Uganda parliament adjourns debate on extension of presidential rule

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Uganda’s parliament abruptly adjourned a debate over the extension of presidential rule on Tuesday amid uproar after a lawmaker alleged soldiers had entered the building.

“There were so many, I saw them. They were in the chaplaincy,” one legislator, Gaffa Mbwatekamwa, told a local television station.

Lawmakers were debating a draft bill that would remove a constitutional age cap that bars long-serving President Yoweri Museveni from standing again.

A move to change Uganda’s constitution to allow Museveni to rule beyond the current age limit provoked rowdy scenes in parliament on Monday in which six legislators were suspended.

Those suspended are Opposition Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju, his colleagues Mubarak Munyagwa, Allan Ssewanyana, Anthony Akol, David Odur and Gerald Karuhanga for alleged heckling and disruptions.

Parliament on Monday began debating a bill, presented by a Museveni loyalist, that proposes removing the age cap, something which opposition activists and rights groups say opens the door for him to be president for life.

Religious leaders and even some legislators from Museveni’s National Resistance Movement party have criticised the proposed bill.

After rowdy scenes, six lawmakers were suspended for a single session and ordered out of the chamber for “undermining the authority of the speaker [and] undermining decorum in the house,” parliament spokesman Chris Obore told Reuters.

The legislators had heckled speaker Rebecca Kadaga and ignored her orders to be seated, Obore said.

The debate was expected to continue through Monday and Tuesday.

In late September lawmakers brawled in parliament for two consecutive days as lawmakers opposed to the bill unsuccessfully tried to filibuster it.

At least 25 lawmakers opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment to prolong Museveni’s tenure were forcibly ejected on orders of the speaker for involvement in fighting.

Museveni initially won broad international support for his embrace of market economics and restoring political order after years of turmoil in the east African country.

In recent years he has come under a growing spotlight for a range of rights violations, corruption and his unwillingness to give up power.

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