Uganda court delivers verdict on presidential age limit petition

Thursday July 26 2018

The EastAfrican
By The EastAfrican
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Uganda's Constitutional Court delivers its ruling on the presidential age limit petition at the High Court in Mbale.

DeputyCJ ruling:

Deputy Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny Dollo who is leading the five-judge bench, said the extension of the term of Parliament is unconstitutional.

"MPs were subjective to their narrow personal interests above the public good when they pushed for their term in office to be extended," he said.

On age limit, the judge said: "Since Parliament exercised the power given to them in amending the constitution, I find no fault in how this was done. Therefore, it is my conclusion that the amendments were done with full compliance to the rules of procedure."

Third judge backs lifting of age limit

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Fourth judge to read his judgement, Justice Remmy Kasule has validated the removal of the presidential 75-year age limit; ruled as unconstitutional the extension of the term of Parliament to seven years from five; and said MPs had "themselves to blame for the scuffle at parliament" last year.

Judge rules amendment of law unconstitutional

Justice Kenneth Kakuru, the third judge to read his verdict, said public participation in the review of the Constitution Amendment Act was inadequate.

"The views of 22 individuals, eight government agencies and ministries were represented before the [parliament] committee. The rest appear to be a group of obscure Ugandans. With all due respect, for the members of the committee to suggest the above people represent the views of Ugandans is absurd," he said.

On the raid on Parliament by the army last year, judge Kakuru said the action of MPs called for an intervention. However, he faulted the handling of the incident saying the Speaker should have adjourned the House. He also urged the police to uphold the dignity of citizens.

"Police in Uganda has no right to frogmarch Ugandans, which we routinely see them doing. The Attorney-General must ensure that this stops," he said.

The judge ruled that the entire constitutional amendment was unconstitutional and must be "expunged from the constitution."

Judge backs lifting of age limit

Justice Elizabeth Musoke in her ruling said the raid by security forces on Parliament during the age limit Bill debate last year was justified. The judgement supports earlier position taken by Justice Cheborion Barishaki.

Judge Musoke upheld the removal of the presidential 75-year age limit that allows President Yoweri Museveni, in office for 32 years, to seek a sixth term in the elections due in 2021.

However, similar to judge Barishaki, she ruled as unconstitutional the extension of the term of Parliament without subjecting it to a referendum.

Security raid on Parliament by army necessary

Justice Cheborion Barishaki, one of the five Constitutional Court judges and the first to read his ruling, said the controversial raid of Parliament on September 27 by security operatives who evicted opposition lawmakers was necessary due to incidents that he termed life-threatening.

“It is evidenced from exhibited proceeding in Hansard that the majority were in no mood to listen to the wise counsel of the minority, and were determined to have their way. I do not agree with the petitioners that the involvement of the army in Parliament was unjustified. There were life-threatening incidents in Parliament and therefore it was justified for the army to be called in to support the police,” he said.

However, the judge added that the inhumane treatment of the Members of Parliament opposed to the amendment was unconstitutional.

Police order faulted

Mr Barishaki has further noted that Article 105 of the Constitution on presidential term tenure cannot be amended without a referendum.

He faulted the police and particularly the Assistant Inspector General of Police Assuman Mugenyi for issuing an order that curtailed lawmakers from seeking the views of people outside the constituencies they represent.

Judge Barishaki said the order was arbitrary and unconstitutional.

Judge rules against parliament term extension

On the extension of the term of parliament from five to seven years, judge Barishaki said there was no evidence that Ugandans had been consulted.

He termed the move as "selfish" and "legal manoeuvres".

He has ruled the amendment unlawful adding that effective public consultation cannot be waived in constitutional amendments.

Security beefed up

As Ugandans await the judgement on the consolidated petitions challenging the Constitution Amendment Act, attention has been drawn to the usually sleepy town of Mbale about 225km east of the capital Kampala and near the border with Kenya.

The EastAfrican's reporter at the court says security has been beefed up and a fire truck has been placed at the front of High Court.

The constitutional amendment last year removed age limits on the presidency and sought to extend the term of parliament and president by two years.

The petitioners challenged the constitutionality of the Act passed last December amid drama that included a raid by security operatives who evicted mainly opposition MPs from parliament.

Political analysts say the verdict, whichever way it goes, will be a test not just on the law but on the five judges of the Constitutional Court.

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