Over a year after the Supreme Court upheld the Constitutional Court decision that rejected extension of the current term of Parliament and local councils for seven years, MPs are seeking other options to have the term of office extended as they had sought in the presidential age limit petition last year.
The extension of the term for all political offices to seven years is not among the proposals Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba included in his Private Member’s Bill seeking to amend the Constitution to change the structure of government, but the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has proposed the extension.
Daily Monitor has seen a copy of the Committee’s report in which the MPs led by the chairperson, Mr Jacob Oboth-Oboth (West Budama, Ind), have rejected Mr Niwagaba’s main proposals and instead introduced a new provision in the Bill to have the term of office of Parliament and other elected officials extended beginning May 2021.
The Second Reading of the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 1 of 2020 has been on the Order Paper since last week and is expected to be processed before the House goes on recess this month.
The committee also concurs with Mr Niwagaba on the proposal to re-introduce presidential term limits, political parties or organisations that sponsored candidates to challenge the Presidential election results in the Supreme Court and also the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections to be held on the same day.
The issue of the extension of the political term of office from five to seven years has also not been opposed in a minority report signed by Mr Medard Lubega Sseggona (Busiro East, DP), Opposition Chief Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality, FDC) and Mr Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality, Jeema).
In the majority report, the Committee justified the need to extend the term of office saying: “Presidential term limits to be meaningful, the presidential term has to be sufficient enough to enable the President implement and fulfil his or her manifesto. It is the considered opinion of the Committee that the term of five years is insufficient for the implementation of the manifesto in order to have a meaningful impact on the development of the country.”
While amending the Constitution in December 2017, Parliament voted to extend its term of office from five to seven years but it was rejected by the Constitutional Court in the petition by Male Mabirizi and others Vs Attorney General.
The Justices of the Constitutional Court led by Deputy Chief Justice Alphonse Owiny-Dollo ruled that it would be a breach of contract entered with the electorate at the start of the current term in May 2016.
In their ruling on July 26, 2018, the justices said MPs ought to have extended the tenure of Parliament through a referendum because this was a crucial matter that needed public participation and endorsement.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru, who rejected the Constitutional Amendment Bill, said the MPs unlawfully extended their tenure. “If we go by what happened, it would mean that Parliament would every five years extend its term without holding an election and this is what Idi Amin did by declaring himself president and parliament,” Justice Kakuru ruled.
Yesterday, Mr Niwagaba, the mover of the Private Member’s Bill, whose main proposals have been rejected, questioned the intention of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which is dominated by MPs from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) .