Uganda Age Limit Case Verdict: Mps Lose, Museveni Wins
Five Constitutional Court Judges including Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Justice Remmy Kasule, Justice Cheborion Barishaki, Justice Kenneth Kakuru and Justice Elizabeth Musoke yesterday delivered the long awaited verdict on the age limit case that they had completed hearing in April in the Constitutional Court at Mbale in Eastern Uganda.
Among the 14 issues that the petitioners had presented to the Constitutional Court following the amendment of the Ugandan Constitution by the Parliament late last year included the removal of the presidential age limit and the extension of the MPs and local Council tenure by two years.
In their ruling, the five judges in a 4:1 majority verdict ruled that MPs followed the law in amending Article 102(b) of the Constitution that removed the presidential age limit and they nullified the extension of the MPs tenure saying that it was unconstitutional.
The Constitutional Court’s majority ruling that upheld the removal of the 75-age ceiling for President but quashed the extension of the current Parliament means that the President emerged top winner while MPs and local Government leaders were the biggest losers in this age limit petition. The ruling means that Mr. Museveni is now free to stand for re-election in 2021 when his current term ends and as many times as he wishes thereafter.
Regarding the extension of the term of Parliament and Local Councils 3 and 5 to seven years, all the five judges unanimously nullified this amendment saying that it was done without the participation of the electorate and the judges added that this move was against the principle of good governance. All the five judges unanimously agreed that the MPs were elected by the people under a social contract for only five years and cannot vary their stay in office without consulting the electorate.
The Judges also nullified the restoration of Presidential term limits that were removed by Parliament in another Constitutional amendment in 2005 saying they were passed by Parliament unconstitutionally.
The court awarded the petitioners Shs20m each since they partially won the case with the exclusion of Mr. Male Mabirizi who represented himself during the hearing who was not awarded any professional costs because he is not an enrolled advocate. However, he would benefit from two-thirds of the non-professional costs awarded to all petitioners as general expenses they incurred during the preparation and presentation of the petition.
After the conclusion of the judgment, the Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana, who led the government’s legal team, in his parting remarks, told court the rule law has been maintained even in those areas that they may be dissatisfied. Mr. Dan Ogalo, the lead counsel of the petitioners and lawyer for Uganda Law Society, told court that he fully agreed with the submissions of the Deputy Attorney General on the judgment. He added that they would by the decision of the court even in areas where they did not agree with the judgment as an application of what they were taught in law school in a bid to give confidence to the judiciary. The two main representatives of the opposing sides concluded by thanking the justices for the patience they exhibited during the whole hearing process of the petition.