Supreme Court upholds decision to remove presidential age caps

The seven justices of the Supreme Court during age limit judgment on April 18, 2019. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

Uganda's top court Thursday upheld a decision to scrap presidential age limits, paving the way for the country's 74-year-old leader, Yoweri Museveni, to seek a sixth term in office.

The Supreme Court dismissed a challenge by Museveni's opponents, who had appealed against a ruling by the constitutional court that removed an age cap of 75 for presidential contenders.

"This appeal therefore fails," Chief Justice Bart Katureebe declared in handing down the court's majority 4-3 verdict.

In December 2017, a bill was signed to abolish age limits for presidential candidates, allowing Museveni -- who has ruled since 1986 -- to seek re-election in polls due in 2021.

That decision sparked protests and an outcry from the opposition, which accused the president of seeking to rule for life.

Attorney General William Byaruhanga shaking hands with opposition MPs Betty Nambooze and Allan Ssewanya during age limit ruling by Supreme Court justices on April 18, 2019. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

The constitutional court upheld the amendment in a ruling in July last year.

In January, the Supreme Court began hearing an appeal by opposition petitioners who unsuccessfully argued the earlier ruling was unconstitutional.

Museveni once said leaders who "overstayed" were the root of Africa's problems.

However, while running for a fifth term in 2016, he said it was not the right time for him to leave, as he still had work to do.

In February, the ruling party endorsed Museveni as its candidate for 2021. 

President Museveni

He is the only president most Ugandans have known in a country where the median age is less than 16.

The three appellants in this appeal challenged the decision of the Constitutional Court which upheld the amendment of the Constitution by Parliament to remove the 75-year upper age limit on the presidency.

Article 102(b), which was amended by 317 Members of Parliament (MPs)in the House about two years ago amidst stiff resistance from the minority Opposition MPs and moderates from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party following fist-fights on the floor of Parliament, barred anyone aged above 75 years or below 35 from contesting for presidency.
President Museveni will be above 75 years in 2021.

Lord Mayor Erias Lukwago listening to the Supreme Court justices during the reading of their judgment on the removal of age limit on April 18, 2019. PHOTO BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

If the Supreme Court overturned the Constitutional Court decision, he would not be eligible to contest for presidency despite his NRM top organ and MPs having endorsed him as the party’s sole candidate.

With the judgement, President Museveni will be free to contest for presidency in 2021 and indefinitely thereafter.
The justices on the panel were; Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Stella Arach Amoko, Eldad Mwangusya, Prof Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza, Jotham Tumwesigye, Rubby Opio Aweri, and Paul Mugamba.