Nothing less than 2 female lawmakers were seen carried out from Kampala, Uganda’s parliament after collapsing during the brawl between the ruling and opposition MP party members. For the last two days, MP’s have exchanged kicks, punches, and have faced assaults with chairs and microphone stands.
The disagreements, that led to fights, were over amending the constitution to remove the age limit for a presidential candidate. A change that would permit Yoweri Museveni, who has been president for more than 3 decades, to run for another term.
In mid-September, Ugandan lawmakers agreed to table a bill to remove rules barring anyone over the age of 75 from running for the country’s highest office. A significant step towards securing a free run for President Yoweri Museveni to seek re-election in 2021.
President Museveni, 72, is barred by the current Constitution from running for another term in government, as he will be beyond the 75 years limit by the next election. The bill comes almost 7 years after Uganda removed term limits in 2005, allowing the president to seek a third term.
According to reports, in a bid to prevent opposition lawmakers from attending Wednesday’s session, security forces were stationed around the homes of the opposition MP’s to prevent them from leaving.
One MP, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, a musician turned politician, describing his experience, says he was too smart for the security officers as he spent the night somewhere in the ghetto. He also narrated that, when he was eventually found by the police who tried to arrest him, he quickly jumped onto a boda boda (motorcycle taxi), however, the police did not stop there as they tried to grab him off the boda, luckily the riders of the boda fought them off, while refusing them rides.
This story is not unique to Ssentamu, as several other MPs had similar experiences before eventually coming to the parliament. In protest, opposition lawmakers filibustered and sang the national anthem repeatedly. The fight however, began when an opposition lawmaker accused another MP of carrying a gun.
It is becoming a pattern in some African countries to amend the constitution to favour the ruling president. An example is president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. In 2015, the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front, proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow Kagtameoutstay the 2-term presidential limit, he was re-elected on August 4th.
Democratic Republic of Congo is witnessing a similar thing with their president, Joseph Kabila who should have left office since last year December. Similarly, Pierre Nkurunzia, president of Burundi announced in 2015 that he would contest for a controversial third term as president, this has led to series of bloody turmoil.
So far, 13 African heads of state have successfully rolled back term limits.