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Petitioners ask Supreme Court to nullify Age Limit law

 

The legal teams share pleasantries before the Age Limit Petition appeal hearing kicked off at the Supreme Court in Kampala. PHOTO JUDICIARY UGANDA

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Petitioners in the consolidated Age Limit Appeal have asked the Supreme Court to restore the age limit clauses in the Ugandan constitution, saying they were illegally removed. They are Male Mabirizi, six opposition members of parliament and Uganda Law Society.

They ran to the Supreme Court in September 2018 challenging the verdict of a panel of four Justices of the Constitutional Court upholding a decision of parliament scrapping the age limit for the presidential and LC V chairperson candidates.

The four judges included Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, the Deputy Chief Justice, Elizabeth Musoke, Remmy Kasule and Cheborion Barishaki.

The fifth judge, Kenneth Kakuru differed with the judgment of his colleagues, saying the age limit was scrapped illegally because the voters who are vested with the powers to amend the constitution were never consulted nor allowed to participate in the exercise.

On Tuesday, the petitioners told a panel of seven Supreme Court justices led by the Chief Justice, Bart Katureebe that there were irregularities in the conceptualization and passing of the Constitution (Amendment) (No2Bill2017, which paved way for scrapping the age limit from the constitution. 

The other members are Justices Jotham Tumwesigye, Paul Mugamba, Opio Aweri, David Mwangutsya, Stella Arach Amoko and Lillian Tibatemwa.

In their application, the appellants noted that the irregularities included violence exhibited at parliament, which resulted into the suspension and assault of legislators.

The petitioners are represented by lawyers Erias Lukwago, Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, Dan Wandera Ogalo and Male Mabirizi who is representing himself.

They maintain that the decision to scrap the age limit is similar to the actions of the late President of Uganda Idi Amin who declared himself life President and abolished general elections before he was overthrown.

The appellants noted that the preamble of the constitution of Uganda talks about the principles of unity, equality, democracy and social justice amongst other pillars was never observed by parliament.

The parties also argued that the entire process leading to the enactment of the Constitution (Amendment) (No2) Act, 2017 was illegal because the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga submitted documents to President Yoweri Museveni with an invalid certificate of Financial Implication, which was backdated.

The appellants also fault President Museveni of deliberately assenting to the law without due diligence, since it lacked the required attachments.

Court also heard that the suspended Members of parliament were never given a right to a fair hearing since they were suspended a day after the chaos and to date have never known why they were suspended.

They include Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Allan Ssewanyana, Gerald Karuhanga, Jonathan Odur, Anthony Akol and Mubarak Manyangwa. Erias Lukwago, the lawyer for the opposition members of parliament, says the contested bill was smuggled onto the order paper in violation of the rules of procedures of parliament.

He explained that the responsibility of drafting the items to be discussed by the August house squarely rests with the Parliament Business Committee of the house and not the Speaker.

He also noted that parliament failed to lay down the frame work for consulting citizens on the bill thereby ending up bribing legislators with Shillings 29 million each from tax payer’s money.

In his submission, Mabirizi told court that President Museveni should have first handed over power before the law was passed, saying it was passed in bad faith to benefit Museveni who wouldn’t be legible to stand in the next elections due to old age.

President, Museveni be above the 75 year age bracket by the 2021 polls and wouldn’t be illegible for election.  The 1995 constitution previously prohibited anyone younger than 35 or older than 75 from serving as president.

The matter will return to court on January 16th, 2019 to allow the Attorney General make his submission on behalf of government.

The Attorney General William Byaruhanga, Deputy Mwesigwa Rukutana and the Solicitor General Francis Atoke followed the proceedings in court with a team of more than 15 senior lawyers.

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