19 January 2018

Uganda: MPs Challenge 'Age Limit' Law in Court

Six opposition members of parliament have filed a constitutional petition challenging the age limit law, which was controversially passed by parliament at the end of last year.

Led by the leader of opposition in parliament, Winnie Kiiza (Kasese Woman), the MPs; Gerald Karuhanga Kafureeka (Ntungamo Municipality), Odur Jonathan (Erute County South), Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe South), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda (Kira Municipality) are challenging the amendments passed by parliament on December 20, 2017.

The MPs insist everything in the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2017 is unconstitutional. President Museveni signed the amendments into law, seven days later on December 27. Uganda Law Society also filed a petition against the amendments this week.

Among other things in the amendments, parliament voted to lift the presidential age limits, reinstate and entrench term limits and extend the term of members of parliament and local council leaders from five to seven years effective immediately.

But now, opposition MPs in their petition, take the Constitutional court back to the events of September 26, 2017, when the security forces raided parliament and battered MPs who were opposed to the bill, tabled by Raphael Magyezi the Igara West MP.

They state that the use of violence at the time of tabling the bill, was inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 3, 8A, 20, 24,29,42,44,79, 208(2), 209, 211(3) and 259 of the Constitution.

"That the unlawful invasion and heavy deployment at the parliament by the combined armed forces of the Uganda People's Defence Forces [UPDF], the Uganda police force and other militia before and on the day the impugned constitution amendment bill was tabled before the parliament, undermined parliamentary independence and democracy and as such was inconsistent with and in contravention of articles," they contend.

Through Lukwago and company and advocates plus Rwakafuuzi and company advocates, the petitioners insist that the law is unconstitutional because the UPDF, police, and other militia entered parliament while in plenary and thereby inflicting violence, beating, torture on several members of parliament at the time the law now being contested was tabled as a bill.

"That the arbitrary, unlawful, and violent actions of the armed forces of Uganda People's Defence Forces, the Uganda police force and other militia in beating, torturing, arresting and subjecting several members of parliament while in their various constituencies to consult the people on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill Number 2 of 2017 was inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1,3, 8A, 24, 29, 44(C), 79, 208(2), 209, 211(3) and 259 of the Constitution of Uganda " the petition partly reads.

In the 8-page petition, the MPs go into challenging the specifics of the amendment saying that Sections 2, 3, 6,7,8,9 and 10 of the amendment, are in contravention of Articles 91, 94, 259, and 262 of the Constitution.

Section 2 of the amendment, according to the petitioners, is unconstitutional because it purports to extend the term of parliament from five years to seven years, which according to them is inconsistent with Articles 1, 3, 8A, 79, 90, 94, of the Constitution and rule 93 of the rules of procedure.

They then tackle Section 3 of the amendment, saying its illegal in as far as purporting to lift the minimum and maximum age qualification of a person seeking to be elected as President of Uganda. The MPs say this is inconsistent with Articles 84, 79, 90 and 94 of the Constitution.

"That Sections 6 and 10 of the Constitution (Amendment) Act, 2017 are unconstitutional in as far as it purports to extend the life/term of the local government councils from five years to seven years is inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 3, 8A, 79, 90, 94 and 259 of the Constitution," they contend.

KADAGA

The petitioners also take issue with the procedure and manner of passing of age limit law arguing that it was inconsistent with Constitution.

"That process leading to the enactment was tainted with illegality, procedural, impropriety and the same was a violation of the rules of procedure of parliament and therefore inconsistent and contravention of articles 28, 42, 44, 79, 91, 94 and 259," they say.

Procedurally, they take issue with action of Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of parliament for allowing Magyezi to table his private member's bill in the manner that he did, which they say was in violation of rules 25 and 174 of the rules of procedure of parliament.

"That the publication and gazetting of the Constitution (Amendment) Bill No. 2 of 2017 was irregularly done and without instructions from the clerk to parliament and as such was inconsistent with and or contravened article 94 of the Constitution of Uganda." MPs insist.

Kadaga, according to the petitioners, rendered the amendments illegal, when she suspended MPs Karuhanga, Odur, Munyagwa, Ssewanyana and Ssemujju from the sittings of parliament, where the two reports on the constitutional amendment were to be tabled.

By suspending them, Kadaga according to the petitioners was in contravention of articles 1, 28(1), 42, 44(c) and 94 of the Constitution.

"That the actions of the speaker of parliament to close the debate on the Constitution (Amendment) Bill No. 2 of 2017 before each member of parliament could debate and present the views of their constituents concerning the constitutional amendment..was in violation of rule 133 (3) (a) of the rules of procedure of parliament," say.

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