Uganda: Mabirizi Returns to Supreme Court in New Age Limit Petition

To Male Mabirizi, the age limit petition case is not closed just yet even after Supreme Court justices ruled last week 4 to 3 to throw out the appeal.

Male Mabirizi, one of the appellants in the matter that resulted from a constitutional court ruling last year that upheld parliament's passage of the Age Limit Bill, wants the Supreme court to exercise its powers to review the ruling of the justices who ruled in favour.

As such, Mabirizi yesterday filed a motion of review with the Supreme court.

"The applicant has a right to petition The East African Court of Justice and/or The African Court of Human Rights for declarations that in light of the purported majority judgement, Uganda no longer adheres to the fundamental principles of The East African Community as well as The African Union. Before proceeding to international, continental or regional courts for redress, the applicant is duty bound to exhaust all domestic remedies, including filing the instant application," Mabirizi's motion reads in part.

On April 18, Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Jotham Tumwesigye, Stella Arach-Amoko, and Ruby Opio-Aweri upheld while justices Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza, Paul Mugamba and Eldad Mwangushya ruled that the whole Act was null and void and therefore unconstitutional.

Now, Mabirizi wants the Supreme court to review its own case, arguing that the law allows them to do so provided there is fresh evidence tabled to show that the decisions they arrived at were inconsistent with the Constitution. He wants the judgements of Mwangusya, Tibatemwa and Mugamba to constitute the majority judgement of court.

If that doesn't happen, in the alternative, Mabirizi wants another coram excluding Katureebe and Tumwesigye, to be set up to re-hear and determine the appeal expeditiously. He adds that he is doing this to exhaust all the remedies available to him before finally petitioning the East African Court of Justice.

Mabirizi sets out a number of grounds why the Supreme court needs to review its own ruling. These include that the effect of non-compliance with constitutional imperatives in the constitutional amendment/making process renders the proposed law null and void.

He adds that the justices ruling that it was legal to save the Act and only remove the unconstitutional clauses was illegal and therefore not applicable in the case which was before court.

For Katureebe, Mabirizi says he was not in position to write let alone read his own judgement having been suffering from infirmity of the body for over five weeks preceding the delivery of the judgement. Mabirizi says Katureebe's illness compromised his independence since he required state clearance to travel for treatment abroad. Katureebe is also faulted for not being competent to sit as a justice in the matter because his old friend, Gen Museveni, the incumbent president of Uganda was the biggest beneficiary of the outcome of the appeal.

Mabirizi also accuses Katureebe of making it a habit of sitting in matters where he has conflict of interest without disclosing the same to the parties and deciding in favour of the party where his interests lie. He cites some cases where Katureebe has always heard cases from lawyers of Kampala Associated Advocates and decided in their favour yet he is one of the founders of the said law firm.

Mabirizi also says Katureebe has since shifted from his Bunyaruguru home and went to Mbarara so he can live near his friend, President Museveni. He adds that Katureebe, Amoko and Tumwesigye have also got personal relations with Museveni which could have influenced their decisions.

"Katureebe is in a habit of sitting in matters where he has conflict of interest without disclosing the same to the parties and finally deciding in favour of the party where his interest lay. Tumwesigye was not competent to sit as a Justice in the matter having studied with and being a good friend of Museveni," Mabirizi says.

For Arach-Amoko, Mabirizi claims that her husband, Ambassador Idule Amoko is a diplomatic political appointee of Museveni whose fate was being determined. Mabirizi states that there is no way Justice Amoko would annoy the president yet her husband's source of income is determined by Museveni. Mabirizi also states that Justice Tumwesigye was not competent to sit as a Justice in the matter having studied with and being a good friend of Museveni since their early days at Ntare School.

Tumwesigye is also faulted for having worked as director Legal Affairs at the Movement Secretariat, a political structure, whose chairman was General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the incumbent president of Uganda.

Mabirizi also says that while serving as Inspector General of Government, Justice Tumwesigye worked closely with Constitutional court Judge Elizabeth Musoke who was one of the majority justices in the Constitutional court that upheld the parliamentary decision to scrap the age limit from the constitution.

He reasons that the reason he didn't present these objections at the time of hearing the case was that this information was not available to him then. Court is yet to sit and determine when the motion for review will be heard.

He also states that he was not in position to know the health status of Katureebe despite his request for the delayed judgment. He states that the actions of the said justices are contrary to common sense and article 144 of the constitution, which talks about incompetence and infirmity of the body among others.

Additional reporting by URN

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