A large procession led by supporters of the so-called ‘rebel’ ruling party MPs who were rejoicing their reinstatement as lawmakers was broken up by police in downtown Kampala yesterday, continuing the trend of tumult that has surrounded this affair ever since it started early last year.
MPs Theodore Ssekikubo, Barnabas Tinkasimire, Mohammed Nsereko and Wilfred Niwagaba were also arrested and held at Old Kampala Police Station moments after the Supreme Court ordered that they be allowed to resume their seats in the House pending disposal of their main appeal set for March 28.
Celebrations had broken out just as court ruled that: “We grant an interim injunction restraining the Rt Hon Speaker of Parliament and the Rt Hon Deputy Speaker as well as the Electoral Commission from implementing the orders of the Constitutional Court until the substantive application for stay of the execution and a temporary injunction is disposed of by this court.”
Justice John Tsekooko read the ruling which also said: “We are satisfied that there is a real threat to execute the decree before the disposal of the pending substantive application which would render it nugatory if not restrained. In court’s considered opinion, the letters of the Speaker and the Clerk to Parliament did not complete the execution of the decree. Therefore, this application has not been overtaken by events.”
But it was an anti-climax to the electric atmosphere which had gripped court. The police fired teargas to disperse the crowds accompanying the MPs. The large crowd had greeted every pronouncement by the justices with loud and prolonged foot-stamping before sweeping Mr Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Mr Nsereko (Kampala Central) off their feet as they left the courtroom.
MPs speak out
Happy but calm, Mr Nsereko and Mr Ssekikubo observed that the ruling party continues to act in bad faith given the haste and irregularity with which it is doing things, and that this was a victory for all Ugandans because the Constitution of Uganda is on trial in this matter.
The unanimous ruling by the bench of five judges of the Supreme Court means that the Clerk to Parliament’s letters declaring their seats vacant following a Constitutional Court verdict a fortnight ago has been overturned.
The four were dismissed from the NRM party over indiscipline. Two members of the party, Saleh Kamba (MP Kibuku) and Mariam Agasha petitioned court to have them removed from Parliament after Speaker Kadaga refused to eject them following their dismissal. They continue to fight to assert their constitutional freedom of expression and association which they say has been violated by the attempt to eject them from Parliament.
Yesterday, police spokesperson Ibin Ssenkumbi denied any of the MPs were detained, observing in an interview that Mr Ssekikubo and Mr Nsereko were only prevented from causing what he called chaos at Kisekka Market.
The MPs are separately challenging the party decision to strip them of membership.
Electoral body: We respect court ruling
Moments after the Supreme Court pronounced itself that the four expelled NRM legislators should temporarily return to Parliament, the Electoral Commission yesterday said it will respect court orders and not organise by-elections in the affected four constituencies as earlier announced.
Mr Eric Sabiiti, the EC lawyer, told the Daily Monitor that they will comply with the court orders but added that the Commission will still go ahead to organise by-elections to fill the position of the Kampala Lord Mayor since he is not part of the rebel MPs who were given a lease of life by the highest appellate court in the land.
Prior to yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling, EC boss Badru Kiggundu told a morning press briefing that the Commission had set April 17 as the date on which it would hold by-elections in the four constituencies represented by the four MPs.
Mr Kiggundu had also announced that it will organise the by-elections to replace Erias Lukwago who was controversially impeached late last year. The EC’s plans to replace Mr Lukwago appears in defiance of a recent High Court order issued weeks ago which rendered his impeachment null and void and confirmed the Lord Mayor in office.