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Matembe files petition over Omnibus Bill

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th March 2005 03:00 AM

THREE lawyer MPs led by former cabinet minister Miria Matembe yesterday formally filed a petition asking the constitutional court to restrain parliament from further consideration of the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill.

THREE lawyer MPs led by former cabinet minister Miria Matembe yesterday formally filed a petition asking the constitutional court to restrain parliament from further consideration of the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill.

By Felix Osike
and Jude Etyang


THREE lawyer MPs led by former cabinet minister Miria Matembe yesterday formally filed a petition asking the constitutional court to restrain parliament from further consideration of the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill.

Matembe (Mbarara Woman), Ben Wacha (Oyam north) and Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) raised four grounds challenging the legality of the Bill, now under scrutiny by the legal and parliamentary affairs committee chaired by Jacob Oulanyah (Omoro).

The petitioners also want the Parliament rules of procedure, under which the Bill will be considered declared null and void because they contravene constitutional provisions.

Kwesigabo, Bamwine and Walubiri advocates filed the petition. No hearing date has been fixed.

The Electoral Commission chief, Badru Kiggundu, and Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki have also raised concerns about the Bill.

Legal experts have advised that the Bill be split into three, to cater for amendments to be approved by Parliament, district councils and national referendum respectively.

“If the Bill is considered by Parliament, the district councils and at the referenda in its present omnibus manner, members of Parliament and the citizens of Uganda will be compelled to vote, “YES” or “No” to all the proposed amendments, thereby denying them the right to freely vote and choose which amendments to accept or reject,” reads Wacha’s plaint.

The omnibus Bill, which seeks to amend 114 articles and schedules of the 1995 Constitution to pave way for the transition to multiparty politics, was presented to Parliament by the justice and constitutional affairs minister, Prof. Khiddu Makubuya on February 15.
It also seeks to repeal the now controversial Article 105 (2) to give a president endless terms in office as opposed to the two the article stipulates.

The first ground is that the Bill is inconsistent with constitutional provisions and that the three constitutional procedures of amending the constitution are not being followed.
The second is that the manner in which Makubuya tabled the Bill in Parliament and its subsequent consideration, which combines proposed amendments to specified articles, is inconsistent with and contravenes articles 92, 258, 260, 261 and 262.

Article 92 says Parliament shall not pass any law to alter the decision or judgement of any court. Article 258 refers to the process of amending the constitution. Article 259 is specific on amendments, which require a referendum, 260 on those requiring approval by the district councils while 261 is on amendments by MPs.

The third ground is that parliament rules 104 and 111, under which the amendments are to be debated and the Bill passed, are inconsistent with and contravene constitutional provisions.

The case is likely to delay the constitutional amendment process, which is already behind schedule, ahead of general elections in March 2006.
Wacha said only at committee stage, if the Bill is passed in an omnibus manner, that the MPs will vote on individual clauses of the Bill using a simple majority.

Wacha said when the motion is finally moved for the Bill to be passed, again it will be passed by a two-thirds majority or rejected in an omnibus manner, without a vote on specific clauses.

The fourth ground is that the Bill contravenes Article 1 of the Constitution because it proposes to amend in an omnibus manner, specific articles of the Constitution without the required two-thirds vote in parliament and subjecting the entire bill to an omnibus district council vote and national referenda.

The petitioners say it is wrong to subject the entire Bill to a referendum and ratification by the districts.

Matembe files petition over Omnibus Bill

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