Age limit petitioners half lose, half win on day one

The joint petitioners opposed to presidential age limit removal, today Monday failed to convince the Constitutional court to have speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga be cross examined for the role she played in amending of the Constitution last year. 

On December 20, 2017, parliament passed into law the Constitution Amendment (No.2) Bill 2017 that among others lifted the upper age limit of 75 years and also lowered the age limit from 35 to 18 years. The amendment also extended the term of parliament from five to seven years and restored presidential term limits that were scrapped in 2005. 

Hearing of the presidential age limit removal petition started in Mbale today. Photo: @SolidarityUG

Now, in their joint submission, the petitioners, who include Uganda Law Society (ULS), six opposition MPs, lawyer Male Mabirizi, former presidential candidate Abed Bwanika, and another concerned citizen Prosper Businge had listed several state officials to be summoned to explain the roles they played during the debate and amendment process last year. 

Mabirizi had listed speaker Kadaga, Chief of Defense Forces (CDF) Gen David Muhozi, secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, parliament clerk Jane Kibirige, Kampala Metropolitan Police commander Frank Mwesigwa and others to appear before court for cross-examination. The hearing of the petition began today at Mbale High court. 

Mabirizi wanted Kadaga cross-examined for allegedly ignoring parliamentary rules and procedure during the debate and passing of the age limit law when she allowed presidential guards to raid the House and forcefully evict suspended MPs opposed to the amendment. 

Deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana asked court not to grant Mabirizi his wish because he said, the speaker is immune to prosecution for her actions and rulings on the floor of parliament.

A panel of five judges led by deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke, Cheborion Barishaki and Kenneth Kakuru ruled in Rukutana’s favour saying they saw no reason to compel the speaker to appear before court.

However, the judges ruled that the other witnesses have to appear before court on April 17 at 9am for cross examination. Muhakanizi, for example is accused of granting a Certificate of Financial Implication to support a private members bill despite the money never being ever budgeted for as required by law.

MPs were given Shs 29 million each as facilitation for consultation in their constituencies on the then age limit bill. A total of Shs 13 billion was dished out to the MPs for consultations on the bill. Less than 15 MPs opposed returned the money back to parliament. 

Muhoozi and Mwesigwa are to be cross examined on how presidential guards and police personnel flouted House rules and ended up on the floor of parliament. 

The Constitution was amended amidst chaos and violence on the floor of parliament after presidential guards with the help of police twice raided parliament and brutally arrested MPs believed to be opposed to the amendment.

© 2016 Observer Media Ltd