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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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).
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.