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Age Limit Judgement Day

The long wait is over now. Any moment from now, a panel of five justices will give their individual judgments in the consolidated constitutional petition they heard in Mbale High Court in April.

The five-judge panel led by Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo will pronounce itself on 14 issues the petitioners presented to the court for determination.
The other justices are; Remy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki and Kenneth Kakuru.

However, of the 14 issues, three stand out prominently. The court will determine whether Sections 3 and 7 of the Constitution Amendment Act which amended Article 102 (b) to remove the age limit on the presidency are inconsistent with Articles 21(3) and 21(5) of the Constitution; whether Sections 2 and 8 of the Act extending or enlarging the term of Parliament from five years to seven is unconstitutional; whether the process culminating in the restoration of the two-term limits for the president was unconstitutional.

The removal of the presidential age limit means President Museveni can now stand for re-election as many times as he wishes. Under Article 102(b), he would not be eligible to contest for presidency again in 2021 as he would be above the 75 age limit which was prescribed under the article.

The current five-year term for president and parliament ends in 2021, but the amendment extended their tenure by two years, elapsing in 2023. If the extensions are upheld by the court, the next elections will be held in 2023 instead of 2021.

Five Justices of Constitutional Court in the Mbale high Court session

The court will also uphold or quash the two-year extension of the term of LCs from five years to seven.

Each judge will read their own decisions and the reasons thereto.
The debating and passing of the amendments for presidential age limit Bill saw violent scenes in Parliament between September and December last year. The chaos erupted as MPs opposed to the change of Constitution tried to stop the tabling of the Constitution Amendment Bill brought Mr Raphael Magyezi (Igara West) as a Private Member’s Bill.
They reasoned that the amendment was calculated to benefit only President Museveni who would be aged above 75 at the next polls in 2021 and therefore not be eligible for reelection. Mr Museveni has been President since 1986.

The Special Forces Command (SFC), a specialised presidential guard unit, stormed the August House in one of the heated sessions during the debate on the amendments, roughed up Opposition MPs who had put up resistance to block the tabling of the Bill.
Some Opposition MPs Betty Nambooze and Francis Zaake were hospitalised after the violence due to the injuries sustained.
MP Nambooze has been readmitted in a hospital in India after reoccurrence of the fracture of her backbone she suffered during the September violence in Parliament.

The court will today determine whether the violence contravened Articles 1, 2, 3 (2) and 8A of the Constitution.
A video clip on the violence in Parliament went viral on social media platforms and saw the famous Trevor Noah comedian show draw over three million subscribers worldwide.
During the hearing of the presidential age limit in Mbale, the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, testified to defend the raid on Parliament by the SFC troops.

Legal matters. Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana (right) chats with one of the petitioners’ lawyers, Erias Lukwago (left) MPs Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda (Kira) and Gilbert Oulanya (Kilak) at the Constitutional Court in Mbale District on April 19

Ms Nambooze also testified, saying she was among the 25 MPs who were suspended from the House by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga that day of September 27 and assaulted by SFC soldiers. Other witnesses included; Secretary to the Treasurer Keith Muhakanizi, Sergeant-at-arms Ahmed Kagoye, former commandant of Kampala Metropolitan Police Frank Mwesigwa, Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige and the head of civil service, Mr John Mitala, over their roles in the process of debating and passing the Constitution Amendment Bill.
The petitioners are; Uganda Law Society (ULS), lawyer Male Kiwanuka Mabirizi who represented himself, six Opposition MPs led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winnie Kiiza, Mr Prosper Businge and Mr Jonathan Abaine Buregyeya.

The respondent is the Attorney General (AG), who is the chief government legal advisor. The petitioners are seeking court to annul the whole process of the constitution amendment and the amendments thereto.
The Deputy AG, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, who led the government team, asked court to uphold the amendments. He argued that the amendments were properly and legally passed by Parliament.


Judiciary sets guidelines for age limit ruling

Speaking to the Press on Tuesday, the Judiciary’s senior communications officer, Mr Solomon Muyita, said because of the anxiety that has come along with the judgment, the court expects a big turn up of people at its premises, adding that mechanisms have been put in place to curb any disruptions and chaos.

Solomon Muyita-Judiciary Communications Officer. Photo Credit to NTV Uganda

Mr Muyita said in a meeting presided over by Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo on Monday, it was agreed that the main court room where the judgment will be read will have very limited access of litigants.
He said only the five petitioners, their lawyers, a small number of diplomats and media will be allowed access.

The courtroom adjacent to the main one will have giant screens to televise the reading of the verdict.
Mr Muyita said this courtroom will accommodate Members of Parliament, a section of the media, local politicians and VIPs while the general public will follow the proceedings from the court’s car parking lot where tents will be erected with giant screens and loud speakers.

“We are also going to allow the major television stations to broadcast the reading of the judgment live. Our appeal to the general public is for them to remain in the comfort of their homes or work places and watch instead of scrambling for space at court,” Mr Muyita said.
“We also expect heightened security presence at Mbale High Court to keep law and order,” he added.
Mr Muyita also said shortly after the reading of the judgment, copies of the same will be given to the petitioners and their lawyers and media.

What we reported about Age Limit Case:

Age limit petition hearing starts today

Age limit hearing: Lawyer Mabirizi stuns judges


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