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MPs, Civil Society Actors Challenge Process, legality of Age Limit at EAC Court

Six MPs from the Ugandan Parliament are leading the charge to challenge the process adopted by the Government of Uganda to amend article 102 (b) of the Constitution, which seeks to ensure that the age limit placed on the presidency is lifted paving the way for incumbent president Museveni to stand again as president with a chance to extend his three decade rule.

“We have witnessed the wonton abuse of legal and regulatory frameworks to ram through a bill that is aimed at fulfilling the wishes on one man- president Museveni, to extend his term, essentially making himself a president for life, at the expense of 40 million Ugandans,” said Mayinja County Member of Parliament John Baptist Nambesha.

“More than 40 years ago, President Idi Amin declared himself Uganda’s life president. Mr. Museveni is doing worse by seeking to constitutionalize his own life presidency by removing the only remaining safeguard enshrined in the 1995 constitution. We are resisting this move in order to uphold our democracy and rule of law.”

The amendment was introduced as a private member’s bill by lawmaker Raphael Magyezi on September 27, which led to massive resistance nationally, as well as in the legislature itself amid fistfights between opponents and proponents of the bill.

MPs engaged in an aggressive scuffle with state security operators and some MPs were hospitalized.

The Magyezi bill has since resulted into a lot of campaigns staged to resist it, leading to demonstrations that have some dead and others injured in the process, especially during consultative meetings by lawmakers in their constituencies.

In Mr. Magezi’s constituency alone, a consultation undertaken by a group of civil society organizations opposed to the amendment found that out of about 2500 people who were consulted, 87% were against the bill while only 13% were in favor.

In a separate interview, another fierce opponent of the Bill, Kumi district Woman Member of Parliament Monica Amonding said, “The threats and continued intimidation by state unleashed on opponents of this bill points to a desperate Mr. Museveni that will stop at nothing to get his way.”

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She added, “But we will ensure that our mandate as representatives of the people and our respective constituencies are heard, and they have stated that this bill must not pass, simply because the process is tainted and it is an attempt by Mr. Museveni to become another life president like Uganda’s former dictator Idi Amin”.

The opposition to the age limit bill, which some have tagged the ‘Museveni Life Presidency Bill’ has attracted unprecedented bipartisan support bringing together MPs from the ruling NRM, opposition and independent members of Parliament.

Ndorwa East Independent Member of Parliament Wilfred Nuwagaba and a member of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee who also supports the reference to the EACJ expressed optimism that the East African court has the opportunity to breathe life in the treaty provisions committing partners states to promote democracy and the rule of law as foundations for good governance.

The MPs are amongst other things, asking the community court to put in place a permanent injunction to stop the process of passing the Bill until the hearing and final judgement is made on the matter.

The MPs and other applicants to the court have also asked for need to look into the conduct of the Speaker in handling the affairs of Parliament on the 27th September, 2017 and subsequent dates up to the first reading of the Constitutional amendment, as they believe, fell below legitimate expectations.

They also stated that, by allowing for the wrongful trespass of parliament by security operatives who wrongfully entered parliament chambers, wrongfully ejected members of parliament while “torturing, dehumanising, and degrading and humiliating the said members, Rules of Procedure of Parliament and the Constitution of Uganda was violated.”

A letter notifying the Government of Uganda about the case was dated 27 November 2017 and received by the Speaker’s office on December 1st 2017.

In the letter, the MPs are calling upon the Speaker to refrain from any action which might be detrimental to the resolution of the dispute or aggravate the dispute that is the subject of the reference in accordance with the provisions of Article 38(2) of the EAC Treaty.

The MPs that have collectively sued the Attorney General, the legal representative of the Government are: Winfred Kiiza; John Baptist Nambeshe; Gerald Karuhanga; Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda; Betty Nambooze.

Other Applicants Are: Alice Asianut Alaso; Irene Ovonji Odida.

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