Parliament warned against amending retirement age for judges
By Solomon Lubambula
Parliamentarians have been put on notice to out rightly reject the proposed constitutional amendment seeking to revise the age limit for judicial officers.
The call was made by civil society activists, who argue that these political moves orchestrated by President Yoweri Museveni aim at further weakening the institutions and entrench his rule.
Although MPs swear to uphold and defend the constitution, there are reports indicating that the executive through a private member’s bill intends to bring proposals to amend the supreme law to extend the age limit for judicial officers. Bufumbira East MP Eddy Kwizera who is reportedly responsible for the Private member’s Bill wants to scrap off the age limit for the judicial officers and subsequently that of the president.
The Executive director Human Rights Network Uganda, Mohammed Ndifuna says that after the chief justice retired upon clocking 70, the ruling government found it necessary to craft a plan through amending the constitution to return him to office.
This will not be the first to amend the constitution for the benefit of one and few individuals.
Ndifuna recalls that in 2005 the presidential term limits were lifted without being tested and now the very constitution is going to be defiled through similar political machinations which bear the finger prints of the President.
Calling on the Parliament of Uganda to reject those treasonable proposes, Ndifuna said government should focus at constituting the Directorate of Public Prosecution, and appointing a substantive Chief Justice to address the looming constitutional crisis.
“as citizens and citizens organizations we shall not stand by and watch as our constitution is abrogated”-Ndifuna stressed.
Ndifuna accuses Presidency for the crisis the country is in now, on grounds that the president knew that the chief Justice and deputy chief Justice were going to retire but he has deliberately delayed the appointment of the foregoing positions among other vacant post within the courts of Judicature.
The activists say everybody, every leader must do whatever they can, because the judiciary is in a crisis, in its current form today the judiciary is totally disabled, the Directorate of Public Prosecution is not fully constituted, it with no substantive DPP and deputy, there is no chief justice not even a deputy, said Niringiye .
Niringiye says that the onus is on the president because the appointing authority is vested in him and the judicial service commission has done its part of forwarding the names of the potential candidates for the vacant posts.
Retired Archbishop of Kampala Dr Zac Niringiye tasked the outgoing chief justice Benjamin Odoki to break the silence and clearly come up with a position on what he calls the unfortunate plans.
“There insinuations that there is an attempt to return justice Benjamin Odoki, am sure he hears this, so what a responsible leader does is for avoidance doubt, stands out and says here is my position, Justice Odoki who has clocked the required seventy years should stand out and say I am have no interest in this”-Niringiye .
Kwizera insists that there is need to have the retirement age for all civil servants reviewed in order to avoid certain costs. The confident NRM Bufumbira East MP urges that if the retirement age is not reviewed, government will incur unnecessary expenses on recruiting and training workers that will eventually leave the country for jobs abroad.
Kwizera says it would be unfair to have an age limit for president standing at 75 years yet other organs of government like parliament continue to have persons beyond 75 years.
He has vowed to continue with what he terms as his research paper on lifting age limits where necessary to foster continuity of public servants.
Meanwhile a section of lawmakers have formed a forum to oppose what they call plans to amend the constitution to lift the age limit requirement for some constitutional and elective offices in the country.
The formation of the forum known us “Mps against lifting of age limit” has been triggered by reports that MP Eddy Kwizera is planning to table a motion in parliament seeking to have the retirement age of the chief justice which is 70 years old scrapped.
MPs resisting Kwizera’s move include Mathias Mpuuga of Masaka Municipality, Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga, Butambala District Woman representative Mariam Nalubega, Kalungu West MP Joseph Sewungu, Butambala MP Muhammed Muwanga Kivumbi.
The lawmakers say that the efforts by Kwizera would act as a litmus test for plans to scrap the age limit for one to contest for the presidency which is now 75 years.