Two bishops from Tooro have spoken out against plans by the government to amend the constitution and remove presidential age limits.
In their latest assault on the proponents of the age limit removal, bishops Robert Muhiirwa Akiiki of Fort Portal Catholic Diocese and Reuben Kisembo Amooti of the Anglican diocese of Ruwenzori, urged leaders to protect the constitution which they swore to defend.
At the Uganda Martyrs Shrine, Namugongo, Bishop Muhirwa led Mass for catholics from Mbarara Archdiocese, who were on their annual pilgrimage. On the proposed constitutional amendment, Bishop Muhiirwa delivered what may go down as the most powerful and forceful homily.
Without mentioning names, the bishop reminded leaders of the oath they take while holding the bible.
“The word of God must not be played with. The leaders of this country must not joke with the Bible. They held a bible in their right hand and swore to defend the constitution,” he said.
Bishop Muhiirwa went on: “Therefore, with my authority as a Bishop of the Catholic Church, the constitution must not be altered to fit desires of an individual. The leaders must without question defend the constitution because they used the word of God to swear.”
His message attracted cheers from the congregation, in their thousands, who hail from the dioceses of Fort Portal, Kasese, Hoima, Kabale and Mbarara. It is these that make up Mbarara Archdiocese, one of the four Catholic archdioceses in Uganda.
Local Government minister, Col Tom Butime, who was in attendance, found himself in a tricky position when he stood up to address the pilgrims. He said government and the church “will have to sit together” and share ideas on the age limit bill.
Meanwhile, at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero, Bishop Reuben Kisembo Amooti of Ruwenzori Diocese had an equally powerful message on Sunday.
While delivering his sermon for the monthly service for Batooro hailing from the diocese, Bishop Kisembo chose to speak what he called truth to power.
“Without mincing words, the constitution should not be amended to remove presidential age limits. I know I’m stepping on some toes. I know I’m hurting some people. But the constitution should not be tampered with.”
The two senior religious leaders from Tooro have been consistent so far in their anti-age limit removal messages this year. They have spoken at different functions and written letters urging President Yoweri Museveni to retire and allow another leader to take over.
Parliament is currently considering a bill tabled by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, seeking to amend Article 102(b) of the constitution to, among others, remove presidential age caps. The article bars people below 35 and those above 75 years from contesting for the office of President of Uganda.
Museveni, in power since 1986, will be 77 at the end of his current term of office in 2021. If the age limit clause remains as it is, he will be ineligible for reelection.
Magyezi’s bill, which has the full backing of President Museveni and all organs of the ruling NRM party, seeks to remove the age caps saying they discriminate against those below 35 and those above 75 years.
Parliament recently paid 29 million shillings to each MP to carry out consultations in their respective constituencies and collect people’s views on the bill. Some opposition legislators have, however, returned the money saying it is meant to bribe them into accepting to amend the constitution.
In Fort Portal last week, Bishop Muhiirwa attended a consultation rally organized by MPs Alex Ruhunda and Sylvia Rwabwogo, who have also spoken out against age limit removal. Just like Bishop Kisembo, Muhiirwa has on several occasions called on Parliment not to be compromised.
Kisembo has also previously called for the Magyezi bill to be dropped, asking President Museveni to listen to “the voice of the people and retire.”
The bill is currently before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee which is gathering people’s views.