The controversial amendment to remove the presidential age limit from the Constitution came to a conclusion on December 27, 2017 when President Museveni assented to it by signing it into law.
With the presidential signing, the Bill now becomes law and is cited as an Act of Parliament, paving way for President Museveni to be eligible to contest for re-election in 2021 and beyond.
Prior to the signing of the Bill, Article 102 (b) that has now been repealed, would bar President Museveni from contesting in the 2021 when he would be aged above the previous 75-age limit for the president.
According to the president of Uganda Law Society, Mr Francis Gimara, the Act now only awaits formal publication in the government gazette to be cited as an Act of Parliament.
Parliamentary terms extended
The amendment now extends the current five-year term of Parliament to seven years (up to 2023), a move that constitutional law experts say is a glaring mistake as the law does not apply retrospectively.
The constitutional amendment also extends President Museveni’s rule from 2021 to 2023 but the extension will be approved through a referendum.
The other salient implication is that two presidential term limits that had been removed from the constitution by the 7th Parliament in 2005 have been restored.
“The signing of that Bill by the President means the final process of the turning a Bill into a law is near completion as it now awaits gazetting,” Mr Gimara said.
This view is shared by a senior constitutional lawyer Peter Walubiri.
“The Bill now has become a law. The man has now got his heart desire to remain around for some time although the extension of his current term to seven years like for MPs is subject to a referendum,” Mr Walubiri said.
Mr Gimara said that with the signing of the Bill, the only available option left to stop it is by challenging it in the Constitutional Court.
“But all these amendments are subject to court action and can be annulled should they be found to be unconstitutional. But as Uganda Law Society as earlier said, we are going to get a gazette copy and ask a team of our experts to advise us on appropriate action we can take to challenge it,” he said.
Revoking the Bill
The other available options, according to law experts, that can overturn the amendment is for Parliament to table another Bill aimed at revoking it but this looks very unlikely as the same cannot annul what they have already passed.
The signing of the Bill also means that the application filed in the Constitutional Court by lawyer Mr Male Mabirizi, seeking interim orders to stop the President from signing it into law is now rendered inconsequential as it has been overtaken by events.
Mr Mabirizi can only now wait for the Constitutional Court to fix a date to hear his main petition challenging the constitutionality of the whole Act and process how Parliament passed the Bill.
Mr Gimara explained that the current Constitution will be read together with these new amendments until a time when the Law Reform Commission, reprints the Constitution to include the amendments.
The core mandate of the Uganda Law Reform Commission is to study and keep under constant review of the Acts and all other laws of Uganda with a view to making recommendations for improvement.
Efforts of this newspaper to reach out to Mr Lucas Omara Obongo, the secretary of the Uganda Law Reform Commission about when the re-printing of the new constitution will be done to incorporate the new amendments, were futile as he did not pick our repeated phone calls to him by press time last evening.
“This was President Museveni’s Bill right from the very start so I don’t see any news for him to assent to it. To me, the assenting to this Bill only now gives a constitutionality basis for anybody interested in challenging it before the Constitutional Court to do so. He was the only Ugandan beneficiary since he was the only one who would be above 75 to be interested in presidency,” Abdu Katuntu, MP Bugweri County (FDC)
“It has not come as a surprise. Me I am surprised about those people who thought President Museve-ni would not assent to this Bill. For us, we were prepared for this and we are ready to walk the full journey of democracy. Such glaring mistakes by Museveni make our work even much easy of explain-ing to our people,” Betty Nambooze, MP Mukono Municipality (DP)
“It’s very unfortunate that Mr Museveni did not listen to voices of majority Ugandans including the religious leaders, cultural leaders and most especially the 85% of the population that was against the Bill. But under my leadership, we are going to mobilise people to reject it and we shall not corporate with it. He should prepare for us, he should prepare for jail rooms, more tear gas for us. Museveni will not wish us away as this country belongs to us,” Patrick Amuriat Oboi, FDC party president
“I am very happy about it. It’s no longer called the Magyezi Bill as it’s now a law for Ugandans. I want to thank President Museveni for signing it into law since the five months journey has not been easy and also by the time the whole head of State signs a Bill into law, he usually does so after consulting legal brains including the Attorney General. I also understand that there are some people who want to go to court to challenge which is a more civilised way of handling differences rather throwing chairs at each but I want to advise such people not to waste time and resources to challenge a process that has come to a near end, let’s give chance to this law to work. This was because I was fully guided by law-yers and the Attorney General Chambers on each step that we took.
I am also very happy with the Speaker of Parliament and the 317 team that saw this through. This is not a Magyezi thing as it’s for all Ugandans who will not be discriminated from contesting presidency over age and this was aimed at dealing away with discrimination,”
Raphael Magyezi, mover of the Bill, Igara County West MP (NRM)
“I want to congratulate the 317 MPs who voted in support of the amendment. I also want to thank all Ugandans who were able to understand the need to amend the Constitution to deal with dis-crimination. I am very excited President Museveni for standing with us and the decision of the MPs who represented the voices of the majority Ugandans. Those who did not support the Bill, they should not be hurt but they should wait for another opportunity. This was like a football match. Let now re-turn to work,” Evelyn Anite, MP Koboko Municipality (NRM)
“This was long overdue. Personally I thought he was going to even sign it the following day. During the NRM caucus, he clearly said it was not a Magyezi Bill but his Bill. Subsequently, it has now become a Museveni Act and not Bill,”
Francis Mwijukye, MP Buhweju (FDC)
“He sponsored the whole thing, he did everything to see that Parliament passes it. Going forward, we are going to line up a team of lawyers to challenge this law in courts of law because this law takes away the opportunity for Ugandans to have peaceful handover of power from one President to another,” Erias Lukwago, Kampala Lord Mayor
“If you buy Parliament with Shs29m, and you want the Bill passed, what did you expect?, haa haaa, yesterday, he was thanking MPs for passing it. People should now go to Constitutional Court and that is what we should be asking now, thank you,” George Kanyeihamba, retired Supreme Court judge.