Why Youths Jumped On Museveni Age Case

A newly-filed petition challenging the constitutionality of imposing age limit on anyone seeking to be president was crafted to defeat a related petition already in court, The Observer has learnt.

Three members of the national youth council who petitioned the Constitutional court this week are reacting to Benjamin Alipanga’s earlier petition in the same court. Alipanga, a student said to be close to former Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, seeks an injunction against Museveni’s likely 2016 re-election bid.

According to the constitution, a person aged older than 75 years or younger than 35 can’t stand for president. Under ordinary interpretation, President Museveni, who is about 71 years this year, is eligible to stand in next year’s election, although Alipanga is of the contrary view, arguing that Museveni would turn 75 years while still in office.

On March 19, a group of pro-Museveni youths Samuel Kavuma, David Kabanda and Ibrahim Kitatta, filed a petition of their own, asking the Constitutional court to expunge article 102(b) from the constitution. The article imposes age limits at local government and national level. The petitioners’ strategy, we have been told, is to have their petition disposed of in their favour before Alipanga’s, rendering the latter irrelevant.

“What I can say is that we consulted senior leaders in the party, and lawyers, before we decided to finally file this petition,” Kitatta said.

Asked whether the president has shown any interest in their petitioner, Kittata said: “I cannot say that he [Museveni] is among the people we consulted in any case, he is not an expert at law.” Alipanga’s petition has since been amended to claim that the president does not qualify to stand in next year’s election because he has already clocked the mandatory 75 years.

JUST A NUMBER

At the time Alipanga filed his case, the now minister of state for Planning, David Bahati, told this writer that the party had picked keen interest in the petition because it touched on a crucial matter. Citing leaders who stayed well into their aanced ages, the petitioning youths argue that at 75 years, Museveni will be sufficiently energetic to govern.

“Let us consider the performance of the former Cuban president, Fidel Castro didn’t he remain in office until after he was [85]? How old is [Zimbabwe’s] Robert Mugabe or Queen Elizabeth [of the UK]? At 75, one is still g enough to steer the country,” Kabanda said.

They also argue that setting the lower age limit for one to be elected as president or district chairperson at 35 years discriminates against the youths.

“We want an interpretation of certain provisions of the constitution that we think are discriminatory to a section of Ugandans,” Kavuma said.

“If the constitution gives the power to the people, why do you put clauses that take away people’s power? The people should be left to make their own choices,” he added.

The attorney general, Freddie Ruhindi, got a copy of the petition on Monday. Shadow attorney general Abdu Katuntu said the youths’ petition is one of the “unfortunate bogus petitions” that are clogging the Constitutional court.

“It is a political gimmick designed to put pressure on parliament to lift the presidential age limit,” Katuntu said on Tuesday.

The petitioners, Katuntu said, might succeed in getting sections 12 (2) (b), 18 (2) and 111(3) of the Local Government Act quashed but not the provisions of the constitution.

In the event that all prayers of the petition are granted, Katuntu argued, court would have usurped powers that the constitution vests in parliament, district councils and the electorate through a referendum.

Source : The Observer

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