Mbale — The Constitutional Court sitting in Mbale District has summoned several top government officials, including the Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, and Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi to appear for cross-examination over their testimonies about the age limit petition. The hearing started yesterday.
The petition is challenging the passing of the law by Parliament which amended the Constitution last year to remove the presidential age limit.
The petitioners say the entire process of debating and passing the law was flawed and should be declared null and void.
"This is not an ordinary petition. We have five consolidated petitions seeking answers on numbers of issues that are of great public importance. The peculiar circumstance of this petition requires that we stretch our discretion and call for cross-examination of witnesses whose names have been spelt out and whose affidavits are on record," Justice Kakuru ruled.
The court summoned Gen Muhoozi and Mr Muhakanizi following an application by the petitioners to have the duo cross-examined on certain issues arising from their affidavits in support of the government's defence against the petition.
The application was made by Mr Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, one of the five petitioners, and Mr Erias Lukwago, the lawyer for the six opposition MPs, who are part of the consolidated petition.
However, the court declined to summon the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, to appear for the same purpose.
The judges reasoned that Ms Kadaga did not swear an affidavit on any of the consolidated petitions.
"We decline to grant the order calling for the Speaker. The details of our reasons shall be in our final judgment. The registrar of this court is hereby directed to issue summons to the said persons to appear in this court on Tuesday, April 17, 2018, at 9:30am for cross-examination," the judges' verdict reads in part.
In his submissions, Mr Lukwago argued that they had received many affidavits in response to the consolidated age limit petitions and they felt that for justice to be met, some witnesses needed to be cross-examined.
Mr Lukwago named the witnesses that he wanted court to summon.
Besides Gen Muhoozi and Mr Muhakanizi, he named Mr John Mitala, the head of Civil Service, Mr Frank Mwesigwa, the commandant of Kampala Metropolitan Police, and Mr Asuman Mugenyi, the police director of operations.
Others are Ms Jane Kibirige, the Clerk to Parliament, MP Moses Balyeku (Jinja West) and Ahmed Kagoye, the Parliament's Sergeant at Arms.
Case for Kadaga
In reference to Ms Kadaga, Mr Mabirizi argued that besides the Speaker holding a constitutional office for which she is accountable to the public, she oversaw most of the chaotic proceedings in Parliament that led to the scrapping of Article 102(b) from the Constitution.
In rebuttal, the Deputy Attorney General, Mr Mwesigwa Rukutana, said both Mr Lukwago and Mr Mabirizi had not given satisfactory reasons why the Speaker and other top government officials should be summoned.
"I begin with Erias Lukwago, apart from asking that the officials be summoned, he did not indicate the nature of evidence against them. You don't just say that you want so and so in court, you have to demonstrate that with credible evidence. The application to have the Speaker summoned is misconceived and I pray that it's disregarded," Mr Rukutana submitted.
Hearing continues today.
Number: Gen Kale Kayihura, the former police chief, in his hand over speech said he had left a force of 44,600 officers; an increase by 30,000 personnel in the 12 years he was at the helm of the force. The desertion could now place the force at about 40,000 or less given that some other officers have died.
Deaths: Last year, Daily Monitor reported that at 1,000 police officers had died of shootings and other chronic illnesses between 2013 and 2017.