Chaos in Ugandan parliament as MPs debate age limit motion

Chaos in Ugandan parliament as MPs debate age limit motion

This past Monday, Ugandans were treated to ugly scenes in the National Assembly as Members of Parliament from the opposition and government sides traded blows, kicks and insults over an attempt by those allied to the ruling party, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) to amend the constitution to remove the presidential age-limit.

Uganda's constitution says no one older than 75 can run for president, which would effectively prevent Museveni from running for re-election in 2021.

That fight exposed the bitter rift between lawmakers who support President Yoweri Museveni's efforts to extend his rule, and those who oppose it. Museveni, 73, has been president for 31 years.

According to reports, about two female lawmakers were rushed out of the hall to the hospital.

When finally put to the vote, the bill is expected to pass easily, as the majority of the almost 500-member chamber belongs to the ruling party.

Under the existing constitution, eligibility to stand as a presidential candidate in the East African country has an age ceiling of 75.

On the substantive issue, head of the house, Speaker Kadaga, ruled after the day's heated debate that the age limit motion had been allowed. The controversy dates from 2005, when a constitutional amendment eliminated the period of two terms of office for the country's president, Yoweri Museveni, were able to run for a third term, won by him in February previous year, despite opposition protests.

No station aired Wednesday's proceedings, but some posted clips of the brawls on their Twitter feeds.

A leading media outlet, NTV Uganda described the incidence as "nasty scenes" as Members of Parliament are seen engaged in fist fights with the hurling of chairs between two factions.

The country's main opposition leader Dr. Kizza Besigye, Museveni's main political rival, has often been detained, put under house arrest and even charged with treason.

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