After days of chaos and dramatic scenes in parliament, Ugandan Members of Parliament have finally scraped off the presidential term limit, clearing the way for President Yoweri Museveni to run for a sixth term in office when his current tenure ends in 2022.
The controversial Constitution Amendment Bill 2017, which sought to lift the presidential age limit of 75 years and extend the term of parliamentarians from the current five years to seven years, passed its second reading on Wednesday night with more than two-thirds of the house voting for it.
Reports say the bill, which was passed at around 11:00 pm in the absence of most opposition members, was approved with minor adjustments. Now the bill will be sent to the President for assent so that it can become law.
At the first reading of the controversial bill on Monday, the debate turned chaotic after members of parliament opposed to the motion started shouting and throwing chairs at those supporting it, forcing the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, to adjourn the seating to Tuesday.
But even on Tuesday the house came to a standstill again after one of the lawmakers announced that Ugandan soldiers had taken over parliament, claims that sparked confrontations between parliamentarians and police officers guarding the assembly, making it difficult for any business to be transacted.
“For me, I am shocked. I am really, really shocked. When I got there, both the Catholic and the Anglican chaplaincies were occupied by soldiers. They were eating from there. They have disorganized the whole place,” Speaker Kadaga was quoted by VOA News.
Her flare-up came only a week after she issued new parliamentary security guidelines, insisting that parliament is a civil institution that should only be guarded by the police. She even ordered all other security forces to stay away.
After Tuesday’s scuffle, Kadaga demanded to know why soldiers had been deployed in parliament and asked the minister in charge of security to apologize to the house. But in a quick response, the Ugandan Minister of Internal Affairs, General Jeje Odong, refuted claims of military presence in parliament, saying those present were police officers.
With the bill now passed into law, the 73-year-old Ugandan President is free to vie for another 5-year term, even as a section of the country continues to call for his retirement. Museveni has served as the ninth President of Uganda since 1986 after he overthrew President Milton Obote in 1985.
BY FREDRICK NGUGI