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OPINION: Petitioners In “Age Limit” Case Fear To Face Ugandan Voters

By Faruk Kirunda

Last Thursday, the Supreme Court, the last appellate court in the land and sitting at Kololo in Kampala, delivered its long-awaited ruling in the appeal against the passing of Constitutional Amendment Bill 2018 featuring the lifting of the age limit on the Presidency. The appeal followed a dismissal of the original petition filed before the Constitutional Court (Court of Appeal) by a group of politicians, activists, lawyers and academics. That petition was heard in Mbale and a verdict was reached on July 26 last year.

Last Thursday’s dismissal of the appeal seals the process of Constitutional amendment in regard to the articles that were composed of in the Bill. The buck passes to Ugandans, who are the voters, to maximize their potent rights to self-determination. Up until now, I still wonder what the intention of the group of politicians opposed to the amendments and those who have been behind the petitions were/are up to! Why fear to face the voters? Was their intention to snatch power from Ugandans or are they serving ulterior interests, and making names and money for themselves? Whichever the case, they cannot defeat the will of the people.

Only NRM trusts Ugandan voters enough to allow them have the final as opposed to tying their hands with unrealistic legal chains.

All the same, appealing to the two hierarchical Courts was a Constitutional right. The Courts exist to hear and adjudicate in such disputes. Courts work on the basis of evidence made available before the bench and judges work independently, professionally and consciously. They cannot be intimidated or forced to rule anyway other than as informed by facts on file.

I am very sure that if NRM had lost the appeal at any stage, we would have conceded and opted for plan B, which in our case means fielding an alternative candidate at the next election. For now, President Yoweri Museveni, the party National Chairman and beloved “sole candidate” is our best bet and our opponents should accept that fact and move on. While the Court was still processing its ruling, business was going on normally on our side.

NRM was a step ahead in its preparations, including the endorsement of Museveni by the Central Executive Committee (C.E.C), Diaspora league, several district and regional structures and so on. The consistence was based on the fact that we were very sure that the Constitutional Amendment process was transparent and defensible.

Court should never be used to settle political scores, more so, based on plain sentiments. The appellants have been using impolite language against the bench-in both cases-threatening everyone, but failing to substantiate their issues in the correct forum, yet they expected to win. Even the media did not find merit in their appeal so much so that after the Mbale ruling, there was little enthusiasm in coverage of the final proceedings.

A key lesson to take is that the choice by a section of opposition Members of Parliament to engage in rowdiness inside the sacred chambers of Parliament was a gross miscalculation on their side. They thought that locking down the House and attracting stern administrative action on them would draw sympathy and cause the process to be nullified in Court. However, only an emotional judge would side with such behaviour and that would pave way for the same characters to lock down Court to prevent it from doing its job. I am sure no MP will ever attempt such conduct again and that means that Ugandans can rest assured that their Parliament is in safe hands. There is no place for a “ghetto Parliament” in modern politics.

Must Read: Why Uganda Still Needs President Yoweri Museveni

Uganda is spacious enough for all of us; we can contend and disagree but it does not meaning resorting to physical fights. If we do, we lose the right to be heard, literally.

Last Thursday, the four judges who ruled in favour of dismissing the appeal saw beyond the theatricals and scrutinized the merit of Parliament’s work in relation to the very Constitution under review, which is very clear on how it can be amended. There was no state interference in the Court process because had it been the case, all the judges would have ruled one way-in favour of dismissing the petition and slapping huge costs on the petitioners for wasting people’s time. The three dissent judges have nothing to worry about as it is not obligatory for the whole bench to reach a similar verdict. It should also be remembered that NRM’s desire to have the term of the Presidency, Parliament and Local Councils extended from five to seven years was struck out at Mbale, but we are not sulking.

Therefore, in totality, both judgments were a victory for the wanainchi and Ugandans should be congratulated. The mean things being said by “the losers” only go to confirm that they are embittered and desperate. They should admit that they failed to convince fellow MPs, the public (during consultations) and the two appellate Courts. I urge them to join NRM and leave the final say to Ugandans!


The Writer is an official at the Office of the NRM National Chairman, Kyambogo.

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