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Parliament rejects bill to increase Judges' retirement age

By Moses Walubiri, Mary Karugaba

Added 15th September 2016 11:19 AM

Lawmakers prefer amendment of the constitution to be handled under a Constitutional Review Commission

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Lawmakers prefer amendment of the constitution to be handled under a Constitutional Review Commission

A controversial private members bill by Nakifuma County MP, Robert Kafero Ssekitoleko on Wednesday suffered a still birth after Parliament denied him leave to table it saying it will open up a Pandora Box by introducing amendments to the Constitution piecemeal.

Kafeero's bill seeks to amend the constitution to increase the retirement age for judges, and also remove term limits for commissioners of the Electoral Commission.

However, the opposition has already raised a red flag saying this could be a ruse to eventually amend Article 102(b) which limits the age of the President at 75 years.   

"Other than expediency, I have failed to see the urgency of this bill. The danger with granting you leave to table this bill is that tomorrow, I will have no ground to deny other members seeking to amend different clauses of the constitution," Kadaga said to prolonged foot stumping and clapping by lawmakers across the political aisle yesterday.

Kadaga agreed with lawmakers who prefer amendment of the constitution to be handled under a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC).

Kafeero, a second term lawmaker has been the subject of a whispering campaign in the corridors of Parliament of trying to use his Bill as a Trojan horse to lift the constitutional age limit.

Three weeks ago when deputy speaker of parliament, Jacob Oulanyah was presiding over the House, Kafeero tabled the motion to officially seek leave of parliament during a particularly raucous session.

However, he never spoke to his motion as required by the parliamentary rules of procedure and neither did the seconder of the motion, Peter Amoru submit on its justification.

"In jurisdictions like USA, Ghana and United Kingdom that we seek to benchmark, judges serve deep into the evening of their lives. The renowned Lord Denning wrote judgments at 100 years. Why should we limit our justices?" Kafeero asked.

Lord Denning, one of the justices who contributed most to jurisprudence under the common law died at 100 years in 1999, but retired in 1983 at 84 years after hip surgery.

After speaking to his bill, attempts by Annet Nyakecho and later Jackson Kafunzaki to second it ran into trouble over what MPs Monicah Amoding, Odonga Otto and William Nzoghu described as conflict of interest.

Nyakecho has an appeal by Geoffrey Ekanya pending in the court of appeal while Kafunzaki, an advocate of the High Court, is working for a law firm whose clients include lawmakers battling election petitions in court.

"If you have an interest in this matter please declare. Only a person with no conflict of interest should second this bill," Kadaga said.

Earlier, MPs Gusta Mugoya, Mukitale Birahwa, Raphael Magyezi and shadow attorney general, Wilfred Niwagaba said that the very integrity and image of parliament was at stake over this bill.

"If every MP is granted leave to amend the constitution piecemeal, shall we have anything called a constitution?" Niwagaba asked, demanding that the minister of justice, Gen. Kahinda Otafiire who was in attendance pronounces himself on government's plan to institute a CRCto amend the constitution omnibus.

Although conceding that Kafeero's bill was premature, Otafiire said that lawmakers have a right to table private members bills.

In its ruling in the election petition filed by former premier Amama Mbabazi in which he challenged the election of President Yoweri Museveni, the Supreme Court has given the Attorney General a timeframe within which to make amendments to the constitution regarding conducting of presidential elections. 

All these amendments are expected to be handled by a CRC.

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