Uganda: Parliament to Debate President Age Limit Bill

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Uganda’s parliament asked a legislative committee to scrutinize a proposed constitutional amendment that would enable President Yoweri Museveni to extend his three-decade rule.

The proposal, introduced by lawmaker Raphael Magyezi on Sept. 27 amid fistfights between opponents and proponents of the bill, was referred to the committee after he presented it for first reading, the Kampala-based legislature said Tuesday on its Twitter account. Bills are sent to committees for scrutiny before they are debated.

The bill, backed by the ruling National Resistance Movement, seeks the removal of a constitutional clause that sets the age limit for a presidential candidate at 75. If approved, the change would allow Museveni, 73, to run for re-election in 2021. A revision would require approval by at least two-thirds of lawmakers in a vote, according to Haruna Kanaabi, a Kampala-based political commentator.

Uganda is Africa’s biggest coffee exporter and on the threshhold of becoming an oil producer, with companies including Total SA, China’s Cnooc Ltd. and London-based Tullow Oil Plc developing the East African nation’s estimated 6.5 billion barrels of crude resources. Opposition leader Kizza Besigye has called for demonstrations against the planned amendment, while the homes of two lawmakers who oppose the change have been attacked by assailants who threw hand grenades, local broadcaster NBS Television reported on its Twitter account.

Uganda’s parliament has about 450 lawmakers, according to the Inter Parliamentary Union website, and the ruling party has about 308 seats, party spokesman Rodgers Mulindwa said by phone. Many independents and representatives of the army in the legislature support government positions, meaning that the amendment is likely to be approved, Kanaabi said.

Museveni is one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders alongside Teodero Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea, Paul Biya of Cameroon and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Uganda abolished a limit of two five-year terms in 2005, allowing Museveni, who first took power as a guerrilla leader in 1986, to prolong his rule. The latest elections were held in 2016.

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