After its adjournment on Thursday 12 April, the court hearing on the age limit petition resumed on 17 April for the cross examinations of the witnesses that had been summoned by the court. The list of witnesses to be cross examined included Betty Nambooze, the Mukono municipality MP; Kieth Muhakanizi, the secretary of the treasury; David Muhoozi, the chief of defense forces; Frank Mwesigwa the commissioner of police; Asuman Mugenyi, the Assistant Inspector General of Police; John Mitala, the head of public service; Jane Kibirige, the clerk to parliament; Ahmed Kagoye, the sergeant of arms to parliament and Margaret Muhanga, the Burahya MP.

The sessions began with the cross examination of Betty Bakireke Nambooze, who was the choice of the attorney general because she claimed to have been injured by security officers who forced her and other MPs out of parliament after they were suspended from the house. The attorney general in amove to justify the force used by security forces capitalized on the fact that Hon. Bakireke and her colleagues were defiant of the orders of the speaker of parliament and therefore had to be taken out by force.

Hon. Bakireke was followed to the witness stand by the secretary of the treasury, Kieth Muhakanizi. In his capacity as ecretary, Mr. Muhakanizi was responsible for issuing the certificate of financial implication but the petitioners had questions as to why the process for the issuance of the certificate was irregular. The certificate was awarded only a day after the bill was tabled, breaking with regular procedure and raising questions as to whether or not proper analysis could have been conducted in the time allotted. Mr. Muhakanizi was also cross examined on the budget for the referendum and whether or not it was an added expense on the tax payer. He was then followed by John Mitala, the head of public service, who was asked to explain the plans for the referendum planned to seek the people’s view on the extension of the president’s term of office from five to seven years, just as the MPs had done.

Mr Mitala was followed by the chief of defense forces, Gen. David Muhoozi. Gen. Muhoozi was the person that gave the order for the military police to evict the suspended members of parliament during the parliamentary session that turned rowdy in September 2017. According to the general, he received a call from the then Inspector General of Police Kale Kayihura requesting back up and that was why he ordered the military to enter the parliament. The petitioners’ counsel, however, asked why the military was at parliament an hour before the call for backup was made.

The Assistant Inspector General of Police Asuman Mugenyi took to the podium to face cross examination about the brutality committed by police against opposition MPs during the consultation meetings. The cross examination pointed to the bias that the police had towards stopping opposition members from having joint consultative meetings They stopped opposition MPs from holding joint consultative meetings while the government MPs held joint consultative meetings without interruption. Similar questions were asked to the commissioner of police, Frank Mwesigwa, who was also asked to explain the police brutality and why they interrupted opposition joint consultative meetings and not those of government MPs towards disrupting the opposition’s consultation meetings. During his testimony, he denied having knowledge of MPs being beaten by police.

The Clerk of Parliament Jane Kibirige was then called to testify and asked to explain the necessity for, and the disbursement of, the USD 8,000 that was given to each MP for consultation. Jane Kibirige also mentioned that whilst some of the MPs returned the money, Hon. Betty Nambooze Bakireke of Mukono municipality did not, despite her claim that she did so. The two remaining witnesses were not present in court but were reached through skype.[1]

[1] This brief is based on AWA’s monitoring of the age limit petition court case.