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Can Museveni’s Former Minister and Defence Lawyer Alfonse Owiny-Dollo Reverse Age Limit Removal Law?

Alfonse Owiny Dollo: Museveni's former minister who will rule on age limit

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Former minister and now deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo is heading a five-judge bench that will decide on whether parliament’s decision to remove the presidential age limit should be reversed or upheld.

Other judges are: Justices Remmy Kasule, Kenneth Kakuru, Elizabeth Musoke and Cheborin Barishaki, all directly appointed by three-decade president Yoweri Museveni.

The fact that the five justices of the Constitutional Court are all presidential appointees, no doubt, casts a shadow of bias on the bench — and dims the prospects for a fair hearing.

But there is one more darker side to the petition hearing: deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo is a former minister and Museveni’s defense lawyer in a previous petition.

In 2006, Owiny Dollo lost the Agago County MP seat to Morris Ogenga Latigo.

Owiny Dollo previously served as junior minister in charge of northern Uganda.

When four-time presidential candidate Dr Kizza Besigye challenged Museveni’s 2006 reelection, Owiny Dollo tirelessly worked for the president’s legal team’s research team.

Museveni with deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo.
Museveni with deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo.

 

CAN FORMER MUSEVENI MINISTER AND NOW DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE ALFONSE OWINY DOLLO DELIVER FAIR RULING ON AGE LIMIT PETITION?

Petitioners  Male Mabirizi Kiwanuka, Gerald Karuhanga Kafureka, the Uganda Law Society, Prosper Busingye, and Jonathan Abaime had made five different petitions.

These have now been consolidated into one petition.

Petitioners and their lawyers came to the hearing aware of the bias among members of the bench.

Mabirizi, for example, had earlier requested that Elizabeth Musoke be knocked off the bench for reportedly siring children with deputy attorney general Mwesigwa Rukutana and minister Hilary Onek.

Musoke’s relationship with the two ministers, argued Mabirizi, would affect the judge’s independence.

But Owiny Dollo silenced Mabirizi, threatening to throw him out of court, if he dared raised the issue again.

FORMER MUSEVENI MINISTER AND NOW DEPUTY CHIEF JUSTICE ALFONSE OWINY DOLLO: NO POLITICS IN COURT

On Monday, Owiny Dollo warned lawyers against politicising the petition.

“This court will not entertain anyone who brings politics here, you have done it else where and still run here for help,” ruled Owiny Dollo.

The deputy chief justice also threatened to throw anyone who dared bring politics to court.

“I will be the first to send out anyone that tries to bring politics in this court,” he said without defining what he meant by politics.

His threats to throw out lawyers seem to border on intimidation, opposition pundits say.

The warning was aimed at counsel and Kampala lord mayor Erias Lukwago.

Owiny Dollo accused Lukwago of behaving like a god.

“For me when I’m in the wrong I concede, but for you, you are like God, you do not concede,’ said Owiny Dollo.

It seems, there is more to Owiny Dollo than meets the eye, a kind of hostility he seems to exhibit as he seeks to create an atmosphere of fear, analysts further argue.

For example, Owiny Dollo’s responses and interjections betray something about his leadership, and are telling of what petitioners should expect.

(R) deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo
(R) deputy chief justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo

Consider the following pleas and Owiny Dollo’s responses:

Lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi: My Lord I was praying that you give us more fans because this place is very hot.

Deputy CJ Alfonse Owiny-Dollo: Under which article of the constitution is that provided for?

Lawyer Erias Lukwago: My Lord I just wanted to leave no stone unturned.

DCJ Owiny-Dollo: Some stones have snakes under them Mr. Lukwago, so you are better off living them unturned.

And when Mabirizi presented a document allegedly produced by the Attorney General?

DCJ Owiny-Dollo: Is it the one?

Mabirizi: Ahaa… (In acceptance)

DCJ Owiny-Dollo: How do they write ahaa in a report?

Mabirizi: I should have said yes my Lord

Already, lawyers like Lukwago “believe there is a problem with this court”.

“It has suffered a crisis of confidence,” said Lukwago on Monday.

Lukwago had wondered why Owiny Dollo had declined to summon Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to the court.

According to Lukwago,  Owiny Dollo “is handling a case which is highly political”.

“All Ugandans across the board are putting eyes on this matter. He has to bear with whoever is involved.”

Whatever the outcome of the petition, despite its predictability, the decision of the court will impact Uganda’s constitutional path.

Museveni’s gains regarding democracy have increasing worn off as Uganda’s slips down a democratic reversal, pundits have previously warned.

And as the Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG) argues, “Constitutionalism can only flourish where safeguards for peaceful handover of power exist, predictability on transfer of political power”.

But whether court considers this line of thought or if it will consider it will dismiss it as mere politics remains to be seen.

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