The President of the conservative party has dragged the government to the constitutional court to challenge the recent amendments to the electoral laws, saying the amendments are meant to deny access to positions of leadership to less economically empowered Ugandans while giving sitting MPs and the incumbent president undue advantage.
Through prominent city lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi, 21 and 23 of the Constitution.
Article 21, specifically states: “All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic and social and cultural life and every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.”
Clause 2, adds: “Without prejudice to clause (1) of this article, a person shall not be discriminated against on the ground of sex, colour, ethnic origin, birth, creed or religion, or social economic standing, political opinion and disability.”
Lukyamuzi’s suit is just but one of the many legal challenges facing government following the surprising amendments that raised fees for aspiring Members of Parliament from Ushs200,000 to Ushs3million as well as the scrapping of facilitation fees for presidential candidates.
Omar Kalinge Nnyago of The Independent Coalition (TIC) told The Sunrise that they also plan a separate suit against the government over the same ‘unconstitutional provisions’ which he described as removing competition in favour of sitting MPs.
At the same time, The Sunrise has learnt that The Democratic Party plans to sue the Electoral Commission for planning to nominate President Yoweri Museveni before he undergoes thorough the thorough nomination process by the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The Parliament of Uganda last week came out of recess to consider and amend the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections Acts. The MPs scrapped the privileges including the Ushs20 million that had been provided in the previous law as part of facilitation for presidential candidates. Parliament also provided in the new law that the presidential aspirants that had paid the Ushs8m as nomination fees but pull out of the race would not be entitled to a refund.
Lukyamuzi told The Sunrise thus: “The new laws are largely discriminatory and will therefore negate the fundamental constitutional freedoms. Those constitutional provisions encourage every Ugandan to participate in a free and fair constitution.”
Lukyamuzi also expressed anger at the way the executive branch dishes out money to bribe MPs to pass laws. This is after government paid Ushs10m to each MP on top of their regular pay but just because they came out of recess to pass the amendments.
Supporting Lukyamuzi’s submission, Rwakafuzi said: “This will mean for example that candidates are being elected on the basis of their wealth and yet this is not one of the qualifications stipulated in the constitution.”
Rwakafuzi added: “Our laws cannot allow a situation where a roadmap with its regulations is handed down to participants and then goal posts are suddenly changed mid way the game. This is strange and unacceptable!”
Answering questions on whether the time left will be enough to allow the litigation process before the nominations get underway, Lwakafuzi said that they are going to pray to the court to postpone the elections until all the confusion surrounding electoral laws is sorted out.
He pointed out that increasing the nomination fees for MPs from Ushs200,000 to Ushs3million will make the Parliamentary race out of reach with the poor who, nonetheless have the qualifications to represent their areas.
Kalinge Nnyago’s Independent Coalition that chose Joseph Mabirizi as its representative in the presidential race, argues as well that: “Changing goal posts midway the game is also challengeable in the Constitutional court.”
“Our contention is that presidential candidates picked up nomination forms on the basis of the existing laws and guidelines including the number of signatures to be collected, the payment of Ushs 8m as nomination fees, in anticipation of getting Ushs20m as part of the candidate’s facilitation during the process,” Nnyago said.
“But we were struck with dismay on the release of the new amendments. We had just moved 3 quarters along the Electoral Commission’s roadmap and then we heard that presidential candidates are now required to pay an extra Ushs12m, on top of the Ushs8m they had already paid, while all forms of facilitation including the Ushs20m had been scrapped.
This is unacceptable and it not going to happen.” “We are praying that these amendments are either kept in abeyance until the next elections or recalled,” said Nnyago