The Supreme Court sets new dates for Age Limit appeal hearing.

By Sania Babirye
The Supreme Court has set the 15th and 16th of January 2019 to hear an appeal filed in respect of a  Mable Constitutional court ruling that upheld  Constitutional amendments which lifted the cap from the minimum and maximum presidential age – limit.
This is after today  the parties involved in this appeal held a conferencing hearing before a panel of 7 justices headed by the Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and presented to court the outcome of a meeting they had yesterday at the Ministry of Justice boardroom.
The Attorney General  William Byaruhanga who is the head of the bar has addressed  court that in yesterday ‘s meeting parties agreed to consolidate the 3 appeals into one because they all rise from the same judgement and address similar issues, that parties agreed on 8 issues to be determined by court and that lastly  parties opted to file written submissions following schedules given by court as opposed to oral submissions which consume time.
Among the agreed issues is one  whether the  4  Constutional court  justices who were part of the panel that  heard  the petition at Mbale committed procedural errors , whether they erred in law and fact to hold that the removal of the presidential and LCV officials  age -limit was not inconsistent with the Constitution .
Others are  whether the justices erred in law and fact to hold that the entire process of conceptualizing, debating and enactment of the age-limit law didnot contravene the constitution and whether or not the presence of violence in and outside Parliamnet during the debating of the Age -limit bill didnot contravene the constitution.
The Chief Justice has ordered  that  parties should  file and serve each other with  their  written submissions of not more than 50 pages  by not later than  31st /December/2018 .
After which ; the Justice  Katureebe  ordered that each party wil have an honour to adress and highlight its submissions on the 15th and 16th /January 2018 following which court will retire to write and deliver its judgement on notice .
However as it has become a  norm , one of the appellants lawyer Male Mabirizi had rejected one of the justices on the panel;  Richard Buteera but the Cheif Justice Katureebe was quick to a dress his fears saying justice Buteera is sitting on today’s panel for pre-trial purposes but Justice Eldard Mwangusya  who is currently out of the country is the one to sit on the quorum to hear the actual appeal .
Mabirizi also raised an application to summon the speaker of Parliamnet Rebecca Kadaga for cross-examination during the hearing but justice Katureebe informed him that there was no quorum to hear his application.
In court the appellants including Uganda Law society , 6 opposition MPs and Male Mabirizi and the respondent ;  AG William Byaruhanga together with his deputy Mwesigwa Rukuntana were present.

Justice Elizabeth Musoke delivers her independent judgment

By Sania Babirye

Justice Elizabeth Musoke is the second justice to deliver her independent judgement in the ongoing consolidated presidential age limit constitutional petition ruling taking place at Mbale high court.

Like justice Barishaki Cheborion, Justice Musoke that it was unconstitutional for the MPs to extend their term in office from five to  seven years and that of the local government councils.
Justice Musoke has explained that the move defeats the will of the people to elect their own leaders.

Justice Musoke has also concurred with fellow justice Barishaki that the speaker acted within her mandate to expel the the 25 MPs since they were acting in unacceptable manner.

However Justice Musoke says the armed forces at the invitation of the sergeant of arms was reasonable while evicting the expelled MPs and that the military presence did not cause any panic.
She supports speaker’s decision to expel the 25 Mps and the use of reasonable force by armed forces to evict the said Mps who had engaged them selves in an exceptionally unusual behavior. She adds that the presence of Militarily did not cause any panic to the house since business in the house  went back tò normal when the bill was being passed.
She also says that there was no financial implication on the consolidated fund since its budget was neutral .

Justice Musoke however rules that the presence of the military police /UPDF was uncalled for and unjustified and that parliament security should have contained the violence by itself.

 On the issue of removal of the age limit, Justice Musoke says that parliament acted in its mandate since such provisions are entrenched.
Justice Musoke has explained that although the removal of the age limit might lead to the incumbent to over  stay  in power, the citizens have powers to either vote him back or throw him out.
She has also awarded costs to the petitooners because the petition partly succeeded,involved extensive research.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru is currently reading his individual judgement.
The petitioners nerd at least three justiced out of the five to have their petition successful.

Justice Barishaki kicks off judgment on the age limit

By Sania Babirye
Justice Barishaki is delivering his judgement on the MPs extension of their term of office from five to seven years and that of local government councils.
He is quoting the a legislative history of Uganda and the Uganda Constitutional commission of 1995 report by  Prof.Sempebwa   for proper guide line.
He says he takes the recommendations into account for proper guidelines.
He states as a result public participation is very important for proper affairs of the country.
Sepebwa report explains that peoples  views on the enlargement of term of MPs and LG officials is an indirect way of holding office without consent and will  from people since the first contract was to hold office for only 5 yrs.
On the historical parliamentary chaos, he observes that these events rolled out because the members of parliament did not listen to the speaker as the head of the house.

Justice Barishaki further rules that the attorney general failed to adduce any evidence to prove that their was public participation   which is key to any constitutional amendment  since no referendum was held there by parliament exceeding its authority to extend  its term of office for more 2 years from five to seven.

He adds that parliament tried to evade the people’s powers and the amendment and its sections are null and void.
The extension was selfish and is against the principles of   good governance.
He adds that if it was dine in good faith it should have been made in the coming 2020 general elections.
Justice Cheborion has ruled that the speaker of parliament acted within the law  when she suspended the opposition MPs from the house and that if they had respected the speaker when she called the house to order the violence inflicted on them by military police would not have happened.
Justice Barishaki further rules that  even though Mps have a right to participate in each and every debate, the speaker had the  powers to throw out an  MP who conducts himself In manner that disrupts debate.
Mps had started throwing chairs and parliament staff had been injured, an MP had entered the chambers with a gun .therefore Cheborion rules that the involvement of army was justified since it was a state of emergency.
He says that the MPs engaged in misconduct and the military police had to be called in to assist the parliament security that had been overpowered by the rioting MPs at the invitation of the speaker.
He however says that the military police used excessive force and the process subjected the MPs to inhumane and degrading treatment.
He also rules that the Mps arrest and detention was uncalled for since the speaker only ordered that they be removed from the chambers of Parliament.
He rules that parliament was not besieged as alleged by the petitioners since the military police was only there at the invitation of the Sergent of arms  to contain the riot.
Judge says no evidence to show that the said directive or violence on the MPs affected country wide consultations which would lead to the nullification of entire bill.
On the private Members bill to be funded by government: Justice Barishaki has ruled that it did not have a financial implication on the consolidated fund  and that the bill was budget neutral.

He explained that it is not unconstitutional for a private members bill to be funded by government and just because it had the name Rapheal Magyezi  bill it did not make it a private bill .
Justice Barishaki has also explained that the 29 million shillings that was each given to MPs for consultation did not have a financial implication since the clerk of parliament testified that it had been budget for by parliament.

More witnesses being grilled at the age limit hearing

The government legal team led by the Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana has been probed at-length over emerging information that Parliaments decision to entrench the Presidential term limits is not reflected in the Constitutional Amendment Act 2017.

Parliament in December last year passed the Constitution (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill, 2017. The bill among others lifted the presidential age limits and restored the Presidential terms limits.

The Parliament during the committee stage also adopted a motion by Budadiri West MP, Nathan Nandala Mafabi urging that the term limits should not only be restored but also entrenched.

By agreeing to the Mafabi motion by majority vote, Parliament had in effect moved the article about the restored term limits and included among entrenched articles of the constitution under article 260. Article 260 details articles of the constitution whose amendment requires the holding a referendum.

The constitutional court hearing in Mbale was plunged into a lengthy exchange between the judges and the Attorney General’s legal team after it emerged that the entrenchment of the Presidential term limits is missing from the Act assented to by the President.

The Court has been probing into the matter since Tuesday when Clerk to Parliament, Jane Kibirige was cross-examined on the fact that the Nandala Mafabi amendment seemed to have not been extracted from the official record of Parliament-the Hansard for inclusion in the amended Constitution.

The Acting Director of Civil Litigation, Christine Kaahwa seemed to have opened a can of worms for the Attorney General’s legal team when she submitted that article 260 of the constitution was not amended.

Deputy Chief Justice, Alphonse Owiny-Dollo followed by other judges seemed to disagree with Kaahwa’s submission leading to a lengthy probe.

Justice Owiny-Dollo said his side was relying on the record tendered by the Attorney General, not the petitioners.  The Clerk to Parliament on cross-examination on an affidavit she swore in defense of the amendment, admitted that the speaker had put a question in relation to the Nandala Mafabi motion and the House decided on that.

The question at the hearing was whether the Constitutional Amendment Act 2017 as it is, reflects the decision of Parliament.

Kaahwa insisted that the claim that article 260 was amended would create an absurdity because the final Act does not show that article 260 of the Constitution was amended.

Justice Kenneth Kakuru overruled Kaahwa’s submission saying submissions from the respondents led by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana was causing confusion.

The Deputy Attorney General who is leading the respondent’s side later admitted that the Nandala motion had been adopted by Parliament. Rukutana’s admission attracted another round of questions from the judges. Justice Remmy shot first followed by Justice Owiny-Dollo.

Rukutana later said that the said article could be inserted after a referendum is held.

The government according to submission to the court is planning to hold a referendum in line with the Constitution Amendment Act 2017

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Rukutana says Government acted with in the law on age limit

Deputy  Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukuntana  has told court in Mbale hearing the age limit petition  that  parliament acted within the law and prescribed procedures to amend the Constitution including the lifting of the 75 year old presidential age limit and enlargement of the MPs and LC5 leaders tenure term in office from five to seven years.
Rukutana and  solicitor General Francis Atoke led a legal  team of other  18 state Attorneys  in their effort to prove before a panel of five justices that the law was constitutionally passed. He adds that government did not break any law while facilitating the entire process leading to the amendment of the constitution including the  funds from the consolidated fund to pay 29 million shillings to each mp  fir consultations.

Age limit petition hearing off to a calm start in Mbale

Hearing of the Constitutional Court petition challenging the amendment of Article 102(b) to remove presidential age limits gets underway in Mbale today.

A panel of five judges led by the Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo is set to hear the petitions at Mbale High Court. The other justices on the bench include; Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki and Kenneth Kakuru.

The hearing will commence with submissions of the petitioners including Uganda Law Society and Kampala Lord Mayor Elias Lukwago, who represents a section of Members of Parliament challenging the amendment.

On December 20, 2017, Parliament passed the Constitutional Amendment Act, 2017 effectively removing presidential age limits provided for under Article 102(b) of the constitution. In the same amendment, parliament removed age limits for local government leaders, restored presidential term limits which had been removed in September 2005 and extended the term of office of the president and parliament from five to seven years.

The amendment was a climax to an acrimonious three-month debate that saw chaos inside parliament including security forces invading the chambers to remove some of the MPs who had been suspended for what Speaker Rebecca Kadaga called indiscipline. It’s on this basis that the amendment is being challenged in court.

The petitioners are challenging the legality of amending the Constitution in regard to age limit for a presidential candidate, the presence of security personnel in Parliament as well as the extension of the terms for both the President and MPs from five to seven years.

In Mbale, Stephen Ahweera,  the district Police Commander, has assured the people of maximum security during the hearing of the consolidated constitutional petitions that are challenging the amendment.

Mbale is an opposition area with the Municipality Member of Parliament and the Mayor hailing from the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party.

The district woman MP, Connie Galiwango, a member of the ruling NRM party, was forced to vote against the constitutional amendment in December, after she was chased away by voters from the consultative meetings.

A survey that was conducted before the age limit voting titled; Citizen’s Perceptions on the Proposed Amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution, revealed that 85 percent of Ugandans opposed the presidential age limits removal.

Ahweera added that they expect people from within the region and far to follow the hearing.

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Shops down town open to business amidst “togikwatako” tension

Streets in Kampala’s central business district (CBD) are bustling with activities despite public anxiety and heavy deployment over the upcoming presidential age limit debate in parliament.

With the deployment of police and the military in several strategic locations, speculation was rife that people would keep off the Central Business District in anticipation of demonstrations over the proposed move to remove Article 102(b) of the Constitution.

The motion for the amendment of the Article, which caps the presidential age at 75, is expected today after a failed attempt last Thursday. Amid the anxiety, various political groups and civil society organizations are mobilizing supporters to come out and challenge the planned amendment.

Last week, when the matter was expected in parliament, police engaged demonstrators in running battles, paralyzing business in several areas. But shops in Kampala are all open with business going on normally. Taxis and other motorists are also operating normally.

Jacob Okoku, a resident of Kireka, says he had feared to go to the city centre but is surprised with the calmness.

The Constitution Square in the centre of Kampala has been declared out of bounds for unauthorized personnel. The Square, usually a target for demonstrators, is closed to the public with tapes blocking all entrances.

While the police and military are stationed in the middle of the Square, crime preventers are manning the entrances, turning away people. Armored vehicles and fire engines are on the ready, in anticipation of any riotous developments.

Noah Bukenya, a boda-boda cyclist at the Square, told URN that the crime preventers started their operations in the wee hours of the morning.

Anti-riot police is also deployed at the Democratic Party (DP) headquarters at City House. A police patrol pickup full with heavily armed policemen is parked at the entrance to the DP offices as other police men are positioned around the building.

DP coined the anti-age limit removal campaign slogan, Kogikwatako, which has since caught on with different ethnicities coining their own versions.

Kampala Metropolitan Police Spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, says the deployment is in response to, as he put it, “what’s going on in the country”.

City House also houses the offices of the youth wing of the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC).

 

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FDC promises to control Museveni’s appetite for power

By Wasswa Deo

Forum for Democratic  Change Party spokesperson Ibrahim Semujju Nganda has said that if Museveni has failed to control his appetite for power, they will help him to do so.

Addressing journalists at the weekly press conference, Ssemujju revealed that he is in consultation meetings with other opposition political parties, religious leaders, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to come up with the applicable measures to prevent President Yoweri Museveni and his agents from amending the constitution, especially article 102 b, regarding the presidential age limit.

He noted that the party has already agreed that all members of parliament who will be found supporting the removal of Age Limit will become their target in the war to make them lose their positions in coming general elections 2021.

Ssemujju has appealed to the public also to join the struggle against lifting of the Presidential age limit and any other emerging plans by the ruling government  that continues to violate the National constitution.