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Lifting age limit will make our Constitution null and void, says Makerere don

Prof. Mwambutsya Ndebesa has advised legislators to weigh the impact of their decision basing on the principle of greater good. File photo.

By Mary Kisakye

KAMPALA–Makerere University History Professor, Mwambutsya Ndebesa, has warned that amending Article 102 (b) will make the Constitution null and void and lead the country down the road of Constitutional instability.

Prof. Ndebesa was appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs chaired by Hon Jacob Oboth Oboth on Thursday morning.

The history professor was appearing before the committee to give his view on the bill tabled by Igara West county MP Raphael Magyezi that seeks to amend Article 102 (b) of the Constitution and scrap the Presidential age limits enshrined therein.

“According to the doctrine of the basic structure of the Constitution, there are certain articles that are fundamental and amending such articles only serves to weaken the constitution,” the history professor said.

He said Magyezi’s bill is a recipe for Constitutional instability, which the designers of the Constitution tried to avoid when they provided for age caps in the Constitution.

Citing the Constitution’s preamble which states; “Recalling our history which has been characterized by political and constitutional instability,” the renown don said the efforts of the framers will be put to waste once the Constitution is amended.

Ndebesa was the coordinator of a team of 20 researchers at the Constituent Assembly that came up with the 1995 Constitution.

He said the constitution was meant to fight what he called the “strongman phenomenon” which has affected most African countries.

“The strongman phenomenon has crippled development of strong institutions hence the need for presidential term and age limits in the constitution,” he said, adding that the strongman cannot co-exist well with strong institutions.

He said Uganda needs to shift from the strongman mentality and said age limit in the Constitution was to cure the possibility of one time having a senile president in charge of the country.

He cited an example of Mpororo Kingdom around 1800 when King Kahaya Rutindangyezi became senile leading to the disintergration of his kingdom.

He also advised legislators to weigh the impact of their decision basing on the principle of greater good, where what benefits the largest number of people takes precedent over what benefits an individual or few individuals.

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