28 December 2017

Uganda: Lawyer Petitions Court to Quash Age Limit Bill

Kampala — A lawyer has petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging the process through which Parliament passed the controversial Bill on the amendment the Constitution to remove the presidential age limit.

Last week, Parliament voted by majority of 317 MPs against 97 to change the Constitution and remove the 75-year age limit on the presidency and to extend the term of president and Parliament from five to seven years.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2017 now awaits President Museveni's assent to become law, which allows him to stand for another term and more.

The petitioner, Mr Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, filed the suit against the Attorney General (AG), who is cited as the respondent in the case.

Mr Mabirizi, who filed the suit last Friday in his own capacity as a concerned citizen, contends that the actions of Parliament to consider and grant leave to Mr Raphael Magyezi [Igara West MP]to table a Private Member's Bill when the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Opposition Chief Whip and other opposition MPs were not in Parliament was in contravention of the Constitution.

"The actions of the Speaker of Parliament to allow ruling party MPs to cross the floor and sit at the opposition side during the presentation of the Bill was inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 8A, 69(1), 69(2)(b), 71, 74, 75, 79, 82A, 83(1)(g), 83(3) and 108A of the Constitution which guarantee a multiparty dispensation and create two sides for government and opposition in parliament," the petition reads in part.

Mr Mabirizi contends that the action of Attorney General and his agents to claim that the term of office of the current president expires in 2021 is in contravention of Articles 102(b) and 102(c) of the Constitution because he will be above the age limit of 75 by then, which is prohibited under the cited articles.

He contends that the President was elected into office, which pegs the qualification of the president to those of an MP and hence when he/she ceases to possess the qualification of being aged 75, such a president also ceases to be eligible to hold that position and new elections must be conducted.

Mr Mabirizi is challenging Parliament on preventing members of the public from accessing the gallery during the presentation and debate of the Constitution Amendment Bill 2017, saying it was inconsistent with Articles 1, 8(a) and 79 of the Constitution.

"The actions of the combined forces of Police and Uganda People's Defence Forces to invade Parliament, beat up, torture and arrest MPs on September 26, 2017 was inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 8a, 79, 208(2), 209, 211(3) and 212 of the Constitution which require Parliament to only act in the name of the people, in conformity with the Constitution, laws and the rules of parliament and require the said forces to be non-partisan," reads the court documents.

He wants the Constitutional Court to declare the process, the actions of Parliament and the Bill null and void.

He said the extension of the term of Parliament and president were smuggled in by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

The Attorney General has 15 days to respond to the petition. We could not get a response from government since the matter is sub-judice.

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