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Constitution should not be tampered with by politicians
The political mayhem surrounding the presidential age-limit debate forced many people to opt out of the debate and leave the fate of the country in the hands of Members of Parliament.
However, after listening to the wisdom of some senior citizens who spoke at a workshop organised by the Elders Forum last Friday, one was forced to reflect on the current political situation in the country in which constitutional matters are being confused with political issues. A national constitution should be above politics and that is why the Constitution itself makes a distinction between the political work of Parliament and its special powers to amend the Constitution.
Article 79 of the Constitution sets out the political functions of Parliament to include:
• The power to make laws on any matter for the peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda.
• The power to confer authority on any person or body to make provisions having the force of law.
• The duty to protect the constitution and promote the democratic governance of Uganda.
In furtherance of these functions, Parliament is given power under Article 94 to make rules to regulate its procedure and Article 94(4)(b) specifically gives a Member of Parliament the right to move a private member’s Bill subject to the following limitations
• The member moving the private member’s Bill must seek assistance of the department of government whose area of operation is affected by the Bill.
• The Attorney General’s office must be involved in drafting of the Bill.
Article 259 of Chapter Eighteen of the Constitution gives special powers to Parliament to amend the Constitution. These powers are separate from the political powers, which are bestowed on Parliament.
Accordingly, the rules governing the procedure to enact laws cannot be used for purposes of amending the Constitution. Indeed Article 259 provides that ‘Parliament may amend any provision of the Constitution according to procedure laid down in this chapter’, meaning Chapter Eighteen and not Chapter Five.
The only way the Constitution can be amended is by first and foremost enacting a law implementing the provision of Chapter Eighteen and making rules under that law providing for procedure for such amendment. The Bill before Parliament was introduced by a private member according to rules, which govern the political work of Parliament, which makes it unconstitutional.
Secondly, even if the current rules of parliamentary procedure were considered to be applicable, the preparation of the Bill would still render it unconstitutional because it was not done according to the requirements of the Constitution.
Article 94(c) and (d) require that the member moving the Bill should have sought the assistance of the Ministry of Constitutional Affairs as the department of government most affected by the Bill as well as the professional assistance of the office of the Attorney General should have been sought in its drafting.
These provisions are important and are in line with the idea that the Constitution should not be capriciously and indiscriminately tampered with by politicians.
Lastly a bill to amend the constitution can only be assented to by the President if it is accompanied by a certificate of the Speaker that the provisions of chapter eighteen have been complied with in relation to it.
This chapter does not confer on a private member the right to move a bill to amend the constitution. As such Hon.Raphel Magyezi’s bill is irregularly and unconstitutionally before august house.
The political and constitutional confusion caused by Hon. Magyezi’s bill can only be sorted out through sober dialogue and the willingness to accept wise counsel.
Credit: Peter Mulira
Daily Monitor Uganda
Prospective recruits bribing their way into UPDF
Prospecting recruits who want to join the army, the Uganda People's Defence Forces are reportedly making attempts to bribe their way so as to beat and compromise the recruitment exercise.
Col. James Nambale, the in-charge of the recruitment exercise which started at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala yesterday, said that they have intercepted a number of people who were offering bribes to officers so that they can be let into the army without facing the regular recruitment process.
He said that he personally resisted bribes ranging between Shs 100,000 to Shs 500,000 offered openly by several potential recruits. Others, according to Nambale, were offering bribes in form of airtime and transport, expecting favouritism in return during the recruitment.
"There are those who even have corrupted their ways to come here. I have been called by 26 people. There are those who have [offered] me airtime, there are those who have asked me to get something 'small' for transport. I’ve been well facilitated with my team here.
I ate well and slept in Sheraton [hotel] last night. Please, you're desperate for a job and you want to give Col Nambale Shs 500, 000, Shs 200,000, Shs 100,000. You’re killing the army, you’re killing the country, you’re not coming to do anything. I can’t take that money. If you can give me Shs 100,000, Shs 500,000 to recruit you because possibly you’re my brother, one will give me Shs 1 billion and I kill my president. So here it is about commitment to your country, it is about guarding others while they sleep", said Col Nambale.
Col Nambale advised the prospective recruits to identify army officers they have given bribes to help them go through the recruitment process saying that these will not have much to do for them.
"If you gave anybody money please raise your hand now and we get your money from them. We’ve always had incidents where people say they took our money. You may be my brother, you may be my son, you may be my relative.
We may have gone to school together with you but when you come here and I favour you because of that [yet] you can’t meet the criteria, am telling you; you will not be near me when you’re facing ‘music’ on the front line….Even if you’re my brother, please come here and meet the criteria of joining the Uganda People’s Defence Forces", Nambale added.
Nambale further cautioned the prospective recruits against looking at joining the army as a means of getting employment saying that the army is about commitment to the good of the country.
"There are problems when you people join the army because you’re desperate for a jobs. Some of you are looking at becoming officers like I. I have soldiered on for more than have of my life to reach where I am….There are those of who are you joining just to look for jobs. Am telling you, the money you’re looking for is not in the army, you can go to parliament, you will get the money but inhere it is about working, it’s about commitment to your country..."
As the screening of the recruits went on, URN observed a number of parents and guardians both ordinary people and army officers following up on their children at the different stages of screening in a bid to beat the process.
At some point, the recruitment officers were seen struggling to push aside these parents in vain. Maj. Edward Birungi, the spokesperson of UPDF Lands Forces confirmed this difficulty.
"Parents who are here are also really interested in their children joining the army. They are close to them and are making it very difficult, we say give us space but they really don’t want to give us space. So they are making the exercise really difficult. However in liaison with the military police which is on the ground, we’re on the ground. We expect the exercise to get on well", Birungi said.
URN also observed a UPDF officer who was not part of the official recruitment team helping some of the parents and some army officers sneak people who were disqualified at the physical checkup stage into the qualified team.
Both teams were seated close to each other. This UPDF officer was later seen congratulating parents, possibly for a mission accomplished.
However, UPDF spokesperson Brig. Richard Karemire noted that there are safeguards against infiltration and that persons who cheated at the entry point would still be eliminated. He said that they do not expect any traits of corruption in the process.
"We’ve embedded in the teams other officers from other arms that support the process. We have our guys from the intelligence office, we’ve political commissars, so it is really an all round team which is doing a good job so far. We don’t expect any traits of corruption, for us in UPDF we exercise zero tolerance to corruption", Karemire said.
Asked whether they have an auditing system to look at the work done by the recruitment officers, Karemire said that they have an inbuilt mechanism to access whatever goes on everyday.
The nationwide recruitment exercise looks at recruiting 4,000 soldiers of whom 3,000 will be regular and 1,000 will be professional to serve the different professional arms in the army. The exercise will end on October 29, in 116 districts of Uganda.
Kampala district was given only 600 slots in the recruitment exercise. However, Deborah Mbabazi the Kampala Resident City Commissioner (RCC) says that less than 100 regular prospective recruits out of thousands that converged at Kololo were from the five divisions of Kampala.
The regular prospective recruits are required to have a minimum qualification of the O'level (UCE) while the prospective professional recruits are required to have a minimum qualification of the A'level (UACE) obtained in the last three years. These should also have a bias in science subjects.
The recruits are further required to be citizens, present a medical examination report, national identity cards, local council recommendation letter, and original copies of their academic papers, three passport size photos among others before being taken through the other physical and medical tests by the recruitment team. They are also supposed to be single with no children.
The UPDF recruitment exercise seeks to address the human resource deficit arising out of the retirement of a similar number of personnel who will be leaving the forces over the next two years. Up to 1700 of these will be retiring in November this year.
Credit: The Observer Uganda
Are some MPs spying for Museveni on age limit?
As the fight against lifting of presidential age limits grinds on and shapes into what promises to be bruising battles ahead, some opposition MPs have come under suspicion of working against their colleagues.
Informed sources say almost the same sort of mistrust troubling the ruling party, is creeping into the ranks of those opposed to Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s constitutional amendment bill (no.2), which seeks to scrap the 35 and 75-year presidential age limits.
“The thinking amongst members is that there are some of us who are acting as links for the president… Their brief is to inform the president or his agents on whatever development happens or what the group intends to do. This sort of mistrust is dividing us as members,” said a source privy to the pro-age limit campaign task force.
Sources say the mistrust came to the fore during a meeting held before the MPs were suspended and violently evicted from parliament on September 27 before the Magyezi bill was introduced into the House. Kampala Central MP Muhammad Nsereko reportedly accused a female colleague of recording what he was saying during that meeting.
According to the source, who attended the meeting, Nsereko said: “[the lady] recorded me or perhaps the whole meeting. I was able to discover this because my phone has got an application or enhancement that would detect that I am being recorded within the surrounding and it picks the identity of a phone or device recording.”
Other sources at this meeting reveal that the accused individual was so outraged, a hot exchange ensued. Matters were saved from degenerating further by the intervention of Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the Kira Municipality MP and chief opposition whip.
“If it was not for Hon Ssemujju to calm the situation, the two were almost closing-in on each other and could have become physical,” the source said.
By press time, The Observer had failed to reach the female individual for comment; however, Nsereko described these revelations as old news.
“What is the value addition of the story? Who does it benefit? It is diversionary; you should not write things that are going to polarise us,” Nsereko said.
Ssemujju neither denied nor confirmed what happened in an interview with The Observer.
“I cannot give any comment about that. First call them and find out what happened, then come for my views,” he said
That incident has since had a ripple effect on planning and organisation within the anti-age limit campaigners.
“This is why there was no clear approach on what to do after the suspension. There were some of us who felt like fighting back was the right approach yet some members felt that there could have been some room for engagement,” The Observer was told.
“Some people did not envisage a physical fight or violence [in parliament]. The other side [NRM] could have had it [fighting] at the back of their mind but we could have maybe handled it differently. This could not have happened but there was no prior coordinated planning for the session,” said one member, who declined to be named for fear of offending colleagues.
Indeed, some members think the attack on them by Special Forces Command plain-clothes operatives was effected with insider help.
“It cannot be a coincidence that when the security operatives entered the House to evict the suspended MPs, they started effecting the said order by throwing out people like Ssemujju and Mpuuga (Mathias Mpuuga, the Masaka Municipality MP), who had not even been suspended. It could have been that they were tipped off by one of us…” said the source.
At the time, Ssemujju and Mpuuga were coordinating the pro-age limit campaign strategy. Now, things are little more complicated, Ssemujju said this week.
“Everyone is welcome to make a contribution regardless of their political affiliation. This is why religious leaders and civil society organisations are playing a big role,” he said.
“You can’t say the opposition is to do it alone or that let’s leave it to only a few people. This requires all our collective voices. MPs have played their role and we need the people…,” Ssemujju said.
Asked whether mutual mistrust will not hurt their planning, Ssemujju said it will not if all Ugandans are united against the proposed amendment.
“Every day we handle a meeting on age limits but this [MPs squabbling] is what we go through every day. MPs are complicated people and you cannot stop them from talking or addressing the press. It is within their right and I have no problem with it, except where they are addressing it on behalf of other colleagues. That is wrong,” Ssemujju said.
Regardless, Mpuuga says they will continue mobilising the masses through their respective agents of socialisation like the church, civil society groups and cultural leaders.
“How can you plan for violence by the army? You just have to mobilise the people to your side,” Mpuuga said.
Currently, there are three planning teams working against the Magyezi bill.
One group includes the whole opposition, independents and some NRM ‘rebels’. Then there is the opposition group, whose lead strategists include Ssemujju, Mpuuga and Muhammad Muwanga-Kivumbi (Butambala).
The third group are largely NRM rebels, including, Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman MP), Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya).
Tentatively, the opposition has organised joint rallies as part of an overall strategy to fight the proposed amendment of Article 102(b) which lays out the 35 and 75-year age limits for presidential candidates.
Source: The Oberver