Age limit: MPs slam Law Reform Commission over ‘shallow recommendations’

Vastina Rukimirana (right) reads a document before the committee as the secretary to the commission, Omara Abong (centre), looks on.mission. Photo by Vincent Kasozi.

KAMPALA–MPs on the legal committee of Parliament were left unimpressed with the recommendations of the Law Reform Commission on the age limit bill on Wednesday morning.

The commissioners led by their chairperson Vastina Rukimirana made a submission to the committee that is currently scrutinizing the constitutional amendment No.2 Bill 2017.

However, majority MPs felt the Commission’s recommendations on the proposals contained in the controversial bill were light on substance and too shallow to be of use to the committee.

“Substantively we do not see any recommendations you are making apart from procedures,”  Bugweri county MP Abdu Katuntu said.

The Law Reform Commission has advised Parliament to take into consideration the intention of the framers of the constitution while scrutinizing the age limit bill.

The bill seeks to among others do away with lower and upper presidential age caps a move that has been interpreted by regime opponents as an attempt to entrench president Museveni in power, Museveni is currently ineligible to stand for the presidency as he will be over age in 2021.

While submitting their views on the Magyezi bill, the commission noted that a study of jurisdictions within east Africa region indicates that countries have a lower and upper age limit for presidential candidates.

Rukimirana in her statement noted that the lower age limit is 35 in Rwanda and 40 in Tanzania while the upper age limit for Gambia is 62, 75 for Burkina Faso and Djibouti at 75 years.

She stated that Parliament may wish to choose which position to harmonise with for both the issue of minimum and maximum age.

The law reform commission recommends that the house should consider the mischief that the provision of article 102(b) was intended to cure and determine whether there is merit in retaining or amending the article.

This was one of the recommendations that Katuntu found empty and shallow, noting that the commission should have identified the mischief and analyzed the Odoki commission and the constituent assembly and then made proposals on whether the bill before the committee was necessary.

The MPs also expressed their dissatisfaction with the commissioners for failing to address a number of queries raised on outstanding electoral reforms.

The MPs quizzed the Commissioners on whether they had studied the reforms that had been recommended by the Supreme Court in the Amama Mbabazi vs Yoweri Kaguta election petition, and what their view was in as far as constitutional amendments regarding these recommendations.

Rukimirana responded by saying that the mandate to report on the progress of implementation of the reforms had been handed to the Attorney General and not the law reform commission.

Rukimirana noted that she had only addressed herself to the four clauses contained in the Magyezi bill.

The MPs, however, insisted the commission should be well versed with the Supreme Court ruling. Medard Ssegona, the Busiro East MP, said the commission had a constitutional and statutory duty to advise government and make recommendations.

“I expected her to say I advised the attorney General, and among the people to advise is parliament if the Attorney General is not responding,” Ssegona argued.

The committee chairperson, Jacob Oboth Oboth, concurred with the committee members noting that the commission was wrong to limit its knowledge to the four clauses in the bill since the bill made specific reference to the Supreme Court ruling.

“There are other recommendations that the Supreme Court made, we would have given you 99.9% but your attempt to say that you restricted yourself to the bill is not helping.” Oboth ruled.

The Kaberamaido Woman MP Veronica Bitekyero also noted that she found gaps in the presentation in as far as the pros and cons of the bill are concerned.

“Nowhere in your submission have you exhaustively helped the committee” she said referring to the contentious proposal to scrap article 102(b) “This is your job and we would ask you to do your job” she concluded.

The commissioners asked to be invited back at a later date in order to extensively respond to the concerns raised by the MPs.



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