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African Press Review 27 July 2018


Africa has more than its fair share of ageing presidents for Life. Yesterday, judges in Uganda cleared the path for yet another.

As we reported in Paris Live, Uganda's constitutional court yesterday ruled against extending the parliamentary term limits of MPs from five to seven years.

However, a majority of the five judges upheld the lifting of a 75-year age cap for the post of president, enabling President Yoweri Museveni, now 73 and in office for 32 years, to seek a sixth term.

The decision prompts coverage in Uganda and neighbouring Kenya.

The Daily Nation in Nairobi tells us the constitutional court considered MP term extensions unconstitutional, and a violation of the principles of good governance.

There was no evidence that Ugandans had been consulted, the judges said.

On the raid by security operatives who evicted mainly opposition MPs from parliament during the age limit bill debate last year, the judges said the conduct of lawmakers necessitated some intervention, but condemned the handling of the incident by police.

The paper quotes political analysts as saying the judgment was a test not just of the law, but of the five judges.

In a related story, the Daily Nation reports what it calls a new twist in the reading of the presidential age limit petition with one of the justices finding a note in his chambers threatening him.

The threatened judge, whose name has been withheld, took refuge in another judge's chambers before entering the courtroom.

Another Kenyan daily, the Star, also reports the story. It notes that "three of the five judges endorsed the Ugandan parliament decision in December last year to scrap the age cap (a decision) that drew criticism for opposition parties (who complained) that septuagenarian Museveni wanted to be president for life."

Not a problem, according to Elizabeth Musoke, one of the three judges who endorsed the amendment. She's quoted as saying the "removal of age limit may encourage an incumbent to wish to keep himself in office perpetually but the citizens still retain the power to either return the same president or elect a different one."

The paper reminds us that Museveni's more than three decades in power have been punctuated by corruption scandals, human rights violations and poor social services.

He is the latest in a string of African leaders who have tried to prolong their the time in office, the paper reminds its readers.

In Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, such moves have provoked instability, it adds darkly.

Curiously, Uganda's state-owned daily New Vision reports the verdict with a series of colourful photographs from the court room, with judges and barristers resplendent in the robes and horsehair wigs carried over from the British colonial era.

Whether or not the ethics of the British legal system have survived is open to question.

The headline: "How the age limit ruling was delivered." Still, there's very little text, no explanation and not a mention on the opinion pages. No comment needed, perhaps. Job done!

In contrast, the privately owned Daily Monitor reports the story at exhaustive length, headlining the fact that there was a dissenting voice.

The paper tells readers that "Justice Kenneth Kakuru declared the whole amendment process unconstitutional and urged that the entire amendment act should be purged from the Constitution."

Its front page headline tells the tale in a nutshell : "Museveni wins, MPs lose."

The work of a sub-editor of whom the paper can be proud.

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