Judicial officers under their umbrella body, Uganda Judicial Officers Association (UJOA) have protested comments made by President Museveni in the wake of the age limit ruling in Mbale last month.
The five judges of the Constitutional Court in Mbale last month unanimously ruled to annul the extension of the term of service for Members of Parliament from five to seven years.
“If we go by what happened, it would mean that parliament would every five years extend its terms without holding an election and this is what Idi Amin did by declaring himself life president and parliament,” Justice Kenneth Kakuru ruled.
“These were unprecedented amendments through which people ought to have been consulted. Extending the term parliament and amounted to a flagrant breach of social contract.It amounted to an attempt by parliament to override the power of the people and the same was null and void,”Justice Cheborion Barishaki said in his ruling.
Museveni later in a statement criticized judges of the Constitutional Court for nullifying the extension of the term of Parliament from five years to seven and described their decision as being an “undemocratic age limit nonsense” which focuses on form and procedure rather than substance.
“Unfortunately, our judges in Uganda spend more time on form and not substance. In the end however, the judges are not the ones in charge of the country,”Museveni said in a statement on his official facebook page.
In a statement, UJOA says Museveni’s comments were done in bad faith.
“These comments were in contravention of the spirit of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda which is the supreme law of the land and undermined the Independence of the Judiciary and democracy,” said UJOA president Godfrey Kaweesa, Vice president Sheilla Gloria Atim and General Secretary Elisha Arinaitwe.
In the statement, UJOA insists that the judiciary was established by the constitution which is the supreme law of the country.
Museveni in a July 31 statement, accused the judges of failure to consider NRM’s massive victory in the recent Local Councils and women committee elections before making their ruling on the extension of MPs’ term from five to seven years. “We shall harmonise and galvanise our position. The undemocratic age limit nonsense was clear,” Museveni said.
However, according to the judicial officers, any aggrieved party their right to appeal any judgment made not in their favour but say there was no step taken to appeal the ruling.
“The comments by His Excellency expressed dissatisfaction with the way the Justices reached their decision by considering what he termed as form and not substance and also that they also ignored the recent LC1 elections which showed a massive support for the NRM tantamount to a referendum since it happened right after the age limit debate had taken place.”
“These are arguments whose merit could have been considered by Counsel for the Respondents and the Attorney General (A.G) who are well placed to advise the Respondents and the Executive (Article 119) respectively. The same could have thus been raised in Court for consideration by the Justices,” UJOA said.
The judicial officers’ body insists that a personal attack on individual justices in the general and judiciary in particular is not the appropriate remedy under the rule of law.
“In conclusion, UJOA reiterates its commitment to encouraging the Judiciary to work hand in hand with the other arms of government amicably under the principle of separation of powers in order to promote the rule of law and respect of human rights in Uganda. All these are vital in achieving the country’s vision 2020 and 2040.”