visionary leaders.
MP Sam Lyomoki, who tabled a minority report during the removal of the term limits, questioned MP Gerald Karuhanga’s motive in drafting the Bill. Mr Lyomoki said he had proposed that the term limits be reviewed every after 10 years but his views were rejected by the same people who are now pushing for a review.
While majority backed the Bill, focusing on presidential term limits, MP Patrick Nsanja demanded that the Constitution be amended to provide the term limits for MPs too. “We must lead by example,” Mr Nsanja said. “This Bill is a step in the right direction and I urge my colleagues to stand up and be counted. Let’s give Ugandans a gift for the 50th Independence anniversary.”
MPs Emmanuel Dombo, Chris Baryomunsi and Felix Okot-Ogong have reminded those against the restoration of the term limits that Uganda is the only country in East Africa without term limits.
The term limits were abolished in 2005 after a constitutional amendment. The article provided a maximum of five-year terms for a president. “I was the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Advocacy Forum in the 7th Parliament and I spearheaded the campaign against the removal of the term limits,” Mr Dombo said. “We are ready to amend the Constitution and given the opportunity to restore the term limits.”
Mr Baryomunsi said the removal of the term limits was premised on the belief that Museveni needed to nurture the transition to a multi-party political dispensation.
Leader of Oposition Nandala Mafabi on the other hand, said term limits will foster development in the country.
“When President Museveni came to power 26 years ago, he told Ugandans that the problem of African leaders is over-staying in power. He has since changed his position because of an open-ended Constitution,” he said.
The President has since hinted he will step down in 2016 if his party asks him to.
He made the declaration during a recent interview with the American television network, CNN. and has repeatedly passed the question of his retirement to his party, which he controls closely.
However, the President’s stand comes amid growing calls within the NRM and clerics who are demanding that he comes clean on his position and not claim hostage to his party’s decision.