Uganda’s parliament on Wednesday took the first step towards scrapping the presidential age limit that would allow long-standing ruler Yoweri Museveni to stay in power.
Tempers frayed for a second day over a plan, backed by members of President Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) party, to table a constitutional amendment doing away with age limits, allowing the 73-year-old to run for a sixth consecutive term in 2021.
MPs brandished microphone stands, threw punches and clambered over benches as security officers sought to remove 25 lawmakers barred by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga after engaging in another brawl on the same issue the day before.
Despite the disruption, Raphael Magyezi’s motion seeking to introduce a private member’s bill proposing the removal of age limits was passed with an overwhelming cry of “Aye!” from government MPs after leader of the parliamentary opposition, Winnie Kiiza of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), led a walk-out.
“We are not going to be part of Museveni’s life presidency project,” Kiiza said.
Supporters of the motion argued that age limits discriminate against the elderly.
“Age should not be a factor that hinders the rights and freedom of any Ugandan to vie for the post of a president,” said Moses Balyeku.
Live broadcasts of the parliamentary proceedings were suspended by media regulatory body the Uganda Communications Commission prompting an outcry from rights group Amnesty International.
“It is unacceptable that Uganda’s media regulator is threatening to close down media houses simply for doing their job and broadcasting live news events. Ugandans have a right to know what their elected representatives are doing,” said Amnesty’s Michelle Kagari.
Museveni took control of Uganda in 1986 at the head of rebel army. In 2005 he had the constitution amended to remove term limits, enabling him to stand successfully for a third, fourth and fifth consecutive term.