President Museveni on Monday criticised Constitutional Court judges for deciding as unconstitutional lawmakers’ revision of their term and that of local governments from five to seven years.
Pointedly, the President signed off the stinging short missive as the Ssabalwanyi - euphemism for master fighter.
‘In the end, however, the judges are not the ones in-charge of the country’, he wrote.
Our position is that the President has a right, as would any citizen, to disagree with the ‘age limit’ case verdict. We, however, argue that his public vitriol against the judges was and is unnecessary.
It undermines the principle of the separation of powers as well as reciprocal cordiality among the three key arms of government.
This constitutionally-enshrined and protected dictum is to enable the exercise of checks and balance between arms of government. It undergirds constitutionalism and the rule of law - both essential ingredients for a democratic society.
The President has on each of the six occasions of taking the oath of office since 1986 committed to protect, promote and defend the Constitution. It is a cardinal duty of the Constitutional Court, and on appeal the Supreme Court, to interpret and determine whether an action by an individual or the government is consistent or in breach of the supreme law.
This is the context in which the Coram of five justices, led by the Deputy Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo, heard and decided on the consolidated petition challenging the constitutionality of the Constitution Amendment (No.2) Act, 2017, that Parliament enacted last December.
The justices were unanimous in their July 26, 2018 decisions on nine out of 14 issues, including nullifying MPs’ unilateral extension of their tenure by two years.
Justice Kenneth Kakuru in his dissenting judgment further declared lifting of the presidential age limit and entire amendment unconstitutional.
These decisions constitute the basis of the President’s notable disquiet and disapproval. He categorised the verdict as “nonsense” and said constitutional reforms can still happen, with or without the judges, as long as lawmakers elected on the ruling NRM party closely work with him.
As head of State and Fountain of Honour, the President is held in high esteem. His words count. He sets example and citizens pick cue from him. This is why we note the aggressions deeply concerning.
The President could have tapped the counsel of the Attorney General to shape his rejoinder to the Constitutional Court verdict. The Constitution he swore to protect provides appeals to the highest court as constitutional pathways to resolve impugned court decisions. We ask the President to respect separation of powers for Uganda’s good.