Ugandan Women lawyers demand reinstatement of presidential term limits

 Irene Ovonji-Odida, Executive Director of FIDA

Irene Ovonji-Odida, (R)Executive Director of FIDA

Women lawyers in Uganda have called for the amendment of article 105 of the constitution to reinstate presidential term limits in the country’s constitution.

This is one of the proposals tabled by the women lawyers before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to the Constitutional amendment Bill 2015 under their umbrella body International Federation of Women Lawyers-FIDA Uganda.

Parliament removed the term limits from the constitution in 2005 after intense lobbying by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) and President Yoweri Museveni himself thereby paving the way for him to run for president indefinitely.

They also propose that any person who has served as president for two five year terms or more under any system of governance should not be eligible to contest for Presidency.

Presenting the position of the women lawyers before the committee, Irene Ovonji-Odida, the Executive Director FIDA Uganda noted that they made same recommendation to the Legal Committee during the eighth Parliament on grounds that term limits are essential in maintaining stability.

They also called for the amendment of Article 82 (2) to compel those elected as speaker and deputy speaker relinquish their parliamentary seats.

They also rejected government’s proposal to amend Article 72 to compel independents to mobilize 1,000 signatures for their nomination saying it is discriminatory and attempts to force citizens to associate with political parties against their will.

This particular proposal has come under sharp criticism from opposition MPs, Uganda Law Society, the Law Development Centre and Opposition parties with all stakeholders insisting it is discriminatory, unconstitutional and impractical.

However, the ruling National Resistance Movement insists the proposed legislation will do away with internal party disputes.

“The proposal abuses voter’s right to privacy as they are indirectly forced to reveal the candidate they support yet a secret ballot is protected by the law. FIDA also opposes the proposed amendment to Clause 4 (Article 83) to have MPs ejected from Parliament, if they lose membership of political parties on which they were elected,” Ovonji-Odida contends.

According to FIDA, the current provision in the Constitution serves to encourage internal party democracy, critical so that members may express themselves openly and freely on any matter without fear of victimization.

They also called for the amendment of Article 87 of the Constitution to enforce the principle of separation of powers between the three arms of government. FIDA recommends that the Clerk to Parliament should be appointed by the Parliamentary Commission.