The Constitutional court today formally opened proceedings into a petition by Ellady Muyambi, a research associate with Africa Human Rights Monitoring that seeks to declare that representatives of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) are in Parliament in contravention of the constitution.
Muyambi filed the case on 6th May, 2011 through Rwakafuzi & Co.Advocates but it was only fixed for hearing recently.
The judges hearing the petition: Muyambi Ellady Vs Attorney General are: Justice Owinny Dollo (Deputy Chief Justice), Justice Kenneth Kakuru, Justice Engoda Ntende, Justice Obura Hellen, Justice Ezekiel Muhanguzi.
When the parties met in court today, it was agreed that the hearing of the same petition be adjourned to next week Wednesday 19th September, 2018.
Gist of the matter
In the petition, Muyambi, cites five articles that, according to him, contradict and nullify the two in the Constitution and a section of the Parliamentary Elections Act that seem to guarantee their existence there.
The supporting provisions include Article 78(1) (c) of the constitution, which guarantees army representation; Article 78(2), which gives Parliament power to retain them; and section 8(2)(a) of the Parliamentary Elections Act that specifies how many they should be.
Firstly, Muyambi’s petition cites Article 80(4), which states that under the multiparty political system, a public officer or a person employed in any government department or agency of the government or an employee of a local government who wishes to stand in a general election as a member of Parliament, shall resign his or her office at least ninety days before nomination day.
Secondly, Muyambi, who claims to be a promoter of constitutionalism, cites Article 208(2), which provides that the UPDF shall be non-partisan, national in character, patriotic, professional, disciplined, productive and subordinate to the civilian authority as established by the constitution.
By aligning themselves with the government and voting in its favour, Muyambi claims the army cannot claim to be non-partisan anymore.
Thirdly, he cites Article 209 that provides for the functions of the UPDF, which do not include representation in Parliament. Their existence in the House, therefore, is outside their constitutional mandate, Muyambi concludes.
Fourthly, the petitioner quotes Article 69(1) and (2) that empower Ugandans with the right to choose and adopt a political system of their choice through free and fair elections or referenda. He notes that in the 2005 referendum, Ugandans chose the multiparty system, which does not, in any way, accommodate the army because it would require its representatives to align themselves with government or the opposition, the only two sides that exist in the House.
Muyambi believes the presence of the army in the legislature compromises its independence since some legislators are reluctant to freely express themselves on some issues for fear there might be repercussions.
In its response, the office of the Attorney General totally denied the allegations contained in Muyambi’s petition.
The AG also says the petition does not disclose any question for constitutional interpretation and lacks merit.
The AG further says the army representation in Parliament is mandated by the constitution and that Parliament is mandated to review this representation from time to time as stipulated in the constitution.