Lawyers protest over Museveni age case
KAMPALA- Lawyers of the pro-Mbabazi petitioner who is seeking to block President Museveni’s 2016 candidature on account of age limit have protested to the Deputy Chief Justice Steven Kavuma over the delayed hearing of their client’s case.
The lawyers say the petition touches on the country’s 2016 political road map and the endless adjournments of the case will adversely affect the electoral process.
“The matter has been adjourned three times on account of absence of the deputy registrar to our client’s greatest disappointment. On May 26, the matter was adjourned to June 26 at 10am for the same reason,” reads the lawyers’ petition to Justice Steven Kavuma, the head of the Constitutional Court.
The petition, dated May 26, 2015, was drawn by the four law firms representing the petitioner, Mr Benjamin Alipanga.
“Our instructions are to vehemently protest and complain to you about the manner in which this case is being handled. We must state that constitutional cases must not only be given priority but must be handled expeditiously. We believe that this matter is of great national importance and any further delay will impact negatively on the constitutional governance of this country,” the lawyers protested to Justice Kavuma.
The lawyers’ copied their protest to Chief Justice Bart Katureebe and the Uganda Law Society.
“We therefore pray for an earlier date to be given in the interest of justice,” stated the lawyers from Akampurira and Partners, Mugisha and Co. Advocates, Twinobusingye Severino and Co Advocates.
Mr Deo Ninzeyimana, the deputy registrar of the Constitutional Court, who is cited in the lawyers’ letter, was reported out of office on the day the case came up for conferencing, a key stage of the hearing where lawyers for both sides agree on the issues to be resolved in the petition, and the date for the hearing.
When contacted on Thursday, Mr Nizeyimana declined to comment on the matter.
Matter referred to Kavuma
Justice Katureebe declined to comment on the matter. He referred our reporter to Justice Kavuma who heads the Constitutional Court, “I have not seen the letter, the matter is being handled by the Constitutional Court. So the lawyers should know where to go. I don’t sit in that court, so the question should be directed to the head of the court but there should have been a reason why the matter was adjourned,” Justice Katureebe said on Thursday.
However, when contacted, Justice Kavuma declined to comment on the lawyers’ protest, saying he had not seen their letter and was also unwell. “I have not seen that letter so I cannot talk in the abstract,” he said.
In the constitutional petition, Mr Alipanga is seeking court declarations that Mr Museveni is not eligible to contest in the 2016 presidential elections because he will turn 75 years old, which is the maximum age limit to stand for presidency under the Uganda Constitution, before he completes his new five-year term.
The Constitution establishes an age ceiling of 75 for persons standing for the presidency but is silent on what happens if an elected president turns 75 while still serving.
Mr Alipanga is a confessed supporter of former prime minister Amama Mbabazi who was sacked singularly in the September cabinet reshuffle last year over his perceived ambitions to challenge Mr Museveni in next year’s presidential race.
Mr Alipanga wants the Constitutional Court to stop the Electoral Commission from approving the nomination of Mr Museveni for the 2016 elections.
He also wants court to nullify ‘sole candidate resolution’ passed by the National Resistance Movement MPs while at Kyankwanzi last year and the subsequent amendments to the ruling party’s constitution, which set the process that removed Mr Mbabazi as secretary general of the party.
One of his lawyers’ Mr Fred Muwema said: “The matter before the court raises constitutional issues which impact on the political road map being followed now.
So there is need that the matter be resolved expeditiously, it is vital to the governance of the country and under the Constitution such matters are supposed to be expeditiously handled. Naturally, our client is anxious that the court is not hearing the matter six months later and you know equity helps the vigilant.”
His colleague Mr Severino Twinobusingye, said: “the Constitution commands that all business of court be suspended to hear a constitutional matter but since December the court has been adjourning this matter.”
Judiciary spokesman Erias Kisawuzi admitted the court business is supposed to be suspended to allow expeditious disposal of constitutional petitions but added that appropriate action, including assigning the case to another registrar, will be taken to expedite the hearing of the case since a complaint has been lodged.