The lighter side of age limit judgment day


A cloud of uncertainty swirled over Mbale Town as five justices of the Constitutional Court took an entire day to read their individual decisions on the controversial age limit petition.

The streets of the bustling town were unusually quiet as locals stayed glued to their television and radio sets, waiting with bated breath, the judges’ verdict.

From suppressed laughter as some words tripped a judge as she struggled to read her verdict to cheers for Opposition big wig Winnie Kiiza, the D-day came with its highs and lows.

As early as 8am, residents from within and without the district had camped at the tents erected in the parking lot of the court.

Giant screens and speakers were improvised for them to follow the proceedings.

Leaving nothing to chance, more than six military truckload of riot police officers on Tuesday made their way into the town, driving through the central Republic Street at nightfall as curious residents looked on.

Several other security personnel from sister security agencies also deployed to strategic sites as others patrolled the town.
The public gazed at the military fatigues as trucks whizzed through the town streets.

Major roads leading to the High Court, including Republic Street and Uhuru Lane, were closed to motorists.
Elgon police spokesperson Suwed Manshur said the heavy deployment was to ensure court conducts its proceedings without any disruption. His team was also eager to ensure there was no chaos during and after the ruling.

The jokes
Back to the court premises, the locals occasionally cracked jokes, but remained focused.
By 9am, lawyers for the petitioners began to stream in, followed by Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana and team.

By 10am, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winnie Kiiza, walked in, donned in her characteristic red outfit that has come to symbolise the “don’t touch the Constitution” campaign, stirring excitement as the locals cheered her.

Inside the courtroom, the audience stayed nervy as they waited the arrival of five justices led by Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo.

At 10.40am, a loud bang on the court hall door signaled the justices had arrived.
Justice Owiny-Dollo, as head of the panel, took the responsibility to apologise to the litigants for coming late (11am instead of 9.30am as had been scheduled).

“We apologise for coming late due to some factors, but nonetheless, we are here to deliver the judgment.”
He also warned the litigants to be orderly as the judges read out their respective verdict.
“I can deliver my judgment in an empty court, if there is going to be no order. This is a court of justice, not a political rally,” he warned.

“I want to urge people, that the way you go to Mulago hospital and leave the doctors do their work, please leave it to judicial officers also do their work,” he stressed.

He then asked Justice Cheborion Barishaki to kick start reading his individual judgment.

Second to read her individual judgment was Justice Elizabeth Musoke.

But she stumbled through her judgment with some words tripping her as she struggled to pronounce them, sending the courtroom into murmurs.
“It’s only one person reading the judgment, can the rest keep quiet,” deputy Chief Justice Owiny-Dollo warned the court that struggled to suppress laughter.

It was not until about 9pm, nearly 10 hours from commencement, that Justice Owiny-Dollo started to read his own individual and final judgment.

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