By Arthur LAROK
Eight years ago, I encountered the idea of the five types of people: those who wait for things to happen, those who watch things as they happen, those who do not know what is happening, those on whom things happen and finally those who make things happen.
I couldn’t help but recall this as the Observer newspapers reported this morning that the ‘Age-limit’ Bill has been gazetted. Immediately, there was a furore of opinions on various social media platforms – some in support, others opposed and others simply joking about it, in what is often a paralysis of analysis by Ugandan elite in constant intellectual gymnastics on ‘whatsup’ and facebook over whose opinion superior.
The removal of age-limit for president in a constitutional amendment spells disaster not just Uganda but the region as we are an influential regional player. For instance, the removal of term limits in Rwanda, albeit in a different style, the crisis in Burundi and DRC are in part connected to developments in Uganda. Age-limit, like term limits for president and regular free and fair elections were the three main provisions in our constitution to guarantee a peaceful transfer of power from one president to another, something that has eluded Uganda since independence. In a fraudulent manner, term limits were removed in 2005. We haven’t had a free and fair election with the last one in 2016, perhaps the worst of the lot since 1980. The age-limit therefore remains a key frontier remaining in our constitution that citizens can use to prevent what is now more likely to be a violent and costly change of power, when it finally happens.
It is not worthy of any serious person to engage in a debate with clownish MPs like Abiriga or Anite as that is akin to wrestling with a pig in mud, whether you win the fight or not. Instead we should invest in building a resistance movement against the age limit and other selfish constitutional reforms that the president or individuals chosen to bring it before Parliament. This is our constitutional duty as citizens of Uganda provided for under Article 18 of the Constitution. Unless we create real political risks for members of parliament, the age-limit will pass just like several draconian legislations because a typical MP, whether in opposition or the ruling party is predisposed to look at their selfish, rather than national interests and Museveni knows that very well. So, unless there is a real political threat by ordinary citizens, we shall be counting our losses in a few months’ time when age limit and perhaps more is scrapped.
It is important we stop agonizing and start organising. Organising will require several things: a clear articulation of the dangers of removal of age-limit and a related message of a future of certainty and hope that a peaceful transition will usher. Secondly, organising requires that we stop posturing and issuing threats as General Mugisha Muntu always reminds FDC members and followers. If you can’t deliver on ‘an occupy parliament’ action, do not posture about it. We must organise a resistance movement from the constituency level upwards with creative citizen actions of resistance. Thirdly, we must act in diversity but remain united on purpose to increase our chances. Finally, we must maintain non-violent discipline in all actions, even when provoked. We have many inspirations of successful resistance movements against such dangerous amendments, as well as change from dictatorships from countries as diverse as Senegal, Nigeria, The Gambia, Burkinafaso, Zambia and Malawi.
In all this, let us be inspired by the non-violent struggles of Ghandi who teaches that ‘while we may not know the results that come out of our actions, if we do nothing, there will be no result in the first place’.