MPs rally against land, age changes in Masaka

At two public rallies in Masaka on July 21, opposition MPs launched their countrywide campaign against two proposed amendments; one aims to change Article 26 to allow government compulsorily take possession of private land and another yet-to-be tabled, aims to remove age limits for presidential candidates.

Several truckloads of policemen and soldiers surrounded the two rally venues in Mpugwe in Bukoto East and Lorry park in Masaka municipality. By about 11am on Friday, the municipal authorities had rejected the rallies. But an agreement was later reached between Masaka municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga and security chiefs after lengthy consultations.

According to the Public Order Management Act, the organisers were required to get a nod of approval from the Municipal Council, the owners of the Lorry park.

“I must be honest and say that I received their [organisers’] letter in time and as far we [police] were concerned, we had no problem, but when we contacted Masaka Municipal Council, they were reluctant to grant them permission to use the venue,” Masaka District Police Commander (DPC) Henry Kintu told The Observer.


Some of the MPs in Masaka

Going to Masaka, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winfred Kiiza, led at least 16 MPs including Santa Alum Ogwang Charles Angiro Abacanon Gutmoi, William, Emmanuel Ssempala Kigozi, Francis Zzaake, Muhammad Muwanga Kivumbi and Allan Ssewanyana.

Others were Moses Kasibante, Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu, Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda, Florence Namayanja, Mary Babirye Kabanda, Betty Nambooze Bakireke and Veronica Nanyondo.

FDC deputy secretary general Harold Kaija, Jude Mbabaali and Muhammad Kateregga, the LC-V chairmen of Masaka and Bukomansimbi respectively, also addressed the rallies.

MAIN FOCUS

The main focus of the rallies was the Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017, which seeks to amend Article 26 to give government powers to compulsorily acquire private land to execute infrastructural and investment projects.

But the politicians did not ignore the ongoing agitation by NRM groups for the amendment of Article 102(b) to scrap age limits for presidential contestants.

“The most important thing in the country is the Constitution; it is the mother of all laws and we should not allow anyone to tamper with it,” Alum, the UPC whip in Parliament, said.
Bukoto East MP Florence Namayanja addresses the first rally at Mpugwe

The MPs are looking to the public to amplify their resistance to the amendments and probably force government to withdraw the proposals.

“If Museveni was a person who respects the law, he should have respected the constitution because he put his signature [on October 8] 1995 when it was promulgated. The Constitution that he assented to, limits the presidential age to 75; he should know that and respect it,” Nzoghu said.

Mukono Municipality MP Nambooze said, “This is a defining moment for our generation; it is upon us to fight for our rights. It is now or never.”

PARTIES ASIDE

Speaking at the Masaka rally, the chief opposition whip, Ssemujju Nganda, said, “For now let us first forget our respective parties and fight for a common cause.”

Before they travelled to Masaka, Muwanga Kivumbi, the head of the Parliamentary Forum on Constitutional and Human Rights, an advocacy group spearheading the campaign, first held a meeting with Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) that have agreed to work with the MPs.

At least 25 CSOs attended the Thursday, July 20, meeting at Foundation for Human Rights Initiative (FHRI) offices Nsambya. Kivumbi said they will have another campaign launch sometime this week that will incorporate the CSOs, NRM and Independent MPs.

Kivumbi is understood to be working with NRM MPs John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya), Pentagon Innocent Kansiime (Butemba), Louis Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (Kasambya) and Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) to mobilise other parliamentarians.

“I wouldn’t want to speak for them, it will be good if you talk to them but we have had meetings with the Acholi Parliamentary Group, West Nile Parliamentary Group and Teso Parliamentary Group, and we are still talking to more MPs,” Kivumbi told The Observer on the sidelines of the Masaka Municipality rally.

Published by: The Observer

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