A group of lawmakers behind the petition to recall Parliament for a special sitting to discuss the “storm” surrounding the unresolved death of former Butaleja MP Cerinah Nebanda yesterday said they had surpassed the required number of signatures.
The triumph sets stage for the political contest in the House over prosecution of some MPs regarding the disputed death of their colleague and the expected police questioning of the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga for allegedly rejecting the government’s autopsy and toxicology report that linked Nebanda’s death to narcotic drugs.
At a late afternoon press conference called to announce that 133 members had signed up the petition, the lead petitioner Mr Dennis Obua (NRM, Ajuri) tabled a letter to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga dated January 2 requesting for an appointment to present the reasons why they want the House recalled.
In their letter, signed by five lead petitioners - Mr Obua, Medard Sseggona (DP, Busiro East), Simon Mulongo (NRM, Bubulo East), Mariam Nalubega (Ind. Butambala) and Andrew Baryayanga Aja (Ind. Kabale Municipality), the lawmakers quoted Article 95(5) of the Constitution that requires at least one-third of all members to recall the House for a special sitting. In this case, at least 125 MPs were needed to recall the House.
“We want to announce and tell Ugandans that we have got all the signatures required to call for a special sitting of Parliament and we are only waiting for the Speaker to respond to our letter,” Mr Obua said.
“As an NRM member I want to put it on record that the 1995 Constitution is supreme and above the NRM constitution. The party constitution cannot override the supreme law of the land.”
At least 18 MPs from across the political divide attended the press conference at Parliament. Those who spoke said they will not be intimidated by the President and denied allegations from some of their colleagues that they were “coercing” members to sign the petition.
Earlier, a group of six pro-government MPs led by the Minister without Portfolio, Mr Richard Todwong, held a parallel press conference in which they accused their colleagues of interfering with the independence of the Executive and Judiciary. The group said that the MPs wanted by police over their comments on the death of Nebanda should carry their cross and stop hiding behind Parliament.
The six pro-government members are Richard Todwong, Dr Kenneth Omona (NRM, Soroti), Peter Ogwang (Eastern Youth), Vincent Bagiire (NRM, Bunya West), Hatwib Katoto (NRM, Katerera) and Workers MP Rwakajara Arinaitwe.
In defence of the petitioners, Mr Ssegona and Dr Sam Lyomoki, who is one of the four MPs wanted by police, accused the pro-government members of blackmail, adding that the petition to recall the House was in “good faith” and it seeks among other issues to defend the autonomy of Parliament from a “pompous” Executive with a President who called peoples representatives “idiots” and “fools”.
“There is disorder and we want to assert the responsibility of Parliament. We are the oversight organ of this country and whenever the Executive or police abuse their powers, it’s the constitutional duty of Parliament to call them to order,” Mr Ssegona said.
Article 95 (5) of the 1995 Constitution gives the Speaker 21 days within which to recall the House after receipt of the signed petition. Though the members have obtained the required signatures, the counting will only begin after the submission of the petition to the Speaker.
Reacting to President Museveni’s claims that Parliament had passed a resolution to stop police investigation, Mr Mulongo said: “It’s not true that Parliament stopped police investigations. At no time did Parliament ever think or attempt to do that. We have never stopped police from doing its work.”
Other like Ms Nalubega said: “Recalling Parliament is not a party issue; this is a matter of public interest. It pains to call members idiots and fools. This is why we must all stand up and protect the independence of Parliament before it’s too late.”