The judges’ unanimous decision of 4-1 saved president Museveni yesterday by upholding the scrapping of term limit and age limit in the Ugandan Constitution even though members of parliament (MPs) were unlucky as the judges agreed with the petitioners that the extension of legislators’ term of office from five years to seven years was unconstitutional.
The judges’ performance
Ugandans both within the country and abroad yesterday spent almost 12 years hooked on television sets in their homes, hotels, bars, shops and offices as each of the five justices of the Constitutional Court delivered their ruling on the consolidated petition seeking to among others quash the constitutional term limit removal, age limit removal and the extension of the legislators term of office from five to seven years.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru: Justice Kenneth Kakuru declared the whole amendment process unconstitutional and urged that the entire amendment act should be expunged from the Constitution, a ruling that has been welcomed by Ugandans who still believe in the sanctity of the constitution. Kakuru’s ruling, unlike those of his colleagues, was based on an independent mind, an independent judge. One would expect that Kakuru who comes from Western Uganda, same as Museveni, would favour the latter but he did not. For that decision Justice Kakuru is an early contender for Ugandan Man of the Year 2018 as he restored the pride of Ugandans who believe in constitutionalism.
Justices Remmy Kasule, Cheborion Bashariki, Owiny Dollo and Rebecca Musoke for sure disappointed many Ugandans by maintaining upholding the removal of the age limit and term limit. In their ruling the four justices failed to grasp the fact that in Africa a president in power will always have a greater advantage over his competitors due to the fact that they control resources including finances, civil service, military and security agencies. The argument that the people have the power to elect or not to elect a sitting president is far-fetched. For instance in Uganda the constitution gives powers to the president to appoint Chairman of the Electoral Commission and other top officials but also appoints the judges. That undermines decision making in a suit where the sitting president is involved like it happened yesterday. There is no doubt that parliament entrenched life president in Uganda and now the four judges yesterday confirmed it without exhibiting any shame in their faces.
Museveni is a winner and all happy as Justices Remmy Kasule, Cheborion Bashariki, Owiny Dollo and Rebecca Musoke did not see any problem in having a constitution without presidential term limit as well age limit. The president wanted the two changed and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) MPs did it and the judges confirmed it in the ruling. Whether this is not the entrenchment of life presidency in the constitution is a matter of debate. However, the president must be unhappy that the son of the soil, Justice Kakuru could not grant him his wish.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga is all smiles after the judges in their ruling agreed that she faulted no parliament’s rules of procedure as she expelled some MPs from the house on the account of causing chaos during the debate to remove age limit for the president. On allowing external security inside parliament Kadaga scored highly, as the judges observed that the situation warranted the intervention of the forces. However, that she allowed the smuggling in the constitutional amendments the extension of MPs term of office from five to seven years and reinstatement of the presidential term limit did not go well with the judges as it went against the law.
NRM Members of Parliament big losers!
It is no secret that the removal of the presidential age remit, presidential term limit and now failed extension of the MPs term of office was hatched and executed by the National Resistance Movement (NRM) legislators in parliament on account of their numerical strength, an advantage they thought would always give them way to achieve what they want in disregard of the electorate and constitutional provisions. Yesterday’s ruling by all the five judges reminded them that they can always have their way in parliament but not in the judiciary. That justice Kakuru asked each of the MPs who received Shs29 million for consultations to give accountability of the cash was prudent to tell them they cannot always misuse taxpayers’ money for selfish interests.
On the other hand, the ruling vindicated the NRM rebel MPs as well as those in the opposition who opposed the extension of their own term of office. As regards the ruling on this issue that group emerged victorious even as the fight could end up in the Supreme Court.