Constitutional court relocates to Mbale for Age limit case

GYAGENDA KABUUBI

The constitutional court will shift to the eastern Uganda town of Mbale for the hearing of constitutional petitions challenging the Constitutional Amendment Act 2017.

There are six petitions before the Constitutional Court challenging the December 20, 2017 amendments that scrapped the presidential age limits.

The amendments also extended by two years, the term of elected leaders with the exception of the president whose five-year-term under Article 105(1) can only be amended through a referendum.

Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo on Tuesday held a conferencing meeting with lawyers representing the five petitioners and announced that a marathon hearing the petition will commence on April 4 in Mbale.

He will lead a Coram of five justices to hear the petition.

Dollo’s announcement resulted into an exchange between him and Kampala Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago who is representing opposition MPs Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality) and Winfred Kiiza (Kasese Woman MP) in the petition.

The other petitions are from Uganda Law Society, Male Mabirizi, Prosper Busingye and former presidential candidate Dr Abed Bwanika.  All the petitions have been consolidated into one.

Lukwago questioned why Dollo is choosing to take the petition to Mbale when the centre of government is in Kampala.

“That is a good practice but we have no structures for regional circuits of the Constitutional Court, why are you choosing to take the petition to Mbale?

Lord mayor Erias Lukwago – file photo

Dollo shot back asking Lukwago; “I always see you on social media moving around, are you suggesting that Mbale is not part of Uganda?”

To this, Lukwago responded, “Just imagine if I want to do research at the [Law Development Centre] LDC library or Makerere University or the Supreme Court Library, how will it be possible if we are far away in Mbale?”

Dollo was however unmoved and told Lukwago that since his clients, the MPs are well facilitated, he can always get the resources to do the necessary research.

Lukwago also asked Dollo why the court fixed new dates which contradicted dates that the court had earlier set for the petitioners.

In an earlier communication, Lukwago as counsel for the opposition MPs was asked to file his conference notices (summary of the case) by March 15 after which, the Attorney General would have up to March 30 to file a response. Lukwago would then have up to April 4 to file a rejoinder before the convening of an inter-parties conferencing on April 24.

On Thursday afternoon, lawyers of the petitioners will meet at Wandera Ogalo’s chambers for harmonization of the issues that want to be addressed before returning to court on March 27 for the conferencing.

The Constitutional amendment bill was controversially passed into law on December 20 amidst protests from the opposition MPs.
In months leading to its passing, there were fights within Parliament leading to a raid by security forces that violently arrested and dragged out several MPs who were opposed to the bill.