Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has criticised judges of the Constitutional Court for nullifying the amendment by Parliament to extend its term by two years from the current five, describing their decision as an “undemocratic” and “nonsense”.
The President in a warning to the judiciary said the judges are not in charge of the country and that his NRM party lawmakers, who form the majority in parliament, will "harmonise and galvanise" their position on the matter.
The Constitutional Court lead by deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on Thursday ruled as unconstitutional the extension of MPs' terms to seven years saying the legislators failed to seek the people's consent on the issue.
The court, however, in a 4-1 majority ruling upheld the amendment of the Constitution to remove the age limit of the president, clearing the way for Mr Museveni, in power for 32 years, to seek re-election in 2021.
As a tradeoff for their own tenure to expire in 2023, the ruling party MPs overwhelmingly supported the age limit removal and the court's verdict was a blow to them.
In a statement posted on the State House website, President Museveni said the extension of the term of Parliament was in line with his “freedom fighter’s sense of justice”.
“With the five years, a lot of time is spent on electioneering and less time on development; the first two years settling in, the third year some work in the constituency and, then, by the fourth year, electioneering again,” he said.
“Unfortunately, our judges in Uganda spend more time on form and not substance. In the end however, the judges are not the ones in charge of the country. If the NRM MPs follow my guidelines and bond closely with the people, we can, together with the people, make the necessary constitutional reforms, judges or no judges,” the President said.
President Museveni said the Constitution should facilitate the modernisation of Uganda and the economic and political integration of Africa for the survival and freedom of its people, not just the theatre of democracy of form without addressing substance.
Mr Museveni also dismissed the arguments that the age limit removal will pave way for his life presidency. He said they are uninformed evil schemers who do not want Uganda and Africa to succeed.
When contacted to respond to President Museveni's remarks on judges, Chief Justice Bart Kutureebe said: “I cannot respond to a letter I have not seen and read. There is a judgment that was made and might come on appeal at the Supreme Court and once I comment about it now, I might have conflict of interest and I will not comment about people’s opinions.”
The Uganda Law Society president, Mr Simon Peter Kinobe, described Mr Museveni’s comments as “regrettable.”
“We are living under a democratic dispensation with the Constitution setting out the specific roles of each organ of State. At no time should one arm interfere or castigate the roles of the other,” Mr Kinobe said in a telephone interview.
“When a judgment is made, not everyone is happy with it and the best way of handling this is that the party that is not satisfied with it should appeal before a higher court,” he added.