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Age limit amendment law was passed ‘unconstitutionally’- Petitioners’ lawyers

Mbale, Uganda | GODFREY SSALI | Hearing of the Constitutional Court petition challenging the amendment of Article 102(b) to remove presidential age limits resumed on Tuesday in Mbale.

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

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.

On Tuesday, five Constitutional Court Justices hearing the age – limit petition at Mbale High Court wondered and questioned the petitioners how the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga could pass a law that she herself considered as procedurally wrong.

Following this question, the Justices then tasked the petitioners’ lawyers to lead more evidence pointing to the constitutional illegalities that the Speaker could have over looked as the bill was being presented in Parliament.

The lawyers  adduced evidence in form of Hansards covering Parliamentary proceedings from September 27, 2018- December 19, 2017 which is the time the bill was laid in parliament up to the second reading.

The evidence contained in these Hansards indicates that the Speaker on two occasions faulted the Chairperson of the Legal Affairs committee Jacob Oboth -Oboth, for including the issue of enlarging the Mps tenure of Office, yet it was not one of the issues she referred to his committee for consideration.

The copies of the Hansard also show that members of Parliament, who sit on the Legal Affairs committee, denied having heard evidence from anyone who appeared before them asking to extend the current tenure of Office of Mps and LC5 leaders.

The last petitioner Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka  also faulted the Speaker of issuing an incompetent certificate of compliance, in which she indicated that only four Articles of the Constitution had been amended yet they were more than that.

On Tuesday the petitioners  covered six out of the thirteen issues framed for Court’s determination, and the Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukuntana is to respond to them, as the remaining will be tackled next week after cross-examination of the summoned witnesses.

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