President Yoweri Museveni has criticized the Constitutional Court for its judgment in the constitutional amendments passed by Parliament last year among which was the extension of the tenure of Members of Parliament and local government elected leaders from 5 to 7 years.
The contentious amendments which were passed in December last year also repealed the age cap for one to be eligible to run for Presidency. This was however challenged in court by a group of petitioners who argued these amendments were passed unlawfully and that Parliament violated rules of procedure in the process of amendments.
In its recent ruling, the Constitutional court upheld the Age Limit removal but expunged the extension of MPs’ term of office saying it was not only selfish, but it was also an abuse of the electorate in who all power is vested.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru said that while legislators have the mandate to make and change laws, if given too much power, these legislators could go to the extremes of abolishing the Judiciary or serving until death and making their Parliamentary seats hereditary.
Now, President Yoweri Museveni has weighed in on the ruling, lashing out at the justice system which he said spends more time on form and not substance, on procedure and not substance.
Museveni defended the motive behind the extension of the 5 year term arguing that elected leaders including MPs waste more time on electioneering than actually doing the work for which they were elected.
“My freedom fighter’s sense of justice, in this matter (the age limit ruling) focuses more on the convenience of 7 years rather than 5 years,” Museveni said in a statement released online yesterday.
“With the 5 years, a lot of time is spent on electioneering and less time on development; the 1st two years settling in, the 3rd year some work in the constituency and, then, by the 4th year, electioneering again,” the President added.
He took a swipe at the justice system which he said is not entirely in charge of how the country gets to be managed.
In the wake of last week’s ruling, many anti-Age Limit Bill campainers including opposition MPs celebrated the act by court to keep the ‘greedy’ Parliamentarians in check. But the President says that there is still a window for the court decision to be overturned.
“In the end, however, the judges are not the ones in charge of the country. If the NRM, MPs follow my guidelines and bond closely with the people, through wealth and job creation, we can, together with the people, make the necessary Constitutional reforms, judges or no judges,” he said.
Museveni said that the Constitution should not just facilitate “the theatre of democracy of form without addressing substance” but also the modernization of Uganda and the economic and political integration of Africa for the survival of the people of Africa as free people.
In their ruling, the Justices of the Constitution, in principle said that the amendment of the term of MPs required a referendum. But Museveni says that court ought to have taken into consideration of recent LC and Women Council elections which gave NRM majority seats.
“This was more or less a referendum. There was open participation by the millions,” he said.
Although some observers say that the statement by the President could come out as threatening to the independence of the Judiciary, the government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo argues otherwise.
“Both petitioners and the respondents have been making reactions to the ruling, including political leaders in the opposition. The President has a right to make his complaint public,” Opondo said while addressing reporters on Tuesday.
Ofwono said that the President’s statement does not amount to undermining the Judiciary since it is not the first time he is disputing a court decision.
“He said that the elected leaders have a responsibility to mobilize. He didn’t say ‘Go and overthrow what the court has done’. His comments do not threaten court in any way,” he said.