Drama ensued at Parliament, Thursday, as several legislators unsuccessful blocked one of their members from seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a private members’ Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The proposed bill seeks to, among others; amend Article 144 of the constitution to increase the retirement age for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal Judges from 70 to 75-years. It also seeks to change the retirement age for High Court Judges from 65 to 70 years.
The same bill proposes an open ended term for commissioners on the Electoral Commission and suggests that political parties and any other individuals, be given a right to challenge the outcome of presidential elections. The current law only allows former presidential candidates the challenge the results.
But the motion, by Nakifuma County MP Robert Kafeero Ssekitoleko, met resistance as several legislators accused their colleague of hatching a sinister move to amend provisions of the constitution on the presidential age limit. The constitution of Uganda sets the age limit at not more than 75 years of age.
Hardly had Kafeero started reading the motion, than several MPs, including Ntungamo Municipality MP, Gerald Karuhanga, shot up to block the motion. Karuhanga wondered why Parliament does not put the matter on hold and allow for consultations so that the bill caters for views from other MPs.
The Deputy Speaker of Parliament of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah spent close to two hours pleading with MPs from the ruling NRM and opposition side to allow Kafeero to table the motion first and allow debate after, but this fell on deaf ears.
MPs Monica Amoding, James Kakooza and Raphael Magyezi equally pleaded with the MPs to allow Kafeero to first table the motion and debate its merits and demerits after.
During the heat of the debate, Shadow Justice Minister, Medard Seggona suggested that more consultations are held between Kafeero, government and the opposition to look at a holistic approach to the constitutional amendments.
In the end, Oulanyah asked Kafeero to table the motion, amid heckles and walk-outs by some opposition MPs. Debate on the motion has been deferred to next week on whether the MP will be allowed to proceed to draft the bill.