Lawyer challenging the removal of presidential Age Limit at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has expressed concern over low turn-out of Ugandans at the commencement of the hearing of the case in Arusha, Tanzania.
Addressing the media at the East African Court of Justice (EACJ) sub-registry in Kampala Male Mabirizi revealed that only one Ugandan appeared in court.
"I was shocked that only one Ugandan appeared in court on this important matter. I request all Ugandans believing in rule of law and Constitutionalism to pick interest in the case. It only requires sh90, 000 for transport," Mabirizi said.
On May 3 this year, Mabirizi filed a reference at the EACJ seeking a declaration that the process of passing and assenting to the Age Limit Act did not comply with Articles 6 and 7 of the Treaty for Establishment of the East African Community.
This followed a Supreme Court verdict in which majority justices (4:3) dismissed an appeal in the matter, arguing that despite several breaches, which occurred during the tabling, debating and passing of the bill, it had no substantive effect on the process of the entire enactment of the Act.
Chief Justice Bart Katureebe, Stella Arach Amoko, Rubby Aweri and Jotham Tumwesigye upheld the appeal while Eldad Mwangusya, Lilian Tibatemwa- Ekirikubinza and Paul Mugamba dissented.
Article 6 and 7 of Treaty emphasize good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice, equal opportunities, gender equality, as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human and people's rights in accordance with the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights.
Dressed in EACJ T-shirt, Mabirizi disclosed that he has also chosen to withdraw an application in which he wanted President Yoweri Museveni, Katureebe, Amoko, Aweri and Tumwesigye to avail him with their bio data.
"I took a decision to withdraw my application for documents because court was to determine it next year before which no other step would be taken in the main case which I saw as time wasting yet I want to see the case quickly determined," Mabirizi said.
A panel of five judges hearing the case led by Justice Monica Mugenyi have since pushed hearing of the case to March next year.
Others judges are Dr Faustin Ntezilyayo, Audance Ngiye, Charles Nyawello and Charles Nyachae.
They have ordered both parties to file the necessary documents before March such that the case is heard and determined expeditiously.
Although Mabirizi had asked the court to strike out the government's response in the matter on grounds it was filed out time stipulated under the law, only 17 paragraphs of the response was struck out.
Mabirizi also wants the Ugandan elections halted pending determination of his case on grounds that no amount of damages and interest can be compensated to him rather than suspending the elections.
In reply Solicitor General, Francis Atoke implored the court to dismiss the application, noting that if granted it can cause instability in the country yet in case Mabirizi wins can be compensated. The court will give its decision on notice.
On December 20, 2017, the parliament amended the constitution which uplifted the presidential Age Limit and also the term of parliament to seven years which prompted Mabirizi and four others to petition the constitutional court.
On July 26, 2018, the Constitutional Court in a majority decision of 4:1 Okayed the removal of Presidential Age Limit and unanimously declared the extension of the term of members of parliament and local government as unconstitutional.
The Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Remmy Kasule, Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborion Barishaki Okayed the removal of the Presidential age Limit while Justice Kenneth Kakuru dissented.
Following the judgment, the petitioners appealed to the Supreme Court seeking to declare the entire Constitutional amendment Act no.1 of 2018 null and void.
On April 18, 2019, the Supreme Court in a majority decision (4:3) upheld the Constitutional court decision.
Mabirizi seeks sh90m
Mabirizi also urged Ugandans to offer him financial assistance, noting that he needs over sh90m.
"I managed to collect over sh11m before going to Arusha but I have spent all of it. Now I need about sh90m but the Non-government organisations that are willing to support me have since been threatened. I call upon all Ugandans to make contributions for this cause," Mabirizi said.