Prospective candidates for the Parliamentary seats for the elderly must have the minimum qualifications of a Member of Parliament, the minister explained.
Elderly persons (60 years and above) will have five seats in Parliament after Cabinet, at its seating on Monday, endorsed the creation of the special interest group.
The minister for ICT and national guidance, Judith Nabakooba, confirmed the new plan in a media interview recently, saying it was intended to give the elderly a voice in Parliament.
"There have been calls from many groups requesting government to create seats for the elderly in Parliament, so that their views can be heard. Cabinet has approved the five seats," she said.
According to the minister, the five representatives will be elected by their electoral college, with a representative from each of the regions (East, West, North and Central) and a female.
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs is expected to table a motion in Parliament, which will spell out details about the process to create the five seats. Prospective candidates for the Parliamentary seats for the elderly must have the minimum qualifications of a Member of Parliament, the minister explained.
There will be no age limit for aspiring candidates, as long as one can articulate the concerns of the elderly and serve in accordance with the regulations of Parliament.
Article 78(1) of Uganda's Constitution prescribes the composition of Parliament to include members directly elected to represent constituencies; a woman representative for every district; representatives of the army, youth, workers, persons with disabilities and the Vice-President and Ministers who, if not already elected Members of Parliament, serve as ex-officio members without the right to vote on any issue up for a vote.
The current 10th Parliament comprises 296 MPs representatives, 124 District Woman Representatives, 10 Uganda People's Defence Forces representatives five representatives of the youth, five representatives of Persons with Disabilities, five representatives of Workers and 12 ex-officio members.
According to the minister, the creation of special seats for the elderly is based on observations that the elderly face unique challenges and their value in nation-building.
"Older persons do a lot of work which is often not recognised. They take care of families, offer guidance to young people, are a trove of history and can help in conflict resolution," she stated.
The 2014 National Housing and Population report indicates that the population of older persons increased to 1,430,000 from 1,101,103 in 2002. Statistics from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics estimate the number of older persons at 1.6 million in 2020.
Nabakooba said the five seats would complete the structure of representation for the elderly, right from village to Parliament, to enhance their participation in decision making.
Government adopted the National policy for older persons in 2009, to provide a framework to guide policy and programming of interventions to improve the quality of life of older persons.
The policy was formulated within the framework of international instruments for promotion of human rights, among them the Madrid plan of action on Aging (2002), the African union charter on the rights if older persons and the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs).
Article 32 of the Constitution provides that the state will take affirmative action in favour of groups marginalised on the basis of gender, age, disability or any other reason created by history, tradition or custom for the purpose of redressing imbalances which exist against them.
In addition, the implementation of the policy was re-enforced by the enactment of the National Council for Older Persons Act, 2013 for effective advocacy, co-ordination, monitoring and evaluation of service delivery and representation of older persons.
The Equal Opportunities Act 2007 provides for equal rights of all vulnerable groups, including older persons and, therefore, the review of representation for older persons in Parliament as a Special Interest Group is aimed at protecting the rights of older persons in accordance with this act.
According to Nabakooba, the five seats for the elderly could take effect in the forthcoming general election if the motion and its attendant terms are endorsed fast enough by the legislators.
On March 16, the EC unveiled a new roadmap for the 2021 general elections that prescribes ‘scientific campaigns' for all candidates to limit potential spread of COVID-19.
In 2008, a group representing the elderly petitioned Government over special representation. In 1the 0-page petition signed by over 100 elders, they observed that there was need for older persons to also be represented at other levels of decision making, such as local councils.
Quoting Section 118 of the Local Government (Amendment) Act 2005, they said two councillors representing the elderly should be elected by the associations of the elderly, forming an electoral college at the district council level.
Rhoda Nsibirwa Kalema, a retired politician, said the creation of seats for the elderly was counter-intuitive and unnecessary.
"It is a wrong idea, unnecessary and an exercise in poor judgment. It is not an idea that can help our country," she stated.
The 91-year-old former minister and Member of Parliament in Uganda's post-independence regimes, said she would not participate in such an undertaking.
"I am too old to be in Parliament, but I would never endorse anyone to represent me and consume taxpayers' money.
That money should go to social services, instead of giving comfort to a few people. If you are an MP who cannot represent the youth, the elderly and handicapped in your area, then you are good for nothing," she said.
Magode Ikuya, the publicity secretary of the NRM Historical Leaders' Forum, said the creation of special seats for the elderly was diversionary and unnecessary.
The 73-year-old Ikuya insists that the country should, instead focus on building democratic practice that allows free exchange of ideas to promote unity and development.