20 April 2019

Uganda: Supreme Court Upholds Lifetime Term for Museveni

Photo: Yoweri Museveni/Twitter
President Yoweri Museveni at the Inter-Party Organization for Dialogue (IPOD) Summit at Speke Resort, Munyonyo.

President Yoweri Museveni has been given a green light to contest Uganda's presidency in 2021, even after the age of 75.

Uganda's Supreme Court Thursday upheld a constitutional court ruling in 2018 that stated Museveni — elected for the fourth time in 2016 — could run.

Led by Chief Justice Bart Katureeba, Justice Eldad Mwangusya read the final court ruling.

"By a majority decision of 4 to 3 on the process of enactment of the act, fails. On the violence scuffle, inside and outside parliament, fails," he said. "On the substantiality test, fails. By unanimous decision of the court, on the vacation of office by the president after attaining the age of 75, fails. The decision of the constitutional court is upheld."

The Supreme Court sat to consider eight key issues. Pertinent among others is whether the majority of constitutional court justices erred in holding that the process of conceptualizing, debating, and enacting the Constitution Amendment Act that removed the age limit did not violate the constitution and parliamentary procedures.

They also considered whether constitutional court justices erred when they held that the removal of the age limit was not consistent with the constitution, and whether constitutional court justices erred when they held that the violence and scuffle inside and outside parliament during the enactment contravened the constitution.

The ruling by four out of seven justices contradicted three justices who found the process leading to the age limit amendment null and avoid and in violation of Uganda's constitution.

Justices who ruled in favor of the appellants also argued that the certificate of compliance accompanying the bill was defective because it contained unmentioned provisions. They also ruled that the president had a duty to bring them to the attention of the speaker before assenting to it.

Opposition legislator and petitioner Winfred Kiiza expressed disappointment.

"When they say 'beating up people was not okay, but it was not so serious to warrant a violation of the law,' did they want people to be killed for them to really understand the magnitude of the violence? Oh my God," she exclaimed. "Why did we even spend our time debating these issues and yet these issues are held irrelevant. It's unfortunate."

Deputy Attorney General Adolf Mwesige, representing the government, was elated by the Supreme Court ruling, describing it as the rule of law and democracy at work.

"I appeal to our colleagues — when you lose, you get disappointed," he said. "But even when you are disappointed, it's incumbent upon you to respect the court ruling. This is the final opportunity to challenge the outcome. The constitutional amendment No. 2 is now law on the books of Uganda."

Critics say with such court rulings, Ugandans have no option but to take to the streets to see a change in government.

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