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Lawyer Mabirizi’s Age Limit Case Dismissed by EACJ, Cries Foul

Judges at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) have dismissed a case in which lawyer Male Mabirizi had sought the nullification of the Constitutional Amendment Act 2018 that saw the age limit clause removed.

Mabirizi attended the judgement session via video conferencing on September 30, 2020.

Court dismissed Mabirizi’s application, upholding the Supreme Court decision.

This followed move that happened at the end of 2017, where majority NRM MPs voted to remove the age limit clause that had barred those above the age of 75 to stand for president.

Without the removal of the clause, Yoweri Museveni now aged 76 and in power since 1986, would not be a candidate in the 2021 presidential election.

Months after the chaotic amendment process, during which elite Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers raided Parliament, the Constitutional Court upheld the removal of the clause.

The Supreme Court, months later also concurred with the Supreme Court, with majority judges saying the clause was removed in accordance with the law.

Mabirizi then moved to challenge the ruling of the Supreme Court in two ways: a judicial review of the court’s decision, and an application in the EACJ.

EACJ PETITION

In his petition to the EACJ, Mabirizi blamed Parliament, Executive and the Judiciary for illegally pushing through the Constitutional Amendment Act 2018.

The perennial litigant also blamed the MPs for accepting inducements to pass the age limit bill.

He equally accused the legislators of not consulting their constituents as required by the law.

Also of concern to Mabirizi was the SFC raid on parliament and a decision by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to suspend MPs over parliamentary misconduct.

Mabirizi wanted the amendment annulled and the Electoral Commission ordered to suspend the 2021 electoral roadmap until court has disposed of his case.

But the judges ruled that it was improper to stop the 2021 election process since that would breed uncertainty that could easily degenerate into anarchy.

“It is clear that the electoral timetable is quite constrained and to halt any part of it for any length of time would certainly throw the electoral cycle into disarray with obvious political, social and economic not to mention constitutional ramifications,” the judges ruled.

These were: Justice Monica Mugenyi, Deputy Principal Judge Justice Faustin Ntezilayo, Justice Audace Ngiye, Justice Charles Nyawello and Justice Charles Nyachae.

SUPREME COURT REVIEW

In July 2020, Mabirizi withdrew his application for a judicial review of a Supreme Court ruling. Four of the seven Supreme Court justices had upheld the Constitutional Court ruling on the legality of the Amendment.

Those who voted to uphold the Constitutional Court ruling were: then Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Jotham Tumwesigye, Opio Aweri and Stellah Arach Amoko.

Dissenters were: Dr Lillian Tibatemwa, Paul Mugamba and Eldard Mwanguhya.

Mabirizi had argued that Katureebe had conflict of interest in the case since he was a friend of Museveni, the beneficiary of the age limit removal bid.

He also wondered how Katureebe had written his judgement yet he had sought permission to seek treatment abroad just a few weeks before the Supreme Court ruling.

For Tumwesigye, Mabirizi noted that the judge was also Museveni’s friend, his Ntare School OB, and a former legal director at the ruling NRM party secretariat.

He also argued that Tumwesigye was biased on account of having worked with Justice Musoke at the Inspectorate of Government. Musoke had ruled in favour of age limit removal.

Mabirizi also cited conflict of interest in the case of Amoko since her husband Ambassador Idule Amoko was a presidential appointee.

Two months ago, Justices Esther Kisaakye, Faith Mwondha, Paul Mugamba, Mike Chibita, Percy Night Tuhaise, Rubby Apio Aweri and Lillian Tibatemwa Ekirikubinza closed the case.

EACJ RULING

In its ruling, the Arusha-based court said age limit amendment had not flouted articles 6 and 7 of the East African Treaty which enjoins member states to observe the principles of Good governance and the Rule of Law.

The judges also blamed rowdy MPs for the violence at parliament, absolving Kadaga over SFC raid on the House.

They added that Parliament amended the constitution in line with the laws of Uganda. The ruling upholds both the Supreme Court and Supreme Court rulings on the matter.

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