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Government defends self in age limit petition

KAMPALA. The government has defended the process leading to the controversial amendment of Article 102 (b) of the Constitution that saw the removal of the age limit clause that used to bar Ugandans aged above 75 or below 35 from contesting for presidency.

According to court submissions by the Attorney General (AG), the government’s chief pleader, the whole amendment process culminating into the removal of the age limit clause was lawful.

In its written defence against the petition challenging the Constitution amendment, the government says the removal of the age limit clause was conceptualised, subjected to constituency consultations, tabled in Parliament, debated and passed.

“I have read the long title of the Constitution (amended) Act 2018 and I know that the Constitution of Republic of Uganda was amended in accordance with Articles 256 and 262 of the Constitution,” reads part of the affidavit sworn by Mr Samuel Tusubira, a state attorney in the Attorney General’s Chambers.

The government’s defence is dated February 23 in response to a petition filed by the Uganda Law Society (ULS) challenging the entire process of formulating and passing the Constitution Amendment Act.

In specific response to paragraph 1 (g) of the petition, the respondent (Attorney General) contends that the process leading to the conceptualisation, tabling, consultation, debating and passing of the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2018 was not inconsistent with and in contravention of Articles 1, 8A, 29, 38, 69 (1), 72 (1), 73 and 79 of the Constitution.

In defending the extension of the term of office of Parliament, local councils and the President, the government states that the same was made to give ample time to organise the general elections.

“I further know from the reading of the long title of the Constitution (Amended) Act 2018 that it is to further provide inter alia for the time within which to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government council elections to provide for the term of Parliament, for eligibility requirements for a person to be elected as President or district chairperson,” Mr Tusubira further states in his affidavit.

The government also states in its written defence that Parliament is mandated to make laws on any matter as long as it’s for peace, order, development and good governance.

The AG also defends the actions of the security operatives who stormed Parliament during the heated debate on the age limit motion and assaulted mainly opposition MPs before ejecting those who had been suspended by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.

The Attorney General insists those actions were not in contravention of Articles 23, 24 and 29 of the Constitution.

The Uganda Law Society filed the petition in January this year. It lists nine grounds for the petition upon which the Constitutional Court should annul the age limit Act.

The petition is supported by affidavits of the ULS president, Mr Francis Gimara, Prof. Frederick Ssempebwa and Prof Ogenga Latigo.

Following the constitution amendment, anybody aged above 18 or 75 can now contest for presidency.

The Act also extended the tenure of Parliament and the local government councils from five years to seven.

The tenure of the President was also expanded from five to seven years but this has to be first subjected to a referendum.
The lawyers contend in their petition that the current Parliament was elected in February 2016 for a term of five years and that the same should come to an end and be dissolved on or about May 18, 2021.

The petitioners say the implication of the amendment will see the Electoral Commission holding elections in 2021 and 2023, which move they say is unconstitutional and unjustifiably expensive.

Court can now summon the government and the petitioners for preliminary hearing before the actual hearing starts.

The Uganda Law Society is a corporate body established under the Uganda Law Society Act to protect and assist the public in all matters touching, ancillary or incidental to the law, protect constitutionalism, rule of law and good governance.

The opposition has also filed their petition challenging the removal of the age limit clause from the Constitution. The AG is yet to respond to that petition.

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