10 November 2017

Uganda: Constitutions Are Not Amended for Individuals - Opposition MPs

The opposition in parliament yesterday advised that the age limit bill forms part of a long-awaited bill covering wider political reforms alongside proposals contained in a minority report adopted two years ago in the 9th parliament.

The minority report adopted in August 2015 was written by former Jinja East MP Paul Mwiru.

It called for major reforms ahead of the 2016 polls and a total overhaul of the Electoral Commission, reinstatement of presidential term limits and establishment of an independent electoral commission.

While appearing before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee, which is processing the divisive bill, opposition MPs led by the Leader of Opposition Winnie Kiiza said the Constitution has always been amended to accommodate President Museveni's wishes.

"Repealing Article 102(b) at the moment is very dangerous as it is being done for only one possible beneficiary, the current president and his political party, although both seem to be identical. Constitution amendments are never made for individuals or political parties," she said.

MPs Roland Mugume, William Nzoghu, Atkins Katusabe, Joseph Ssewungu and Kiiza drew attention to what Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said in September last year, during consideration of a motion by Nakifuma MP Kafeero Sekitoleko that sought to lift the retirement age of judges.

Kadaga said then that there was no urgency, and guided that government establishes a constitutional review commission to carry a comprehensive review of the country's supreme law.

"The proposals in [Raphael] Magyezi's bill now before this committee should form part of information that will help the constitutional review commission to gather people's views across the country. We in the opposition and parliament indeed would be very ready and supportive if the attorney general brought the amendments after the constitutional review commission," Kiiza said in the opposition statement to the committee.

The group warned against amending Article 102(b) of the constitution, which caps the age for presidential aspirants at between 35 and 75 years, on grounds that it recognises Uganda's struggle against tyranny, oppression and exploitation.

"The constitution is not a statute which can be amended any time, anyhow, to fit the interests of a few individuals. It is considered to be a blind document that knows no face and voice nor height or size. Rather it is a mirror reflecting the national soul; the identification of ideals and aspirations of a nation, the articulation of the values bonding its people and disciplining its government," Kiiza said.

The group said they believe Uganda now has highly educated and capable citizens who can succeed Museveni.

The opposition said while the Magyezi bill is premised on the Supreme court decisions in the presidential election petition No. 1 of 2016: Amama Mbabazi vs Museveni, the Electoral Commission and Attorney General, it unfortunately misconstrued the ruling.

"The ruling gave instructions to only the attorney general to take actions. This implies that this bill before parliament is premised on erroneous interpretation of the ruling. Hon Magyezi has no locus to bring his amendments basing on the instructions of court as they were never issued to him," Kiiza said.

"The person responsible to bring these amendments is the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister (Kahinda Otafiire) assisted by the attorney general. The judgement is dated August 26, 2016 which means the attorney general [still] has more than nine months to bring all necessary amendments. There is no excuse whatsoever that the attorney general is in contempt of court after failing to comply with the judgment [which gave a two-year timeframe for compliance]," Kiiza added.


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