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‘Rebel’ MPs thrown out of Parliament

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(L-R) MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Muhammed Nsereko, Wilfred Niwagaba and Theodore Sekikubo at the Supreme Court last year. The Constitutional Court yesterday declared their stay in Parliament illegal.

(L-R) MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Muhammed Nsereko, Wilfred Niwagaba and Theodore Sekikubo at the Supreme Court last year. The Constitutional Court yesterday declared their stay in Parliament illegal. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA 

By Ephraim Kasozi & Ivan Okuda

Posted  Saturday, February 22  2014 at  02:00
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Kampala

Court has ruled that the four NRM ‘rebel’ MPs are in Parliament illegally. This means they have been thrown out of Parliament and cannot be allowed to attend proceedings in the House.

They are: Mr Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Mr Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala Central), Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga). Justices Richard Buteera, Faith Mwondha and Steven Kavuma ruled that the continued presence of the MPs in Parliament is illegal.

They faulted Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s decision to retain the MPs in Parliament when they had dismissed from the party upon whose mandate they were elected. However, justice Remy Kasule held that the MPs’ continued stay in Parliament was right. By the time we went to press, the judgment of Justice Nshimye Sebuturo had not been delivered. The Constitutional Court comprises a panel of five judges when it is hearing a constitutional case.

Suspension
Their co-indicted colleague Vincent Kyamadidi (Rwampara) was suspended from the party for four months. The NEC decision followed recommendations by the NRM disciplinary committee that the legislators were ‘rebellious’.

The NEC meeting was presided over by the party chairman President Museveni at State House. The MPs challenged the party’s decision in the Constitutional Court but the NRM also filed a counter petition, seeking court to stop the MPs from attending Parliament until their main petition was disposed of.

In May, the court in a 4-1 majority ruling stopping the MPs from attending Parliament until their main petition challenging their dismissal from the party was concluded by the same court. In September, the NRM wrote to Ms Kadaga to expel the MPs from Parliament. In her address to Parliament on May 2, Ms Kadaga declined, saying the Constitution does not provide the expulsion of the MPs.

Kadaga’s position
She based her ruling on Article 83 of the Constitution which provides grounds upon which an MP can vacate their seat. “Honourable members, as you will note from the quoted Article of the Constitution and indeed from reading of the whole Constitution, there is no specific provision on the expulsion of Members of Parliament by their political parties leading to the declaration of their seats in Parliament vacant,” Ms Kadaga declared.

The NRM petitioned the Constitutional Court to nullify the Speaker’s decision to retain the MPs in Parliament. The affected MPs also appealed to the Supreme Court, which in October halted the removal of the MPs from Parliament until the main petition challenging the Speaker’s decision was disposed of in the Constitutional Court.

How it unfolded: Chronology of ‘rebel’ MPs-NRM battle

January 2013: It all started as corridor talk that the ‘rebel’ MPs would be subjected to disciplinary action by the NRM for openly telling off the President and party chairman, Yoweri Museveni.

A letter from government Chief Whip Justine Kasule Lumumba to the NRM secretary-general, Mr Amama Mbabazi, forwarding the names of five MPs to the National Disciplinary Committee, accusing them of breaching the NRM code of conduct confirmed the rumours.

The MPs are Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Muhammed Nsereko (Kampala Central), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga) and Winfrey Niwagaba (Ndorwa). In a quick rejoinder, Mr Niwagaba would later say: “The complaints against us are misconceived, and invalid, both in law and fact. I have received the letter from the chief whip and I have treated it with the utmost contempt it deserves and put it in the dustbin of Parliament.”

February 2013
In the letter, Ms Lumumba outlined the particulars of alleged breaches and asked party secretary general Amama Mbabazi to forward the complaints to the disciplinary committee for more investigation and action. In response, Mr Tinkasiimire said: “This is a political witch-hunt. What wrong have I committed by fighting for the interests of Ugandans? Those people who want us expelled are the ones who should be dismissed.”

The MPs, alongside Rwamparara county representative Vincent Kyamadidi were to later seek a High Court order blocking the committee from handling the matter. Only Kyamadidi faced the committee, while the rest publicly ridiculed it, compelling the committee to decide their matter in absentia.

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