Uganda: East African Court Asked to Halt Uganda Elections

President Museveni waves to delegates as he arrives to deliver the State of the Nation Address at Kampala Serena Hotel.
31 October 2019

The East African Court of Justice has been asked to halt the 2021 presidential elections to allow the hearing and determination of the presidential age limit appeal which is pending before the regional court.

The petitioner, lawyer Male Mabirizi, argued that it will be unfair if the regional court does not halt the general elections roadmap since President Museveni's candidature is being challenged on the basis of he being aged above 75 is not yet resolved.

Mr Mabirizi was submitting in one of his preliminary applications ahead of the main hearing before the Arusha-based regional court on Tuesday.

In reponse, Mr Francis Atoke, Uganda's Solicitor General, who was accompanied by a host of lawyers from the Attorney General's chambers asked the court not to halt the general elections, reasoning that its effects will be grave for the country.

After hearing from both sides, the panel of five justices led by the court's Principal Judge Monica Mugenyi said they will give their ruling on notice and the concerned parties will be notified when the decision is ready.

Earlier, Mr Mabirizi had also asked court not to accept the Attorney General's defence, saying it had been filed out of time but the court overruled his request.

The judges said the matter at hand is of big national importance to Ugandans.

The court is now set to hold a scheduling conference, a process where the contentious issues in the case and the hearing are agreed upon by both parties under the guidance of court. Mr Mabirizi, in his case he filed in May this year, claims the Uganda government amended the presidential age limit clauses (102b) in the Constitution by use of violence and deployment of military police in and outside Parliament which he says is unconstitutional.

He also states that the age limit amendment was done without complying with the strict procedures contained in the Constitution, acts of Parliament and rules of procedure of Parliament.

He wants the regional court to declare that the several actions and decision of upholding the age limit amendment were unconstitutional and infringed on the treaty that established the East African Community.

However, in its defence, the government submitted that the court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the age limit case.

The government further says the issues raised by Mr Mabirizi in the case have since been duly resolved by competent local courts and there is no need to revisit them.

In April, in a majority judgment of 4 to 3 justices of the Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Constitutional Court that okayed the amendment of Article 102(b) to scrap the upper age limit cap of 75 years and lower age cap of 35 for anyone to contest for presidency.

The judgement gave leeway to President Museveni, who has been in power for 33 years and now aged 75, to contest for presidency as many times as he wishes.

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