The colour, pomp and anger in age limit appeal judgment

Sunday April 21 2019

Ruling.  Left-right:  Members of Parliament

Ruling. Left-right: Members of Parliament Moses Kasibante (Rubaga North), Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality), Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality) during the age limit petition ruling at the Supreme Court in Kololo, Kampala on Thursday. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI 


By 9am, litigants and parties to the age limit appeal had thronged the Kololo-based Supreme Court to receive the judgment.

Opposition Democratic Party (DP) president general Norbert Mao marched in with his rediscovered political boosters Mike Mabikke and Dr Abed Bwanika.
Jokingly, Mao announced he had the already-written judgment, and waved a parcel to the amusement and excitement of the litigants.

Moments later, the ‘red brigade’ led by Opposition spokesperson of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) Ibrahim Ssemujju also trooped in.
They settled in the front seats and did not care for any pleasantries with the Mao group that sat only metres away.

The two rivals camps have lately been at loggerheads, jostling for Opposition prominence in the preps for the 2021 general election.
Ssemujju was accompanied by Makindye East MP Allan Ssewanyana and Erute County South Member of Parliament Jonathan Odur.

Flamboyant and cheeky former Rubaga South MP Ken Lukyamuzi, aka the Man, who had earlier camped in, moved over, smiled and exchanged pleasantries with MP Sssemujju and his group as cameras clicked and flashed to capture the historic moments.
Shortly after, Mr Mao and MP Ssemujju in seeming re-establishing of cordial relations, met and shook hands as both smiled sheepishly for the cameras.
Mao, size up MP Ssemujju, all garbed in red cap and jacket, and joked: “Why have you dressed like the Supreme Court judges?”

Earlier, Mao was loudly heard chatting away with senior counsel Wandera Ogalo.
“The day has finally come,” Mr Mao loudly quipped to counsel Ogalo.
Soon, showy and loud Aruu County MP Odonga Otto strutted in, dressed in a lawyer’s gown, drawing the attention of curious court users.

As the clock ticked away to 10am, the hour the justices had appointed to commence the reading of the respective decisions, more litigants and a select audience poured in, cramming the upscale court.
Shortly officers from Attorney General’s chambers drove into the court premises in a van to receive the judgment on behalf of the government side.

In the beehive of activities, an unidentified ‘People Power’ activist slipped into court, with a red cap stashed away, but with only a portion peeping from his pants.
He walked to the back row of the court hall, whipped out the red cap, put it on his head, and swaggered around the courtroom as court users looked on in amusement.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga and Kamapala Lord mayor Erias Lukwago were among the last entrants into the now fully packed courtroom.

Other notables who supported the move to lift restriction on upper age for a presidential candidates present in court were Rapheal Magyezi, the architect who brought the Private Member’s Bill in Parliament that saw the amendment of Article 102(b). Also present was NRM’s Kasanda South County MP Simeo Nsubuga.
MP Magyezi’s amendment eventually led to the removal of presidential age limit from the Constitution.
Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze also showed up in court and was greeted by her party president, Mr Mao.

The duo, who has lately been involved in a war of words, was seen cracking jokes that left big smiles on their faces.
The two recently hit out at each as double-faced and divided in loyalty, with Mr Mao dubbing MP Nambooze a water melon that is green outside and red inside, with the latter hitting back and referring to him as a pumpkin, which is green outside and yellow inside. Green is the party colour of DP, to which both Mr Mao and MP Nambooze belong, while red is an ultra-opposition people power symbol, and yellow signifying ruling NRM party.

MPs Gerald Karuhanga, Moses Kasibante, former Leader of Opposition in Parliament (LoP) Winnie Kiiza, were among the other Opposition MPs also present in court.
The de facto leader of the ‘People Power’ league, youthful MP Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, also sneaked into the packed court hall and squeezed into a seat so that he could follow the reading of the verdict.

The buzz was abruptly silenced by a loud bang at 10.35am, signalling the arrival of the seven justices.
The entire country had been impatiently waiting for this big moment for them to pass their verdict on the age limit appeal.
Attorney General William Byaruhanga, the chief government legal adviser, took to the floor and introduced the parties to the case present in court to receive the much awaited judgment.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe apologised for their delay to timely deliver the verdict, citing the complexity of the judgment and interruption by illness.

“Judges are also human beings who fall sick and I was a victim. I was away for five weeks after I underwent surgery. I was supposed to undergo another surgery of the eyes next week, but I had to put it on hold to first deliver this judgment before Easter,” the chief justice explained
As the justices sat to read the verdict that took the entire day, one of the appellants, Mr Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, was occasionally seen punching fists in the air in excitement once a pronouncement by a judge went his way.

Opposition leaders who were the majority in the court hall were also heard stumping their feet once a judge hit out at the State agencies.
But by the end of the judgment, they were left crestfallen as the judges in a 4:3 judgment, ruled otherwise, sending the government side into an uproarious celebration.
They ruled that President Museveni, and any other presidential candidate is free to stand for president at any age and for as many times as they are able to.