A number of people are running around with their i-phones, showing social media messages to whoever is interested, purporting to be the ruling of the recently-concluded petition on the Age Limit law, which was heard in the Mbale High Court. Unequivocally, the Deputy Chief Justice, Owiny Dollo, declared after the hearing of the case that he would read out the ruling of his coram, “On Notice”.
This was a clear declaration that when his court is ready to announce the judgment, it will not be on social media: facebook, tweets or apps. A notice will be posted on the court notice boards that, on such-and-such a date and time, the ruling will be read. In other words, we all have to wait until he posts so.
So the people who are going around with their “fake news” are merely trying to excite other people on their own assumptions. Also, there could be a sinister motive of propaganda passing of deception to try to garner the reaction of people as to what would be of public interest in the ruling, for whatever advance political purposes.
For, the messages on the i-phones, invariably say that the ruling is knocking off the two years addition to the Members of Parliament (MPs) time that they, too, wanted added to their already mandated five years. In any case this had not been even included in the Age Limit Bill, which was signed into law.
In the social media fake news assumption, it says that the Owiny Dollo coram had agreed with the petitioners that the Age Limit Bill had been improperly tabled; and that it portrayed clear inadequacies reminiscent and riddled with technicalities. It also says that a referendum is ordered.
This is a clear attempt to beg the legal question that took place in this years’ early ruling in Kenya in which the Supreme Court coram, headed by Chief Justice David Makara, ruled in NASA’s Raila Odinga’s favour, annulled the poll and ordered a re-run. Needless to say, this was the first electoral democracy for any African country; and only the fourth kind of judgment anywhere in the world. It made Kenya the global conversation!
The false understanding of the social media fake news that is being passed around is that the Makara ruling serves as a legal precedent that should tip the Owing Dollo ruling, too. But a closer look at the cases simply indicates that, one was a ruling on a stolen election; while the other is merely dealing with a change of the constitution, however illegally, it may have been done and achieved.
That is where it is possible to discern the propaganda bit of it. Whatever the outcome, the purveyors of the fake news would turn whichever direction it would suit their course best; either to blame the ruling or to applaud it. The judges will; or should not be blind to this kind of deceptive politicking! In any case, even these social media practitioners were probably not anywhere near the Mbale High Court premises.
Many people have been giving the maverick lawyer, Male Mabirisi, a lot of kudos for his unconventional presentation. Even then, this is not a legalese.
One petitioner who may have presented a legal position, is Mayor Erias Lukwago, who posited a precedent from another Commonwealth country, which mirrors the situation in which the Age Limit Bill became law. This is in dealing with the legal arguments, aside from the technicalities, or their inadequacies.
Earlier in the hearing of the case, it is known that there were some objections to some of the members of the coram, who for various reasons or other should have disqualified themselves because of their connections to other patently interested parties in the case. That Owing Dollo did not see any merit in such objections probably indicates that it will not matter in the ruling.
As they deliberate their decision, and in announcing it, the coram will undoubtedly deal with the merits of the petition as it has been presented. A telling one is the obvious presence of the security forces in the precincts of Parliament, which was not commensurate with the position of the House, not as a theatre of war, or any conflict, needing their presence. This is where the social media should have focused its attention.