Academic qualifications unfair, Rugunda tells legal committee

Premier Ruhakana Rugunda (left) appears before the Legal Committee of Parliament on Tuesday. Photo by Vincent Kasozi.

The Prime Minister has told Parliament’s legal committee that the ruling party considers academic qualification requirements for presidential candidates as unfair.

Ruhakana Rugunda was meeting MPs on the committee to offer his opinion on the “age limit bill” in his capacity as the leader of government business.

The committee is currently conducting public hearings on the constitutional amendment No.2 Bill 2017 that was tabled by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi.

The bill seeks a number of amendments to the constitution among which is the proposal to do away with lower and upper presidential age limits.

Ruhakana Rugunda told MPs on the committee that government fully supports the age limit bill and stated that the bill has full support of cabinet and top organs of the NRM party the NEC and CEC.

Rugunda had in his statement said that government supports the bill in order to remove the discriminatory spirit and practice that bars citizens of sound mind from offering themselves for the office of the president.

The MPs engaged the premier on whether age limits are actually discriminatory as proponents of the Magyezi bill contend. MPs like Abdu Katuntu and Mohammed Nsereko argued that Electoral laws impose certain limitations on candidates like academic qualifications which are not discriminatory and thus age limits should not be declared discriminatory.

“From the qualifications in Article 102 is age the only item that is discriminatory in his view?” Nsereko asked of the premier, “He imputes the justification of discrimination and that no Ugandan should be barred because of age so in his view is academic qualification a discrimination or limitation? Nsereko queried further.

The MPs pressed Rugunda to state openly whether he considers academic qualifications as discriminatory since they too restrict some leaders from standing for president.

He chose to side step the question at first stating that he would let the lawyers on the committee decide.

“You know my main purpose of coming here was to explain a few issues, as to the gymnastics of discriminatory or limitations I will let the lawyers answer that.” He noted, brushing aside the question.

Some MPs like Monica Amoding took offence with his response noting that the premier should not answer queries casually.

“Can he tell us whether he is responding as the prime minister of this country or he’s responding perhaps as the LCV chairperson of my district Kumi.” Amoding admonished while raising a point of order.

When backed into a corner the premier revealed that as a senior NRM cadre he was aware of a belief within the party that academic qualifications have been used as a mechanism to lock out capable leaders from serving.

He, however, refused to dwell further on the matter stating that he would be able to respond comfortably to the queries after the NRM has arrived at a final position on academic qualifications.

“There is a very strong view within the movement that academic qualifications have been used as an unfair mechanism for eliminating some very good leaders, this matter is very well known I would rather the movement resolves it first and then we can come and talk about it openly.” He asserted.

Earlier MP Nsereko Mohammed had put the prime minister to task to explain why government has failed to table electoral reforms. He noted that the Supreme Court ruling directed the attorney general to ensure comprehensive amendments on electoral laws are fulfilled.

Nsereko went ahead to accuse the government of bias in the regulation of nationwide consultations by police which has constantly harassed those politicians against the bill.

He asked the prime minister to explain why the government is suppressing voices of dissent using the police and barring joint consultations by Opposition MPs while the NRM party has itself constituted a team of top party leaders to popularize the Magyezi bill.



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