Byamukama said, “It was not by mistake that we left it out. We prefer that Parliament takes a decision on this matter.”
Electoral Commission team led by the chairperson Simon Byabakama appearing before the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on November 01, 2017. Photo by Miriam Namutebi
Officials from the Electoral Commission and Uganda Law Reform Commission have declined to give a position on the controversial amendment of article 102(b) of the Constitution.
The amendment seeks to remove the age limit of more than 75 years and less than 35 years for one to become President of Uganda. Rather the amendment says the eligibility should be left open to all registered voters.
Appearing before the legal committee chaired by Jacob Oboth Oboth yesterday, the officials instead left the matter to be decided upon by Parliament.
Interracting with the MPs, EC chairman Simon Byabakama did not mention anything on the controversial article and instead concentrated on amendments that only touch the elections.
Byabakama agreed with all the proposed amendments on the electoral process including increasing the period within which to hold fresh elections, period within which to file a presidential election petition, period within which to determine the presidential election petition and the proposal on the period within which to hold a rerun.
"The proposed period would be sufficient enough to traverse the country for purposes of collecting affidavit evidence and also improve the quality and quantity of evidence filed in court. It also lessens on the pressure on the entire litigation process," he said.
He, however requested for a comprehensive set of amendments to all the electoral laws as recommended by the Supreme Court in 2016 Presidential election petition involving Amama Mbabazi and President Yoweri Museveni.
After his his submission, Committee chairman Jacob Oboth-Oboth wondered whether Byamukama had made a mistake by not commenting on article 102 (b).
"You responded to only three proposals do you have another presentation? Was that intentional or by design?" Oboth asked as other members also demanded to know why he had decided not to talk about it.
"You should come clear and give us your stand. Are you saying you have no interest on it?" MP Monica Amoding asked.
Byamukama said, "It was not by mistake that we left it out. We prefer that Parliament takes a decision on this matter."
Submitting on the same article, Uganda Law Reform Commission Vastina Rukimirana noted that the process of amending removing age limit should involve wide consultations to ensure citizens give their views, she said it is within the powers of Parliament to decide on whether the article should be amended or not.
The commission gave examples of countries within the East African region that have maintained the lower limit including; Rwanda and Tanzania with other countries that have the upper limit that is, Mauritania, Gambia, Burkina Faso and Djibouti.
"Drawing from the above cases, Parliament may wish to choose which position to harmonize with; harmonization with the practice in the East African region could be one such option. This would apply to both issues of minimum and maximum," Rukimirana said.
Members rejected her submission saying it did not address the pertinent issues in the Bill.
"This is not what we expected from the experts. The presentation addresses issues of procedures but not the substance. As experts you should you should be advising us professionally on what to do. Substantially we don't see any expert advice in the presentation," MP Abdu Katuntu commented.
MPsMedard Segona, Monica Amoding and Oboth demanded to know why the Commission has not come up with the a comprehensive review of all the electoral laws as recommended by the Supreme Court.
MP Veronica Bichetero asked the Committee to send the officials back to go and make a ‘proper presentation that addresses major issues.
The officials were later sent away to go study the bill and make a comprehensive response.