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Mao uses Bible imagery to drive age limit point home

On Tuesday November 7, 2017, Democratic Party president general Norbert Mao made a sweeping presentation to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.

Mao was part of a team of Uganda's opposition party leaders invited to give their views on the bill intended to remove age limits from the constitution. In his presentation, Mao related the Constitution to Jesus Christ [without mentioning His name] who was wrongly crucified over 2,000 years ago.

Below are excerpts of this presentation.

As I appear before you today, a sense of foreboding of a great loss consumes me. I only pray that my feeble utterances today give expression to what is uppermost in the minds of every citizen of our country.

There is a trial in parliament. The accused is the Constitution. The Constitution stands accused of standing in the way of one man’s despotic ambitions.

The chief complainant is President Yoweri Museveni. The chief prosecutor is Hon Raphael Magyezi.

The chief judge is the Rt Hon Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of parliament. Leading the defense team is the leader of opposition in parliament, Winifred Kiiza, marching at the head of a small army representing multitudes out there who have hitherto suffered silently but have suddenly found their voice and have become increasingly loud and agitated.

Those are the people you see wearing red ribbons.

When we launched the campaign against the amendment of Article 102(b) and dubbed it “K’ogikwatako” as a warning, the people responded by unequivocally telling their representatives in parliament “Togikwatako”.

This campaign unleashed an electrical current of popular resistance aimed at opposing the removal of the last constitutional safeguard against life presidencies.

A great purpose is unfolding among the people. The expression of this purpose may, at first, appear hostile but, in reality, it is revitalizing and renewing our resolve to rise above our past.

We are here as witnesses for the defense and to speak for the Constitution because the Constitution speaks for us. We do not deny the charges levied against our noble Constitution.

The Constitution stands guilty as charged because the intention of its framers was precisely what it is accused of – namely, to limit power, stand in the path of anyone with despotic ambitions and immunize our motherland against the epidemic of violent and unconstitutional changes of government.

In this great trial, your role as the legal committee is simply that of a tribunal of inquiry charged with making findings and recommendations.

This trial reminds me of another trial which took place over 2,000 years ago. The accused was not a document, but a man who preached love. A man who loved, fed, and healed multitudes.

The setting was very similar to this one. Men of money, power and great learning came to the conclusion that this accused person was a threat to their position and power.

They, indeed, found an accomplice among his close confidants who, for 30 pieces of silver, betrayed the accused and gave false testimony against him.

The pathos, dignity and sublimity of that trial is similar to this one. Your committee is similar to the tribunal of the chief priest which subjected the accused to questioning before sending him to the highest court of Pontius Pilate.

Even as I talk, the accused is being flogged all over the country in mock trials presided over by men and women appointed by the central executive committee of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).

These are the Scribes and Pharisees of our time paid to slander, defame and misrepresent the accused. They are the instigators of the accusations against our noble constitution.

From here, the accused will be hauled before Pontius Pilate – in this case the speaker. Pontius Pilate knew that the accused was innocent but lacked the courage, decency and conviction to make a just decision.

Our ‘Pontius Pilate’ knows that even though the Constitution, particularly Article 102(b), offends an individual and perhaps the leaders of the ruling party, and in so doing, it is actually serving the highest aspirations of Ugandans – hope for a peaceful change of government.

But in Pontius Pilate’s court, the accused does not have the numbers to boldly plead his case. A spineless judge will most likely subject him to the ridicule of a mob that has been duped to believe in an illusion. The accused will be flogged, spat at and insulted. 

Eventually, probably the judge, like Pontius Pilate, will abdicate her sacred duty to uphold justice and let the mob crucify the accused.

The accused will probably be crucified. In agony, he will look down from the cross and see that those baying for his blood are the same ones he loved, fed and healed.

In his last hour, the accused will cry out, not to Pontius Pilate, not to the Scribes and Pharisees, but to the people who are sovereign. With a final burst of energy, the accused will cry out “People of Uganda, people of Uganda, why have you forsaken me?”

Short-sighted people will see the Constitution crucified and think that is the end. In reality, that will be a new beginning. The Constitution will not die.

It will live on in the hearts of the people and, in time, resurrect to reclaim the victory of democracy over tyranny, the victory of freedom over oppression and the victory of the people over an individual despot.

I am assured of the ultimate triumph of the people but I have to tell you that this depends on you, our representatives, and how you conduct yourselves as you face the forces arrayed against you.

These forces are not only of coercion and inducements, but also of our version of Scribes and Pharisees whose main interest is to maintain the status quo in all its glory and decadence.

I call upon you to make the sacrifice of saying no to the lifting of the presidential age limit so that your children and your children’s children may reap the fruits of your sacrifice.

We all want to win, but winning must not debase you, tempt you to abandon principle or make you sacrifice the future for the sake of fleeting adulation.

I don’t know whether those of us in this room will be there to witness that glorious day when change comes to Uganda. But I am sure that as a people, we will be there.

The coming of this day can only be delayed, but it cannot be stopped. Change is coming. I dedicate to you the song sang by Titan, chained and imprisoned, but still the champion of man in the Greek fable:

To suffer woes with Hope, things infinite;
To forgive wrongs darker than Death or Night;
To defy Power which seems omnipotent:
To love, and bear, to hope till Hope creates
From its own wreck, the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This like thy glory, Titan, is to be
Good, Great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This alone Life, Joy, Empire and Victory.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd