Even before President Museveni assents to the controversial age limit law passed by Parliament on Wednesday, a private citizen has today petitioned the Constitutional court challenging everything therein. The attorney general is the respondent.
In the new law, among other things, parliament voted to lift presidential age limits, reinstate and entrench term limits and extend the term of Members of Parliament and local council leaders from five to seven years effective immediately.
But Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, a lawyer, challenges the actions of parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee which smuggled into the Constitution Amendment (No2) Bill 2017 items concerning the extension of the term of parliament from five to seven years and restoration of presidential term limits.
He contends that none of these items were in the original bill as presented and sent to the committee, neither were they presented before it in form of any memoranda by the people interviewed.
Mabirizi says the committee’s actions were inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 8A, 44(c), 79, 90 and 94 of the constitution which require parliament to only act in the name of the people, in conformity with the constitution, laws and the rules of parliament before enacting any law.
Mabirizi also challenges Wednesday’s decision by parliament to extend its own term for two more years, arguing that it is inconsistent with and in contravention of articles 1, 2, 77(3) and 77 (4) of the constitution which provide that the current parliament was elected for five years and its term can only be extended by only six months at a time and only when there is a state of war or any emergency.
Also in challenge is the decision by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to waive the rule requiring a minimum of three days from the tabling of a committee report on a bill before the report could be debated by parliament.
He also says the speaker should have given every MP a chance to debate the bill. Only 124 of the 451 legislators debated the bill.
“The action of the speaker of parliament [Kadaga] to close the debate on the Constitutional Amendment (NO 2) Bill before each and every member of parliament could debate and present the views of their constituents was inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 2, 8A, 44 (c), 79 and 94 of the constitution which require parliament to only act in the name of the people, in conformity with the constitution, laws and the rules of parliament before enacting any law,” Mabirizi says.
He adds that if President Museveni assents to this bill, it will be inconsistent with and in contravention of articles 1, 2, 8A, 44(c), 79, 91, 94 and 263(2)(a) of the constitution which require parliament and the president to only act in the name of the people, in conformity with the constitution.
He further says the action of parliament to claim that the term of office of the current president expires in 2021 is inconsistent with and in contravention of articles 102(b) and 102(c) of the constitution.
According to Mabirizi, the aforementioned articles provide that a person is only qualified to be president when he/she is not above 75 years.
Museveni turns 75 in 2020 and, accprding to Mabirizi, that is when he should step down and fresh elections be held. But article 102 (b) that Mabirizi is referring to only prohibits a person above 75 years from standing for president.
“That to the best of my knowledge, a president can only remain a president as long as he has the qualifications of being in that office as prescribed by the constitution and once they cease, he/she cases to be so,” Mabirizi says in his affidavit in support of the petition.
He argues that since the new age limit law gives Museveni a chance to rule beyond 2020, he will easily assent to it.