MPs asked whether it was in order for the committee to admit Otafiire’s unsigned document on record
Kahinda Otafire confronted by members of the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs as he walks of the public hearings yesterday. Photo by Miriam Namutebi
Justice and constitutional affairs minister, Maj Gen Kahinda Otafiire, was yesterday denied the opportunity to give his views on a Bill that seeks to remove presidential age limit from the Constitution.
This was during the legal and parliamentary affairs committee meeting on Tuesday over the Private Member’s Bill tabled recently by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi.
Magyezi’s Bill seeks to remove the age limit by quashing Article 102(b) of the Constitution which caps upper age for a prospective president at 75 years.
MPs Anna Adeke (National Youth), Ssemuju Nganda (Kira Municipality) and Medard Sseggona (Busiro East) asked whether it was in order for the committee to admit Otafiire’s document on record when they were not certain about its authenticity.
“I just perused through it and I do not see any ownership of the document. It seems anonymous because I looked at Magyezi’s document and he had signed it. I do not know whether this is sufficient because anyone can type their document like this.
"The document I have does not have a signature; it does not have a stamp. There is nothing that shows it is from the ministry,” Adeke argued.
Sseggona said he knew about Otafiire’s 30 years in Parliament, but that the minister had no record of sitting in the legal committee except as a witness.
“Before he tells me to shut up… I am only telling the minister that in this committee people sign and own their documents. Arrogance cannot help. This is the man who has failed to do his work for the last six years…”
The situation deteriorated when an MP suggested that Otafiire should be put on oath so that he owns the document.
But Otafiire fired back. “I have the privilege of having been in Parliament for 30 years. Unless you do not know my identity. I, Gen. Kahinda Otafiire, I am presenting this document and it is mine and it is in my name.”
He asked: “How can you question the authenticity of the document when I am the same person presenting it? My designation is justice minister. Is there any other justice minister in this country?”
"Yes", said the MPs in unison.
Ssemujju engaged Otafiire in a verbal exchange as he described the minister as a violent person.
“Otafiire has a history of conducting himself violently. In fact at one time he wanted to slap Hon. Ben Wacha and it is late James Wapakhabulo who was the Speaker that intervened... So we are talking about someone who has a violent history...”
But Otafiire interjected: “How do you know I wanted? How do you determine my intentions? But I have not been carried out of Parliament like you. Hon Ssemujju has history of disobeying the Speaker…”
Otafiire asked to leave
The committee chairperson, Jacob Oboth (Independent), realising that they were not making any headway, asked Otafiire to leave.
“Honourable minister, we shall have to get the opportunity to invite you to come back here. Safe journey back because you have been here from 11:00am,” Oboth ruled.
“Much obliged chairperson,” Otafiire said as he prepared to leave the committee.
Otafiire’s views on the Bill
However, Otafiire argued in his submitted statement that the proposals in the Bill to amend Article 102 (b) and Article 104 of the Constitution “are not new”.
“These proposals are among the proposals submitted to my ministry by the public for consideration during the previous Constitutional amendment of 2015.
"However, during the amendment of the Constitution in 2015, these proposals were not presented to Parliament for amendment due to the limited time that Parliament had at the time to consider the Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, 2015,” Otafiire said.
“The reason for the limited time being that the electoral commission had already set the date for presidential and general parliamentary and local council elections for February 18, 2016.”
The minister argued that the compiled proposals his ministry received from different sources including the public and government institutions were awaiting establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).
“Since the establishment of the CRC requires resources to conduct its mandate, it takes time to do so. And since the private Member of Parliament has introduced the Bill now before this committee a head of the establishment of CRC by my ministry, I do not object to the Bill.”