East Africa

Uganda’s ‘Expelled MPs can’t lose seats’ rules Rt. Hon. Kadaga

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In a rather calm House session commencing at 2:30pm yesterday, Ms Kadaga made a ruling on the MPs’ fate. She concluded thus;
“In the circumstances therefore, I am not persuaded beyond doubt that I should direct the Clerk of Parliament to declare the four seats vacant.”

And with that jubilation broke out in the chamber.
Her ruling will have the NRM party return to their drawing board. The ruling also re-affirms the legal position that Parliamentary decisions supersede those of the parties.

It will also confirm that the freedom of speech of members in the House, a core principle of democracy, is insulated.

While party spokesperson Mary Karooro Okurut said the ruling party’s highest decision-making organ still has the legroom to have its say on the matter, her deputy, Ofwono Opondo, said Ms Kadaga could be right because her work is to protect her members and their privileges in Parliament.

“Her ruling however doesn’t nullify the fact that they are no longer representing NRM in the House. She has created a precedent so any interested party or person can pursue the matter in court whether she has the authority to create another part of a grouping in Parliament,” Mr Opondo said.

“But she is wise not to expel them from Parliament, especially since the Constitution doesn’t say so explicitly,” he added.

Describing her ruling as a “landmark” decision, a cross section of MPs hailed her for protecting the Constitution and promoting free speech in Parliament.

“It is now incumbent upon NRM MPs to always speak out their mind and perform their roles without fear of favour of Amama Mbabazi, Museveni and Kasule Lumumba,” Mr Niwagaba said.

Workers MP Sam Lyomoki led religious chants of “God bless you! God bless you!”

Others shouted while pointing at Government Chief Whip Justine Lumumba and her colleagues who all bowed their heads.

The Speaker read from Article 83 of the Constitution which provides for tenure of MPs and also reminded the House of the August 2005 debate on constitutional amendments – a proposal that government lost.
In the debate, government had proposed to include expulsion of an MP from a party as basis for a by-election but the amendment was deleted and the Bill passed without it.

The Speaker also quoted the Supreme Court ruling in the Brig Henry Tumukunde Vs Attorney General Constitutional Appeal No. 2 of 2006 to support her ruling.

The unanimous Supreme Court ruling with Justices Benjamin Odoki, Tsekooko, Mulenga, Kanyeihamba, Katureebe, Engwau and Byamugisha advised that the reactions and powers of the Speaker should be much more vocal and clear when the person of an MP is threatened or Parliament’s rules are challenged.

Brig. Tumukunde had appealed to the court contesting a Constitutional Court ruling which had held that his forced resignation from Parliament on May 28, 2005, upon the directives of the Army leadership, was constitutional. The Supreme Court overturned the Constitutional Court’s position and awarded the Brigadier costs.

“In my opinion therefore, and with the greatest respect, the Speaker of Parliament acted hastily in this case and deprived himself of the authority to defend the appellant as a Member of Parliament.

In totality, a Member of Parliament is entitled to speak freely on any matter and no legal action can be brought against such a member for anything he/she says within Parliament,” Justice George Kanyeihamba held in the lead judgement — which all his colleagues agreed with.

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