Six legislators from the Ugandan Parliament are leading the charge to challenge the process adopted by the Government of Uganda to amend article 102 (b) of the Constitution, which seeks to ensure that the age limit placed on the presidency is lifted paving the way for incumbent president Museveni to stand again as president with a chance to extend his three decade rule.
The MPs petitioned EAC Court of Justice on Monday December 4th 2017.
“We have witnessed the wonton abuse of legal and regulatory frameworks to ram through a bill that is aimed at fulfilling the wishes on one man- president Museveni, to extend his term, essentially making himself a president for life, at the expense of 40 million Ugandans. More than 40 years ago, President Idi Amin declared himself Uganda’s life president. Mr. Museveni is doing worse by seeking to constitutionalize his own life presidency by removing the only remaining safeguard enshrined in the 1995 constitution. We are resisting this move in order to uphold our democracy and rule of law”, said Mayinja County Member of Parliament John Baptist Nambesha.
The infamous amendment was introduced as a private member’s bill by lawmaker Raphael Magyezi on September 27, which led to massive resistance nationally, as well as in the legislature itself amid fistfights between opponents and proponents of the bill.
MPs were beaten up by state security operators leaving some of them were hospitalized in America and India. Arrests followed days later, and the intimidation escalated, with grenade attacks on the homes of several MPs.
Dubbed the Museveni life presidency bill, the Magyezi bill is highly unpopular among Ugandan voters who have put up stiff resistance against it under a campaign popularly known as TOGIKWATAKO (literally meaning “don’t touch Article 102(b)).
In a press statement released on Monday, the MPs and civil society groups argue that in Mr. Magezi’s constituency alone, a consultation undertaken by a group of civil society organizations opposed to the amendment found that out of about 2500 people consulted, 87% were against the bill while only 13% were in favor.
In a separate interview, another fierce opponent of the Bill, Kumi district Woman Member of Parliament Monica Amonding said
“The threats and continued intimidation by state unleashed on opponents of this bill points to a desperate Mr. Museveni that will stop at nothing to get his way. But we will ensure that our mandate as representatives of the people and our respective constituencies are heard- and they have stated that this bill must not pass, simply because the process is tainted and it is an attempt by Mr. Museveni to become another life president like Uganda’s former dictator Idi Amin”.
The opposition to the Museveni life presidency bill has attracted unprecedented bipartisan support bringing together MPs from the ruling NRM, opposition and independent members of
Parliament. Ndorwa East Independent Member of Parliament Wilfred Nuwagaba and a member of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee who also supports the reference to the EACJ expressed optimism that the East African court has the opportunity to breathe life in the treaty provisions committing partner states to promote democracy and the rule of law as foundations for good governance.
The MPs are amongst other things, asking the community court to put in place a permanent injunction to stop the process of passing the Bill until the hearing and final judgment is made on the matter. The MPs and other applicants to the court have also asked for need to look into the conduct of the Speaker in handling the affairs of Parliament on the 27th September, 2017 and subsequent dates up to the first reading of the Constitutional amendment, as they believe, fell below legitimate expectations.
They also stated that, by allowing for the wrongful trespass of parliament by security operatives who wrongfully entered parliament chambers, wrongfully ejected members of parliament while torturing, dehumanizing, and degrading and humiliating the said members, Rules of Procedure of Parliament and the Constitution of Uganda was violated.
A letter notifying the Government of Uganda about the case was dated 27 November 2017 and received by the Speaker’s office on December 1st 2017. In the letter, the MPs are calling upon the Speaker to refrain from any action which might be detrimental to the resolution of the dispute or aggravate the dispute that is the subject of the reference in accordance with the provisions of Article 38(2) of the EAC Treaty.
The MPs have collectively sued the Attorney General, who is the legal representative of the Government of Uganda.
The aggrieved legislators include: Hon. Winfred Kiiza, the leader of opposition; Hon. John Baptist Nambeshe, Hon. Gerald Karuhanga, Hon. Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, Hon. Betty Nambooze. Other applicants are activists; Alice Asiant Alaso, and Irene Ovonji Odida.