According to the plan, the party will only consult local government leaders such as local council, religious elders and opinion leaders
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda receiving President Yoweri Museveni at his office building in Kampala on Friday as NRM Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa and Richard Twodong look on. The caucus discussed strategy on the age limit.
The National Resistance Movement (NRM) parliamentary caucus has unveiled a strategic plan for nationwide consultations on the Bill that seeks to remove age limit from the Constitution.
According to the plan unveiled at the caucus meeting which was attended by the party chairman, President Yoweri Museveni, at the Office of the Prime Minister in Kampala on Friday, the party will only consult local government leaders such as local council, religious elders and opinion leaders.
Unlike the Opposition MPs, who are currently holding public rallies to consult their electorate on the Bill, the NRM said it will not hold public rallies, but rather interact with local leaders, which according to the party are representative enough of the
"How do you consult using public rallies? That would be campaigning. We are not going to campaign. We are going to interface with these leaders and get their views. We cannot reach out to everybody," Ruth Nankabirwa, the Government Chief Whip, told journalists after the meeting.
Nankabirwa noted that the consultations, which will start immediately, will see NRM MPs interacting with leaders (both Opposition and NRM) in their communities for their views on the amendment. Sources within NRM say these pillars of local politics in different districts will become the major agents to help MPs penetrate society if they win them over.
Museveni attacks ‘rebel' MPS
According to sources that attended the closed meeting and are not authorised to speak on behalf of the caucus, President Museveni delivered a written statement on the history of NRM and what it stands for.
The sources said Museveni, who was cautious, but in a good mood, underscored the achievements of NRM and emphasised that the ruling party had achieved a lot of success. "So nobody should fear to speak for the record of NRM," a source quoted Museveni as saying.
He lashed out at the ‘rebel' MPs, who were excluded from the caucus meeting for publicly opposing the Bill, for "using enemy tactics that cannot be tolerated".
"How can they now join a rank which is threatening people, causing violence?" Museveni reportedly wondered.
The NRM MPs, who were excluded from the caucus meeting, but not expelled from the party, are Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Patrick Nsamba (Kassanda North), Monica Amoding (Kumi Woman), Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga West), Alex Ruhunda, Mwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya County), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya County), Sam Lyomoki (Workers) and Sylvia Rwabwogo (Kabarole Woman).
Museveni condemned what happened in parliamentary chambers recently, saying in a democracy, people should allow others to speak even when they do not agree with what they are saying.
He wondered why the Opposition MPs and other legislators, who were opposed to a private member's Bill by Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi wanted to stop him to the extent of causing violence.
"He said they were behaving like enemies; not necessarily political opponents. The President said an opponent discusses, disagrees in a civil way and agree to disagree, but does not have to engage in violence and threaten lives," the source said.
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga recently suspended 25 MPs, including state minister for water,
Ronald Kibuule, for misconduct, triggering dramatic scenes that left some MPs injured.
Nankabirwa told the caucus that she would be forwarding the ‘rebel' MPs' names to the secretary general, Justine Kasule Lumumba, to have them appear before the party's disciplinary committee for violating the party's code of conduct, by going against the party position in Parliament.
Urges MPs on money
The sources said Museveni asked lawmakers to be "careful with money" that will be given to them to facilitate their consultation with their voters on the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017.
"He said because people can misunderstand you as if you are buying them. He said when we hold meetings, we should only refund the expenses which have been incurred," a source said.
Nankabirwa confirmed this when she was addressing journalists. "He (Museveni) said we must be careful when dealing with money and facilitation because you cannot give money to some people, yet you need votes from everybody," she said.
To avoid money issues, Nankabirwa noted that the party had resolved that members use money from the parliamentary commission to facilitate them with hiring consultation venues, public address systems, chairs and buying refreshments, as well as transport refund for the invited leaders.
The Kiboga Woman MP said Museveni supported the Cabinet resolution to back the Bill because they endorsed it when he was away.
Sources said the divided line was those who agree that Magyezi should go ahead with the Bill and those who said he should not .
"That divided line was between those who moved out (‘rebel' MPs) and those who remained. So the meeting was calm after the ‘rebel' MPs, who had allegedly planned to cause chaos in the meeting, had been thrown out," said the source.
‘Rebel' MPs speak out
In their press briefi ng at Parliament after being thrown out of the caucus meeting, some of the ‘rebel' MPs alleged that their colleagues, who remained in the meeting, had been given money to support the Bill.
The Bill seeks to, among other things; amend Article 102(b) of the Constitution. The provision caps the upper age for a prospective President at 75 years.
After the NRM caucus and later the Cabinet had endorsed his Bill, Magyezi tabled it recently, but in the absence of some of the ‘rebel' MPs and the Opposition.
The Bill is now before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee for scrutiny.
Museveni, who turned 73 last month, will be only four months shy of 77 by the time his current term expires in May 2021. His critics say Magyezi's Bill is meant to benefit him.
"They have chased us because the bags of money have come and they do not want to share in our presence. They know we shall tell the public," Mbwatekamwa Gaffa said.