Tuesday April 16 2013

Repeat of history as NRM expels ‘rebel’ MPs

L-R: MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Theodore Sekikubo, and Wilfred Niwagaba, during the NRM retreat in Kyankwanzi early this year.

L-R: MPs Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Theodore Sekikubo, and Wilfred Niwagaba, during the NRM retreat in Kyankwanzi early this year. The three are among those accused of opposing ruling party positions in Parliament. PHOTO BY Faiswal Kasirye 

By Yasiin Mugerwa

In his book, ‘Sowing the Mustard Seed’, President Museveni speaks favourably of former members of the Uganda Peoples Congress who joined his government years after they, along with others, were banished from their party by then leader, Dr Apollo Milton Obote in 1964. He describes them as “progressive politicians”.

Mr Museveni says the outspoken individuals were “leftists who had been expelled from the UPC in 1964 for having belonged to the Kakonge faction of the party.” The NRM leader explains why he worked with Prof. Dani Wadada Nabudere (RIP), Kintu-Musoke, Jaberi Bidandi-Ssali, Kirunda Kivejinja and Raiti Omongin -- all allied to secretary general John Kakonge’s extreme left faction inside UPC.

Almost 50 years later, scenes akin to that expulsion over ideological differences have played out in Mr Museveni’s NRM.

The President, who chairs the NRM’s Central Executive Committee, presided over Sunday night’s expulsion of four MPs from today’s ruling party on grounds of “indiscipline” resulting from differences in opinion.
Observers note that Mr Museveni overlooked the fact that the Nabuderes and others were accused of promoting confusion and intrigue within UPC, an allegation which, for all intents, rhymes with what the ‘Parliament Four’ faced.

Mr Vincent Kyamadidi, the Rwampara MP, was handed a three-months suspension.
The involuntary departure of Mr Theodore Sekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Mr Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Mr Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Mr Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), according to other observers, suggests a deepening of a crisis within the ruling party less than two months away from its next Delegates Conference.

This development has given the latest public face to a simmering conflict within a ruling party whose leadership has grown more intolerant of critical voices within the ranks. The unrelenting line of what the four consider is the government’s two-faced approach to the fight against corruption appeared to have touched a particularly raw nerve.

Mr Nsereko was accused of appearing on several radio talk shows (Radio Two on December 30, 2011, and February 1, 2012) where he allegedly denounced President Museveni and vowed to fight his re-election in 2016. The MP was also accused of “willfully” and “intentionally” disseminating “false” and “malicious” allegations that those who are not relatives of President Museveni, the people he called “Kidomole”, would remain beggars.

That on January 19, 2012, Mr Nsereko in concert with Mathias Mbuga (Indep, Masaka Municipality), Joseph Sewungu (DP, Kalungu) and Haruna Kyeyune (Indep, Kyotera) while on CBS radio alleged that President Museveni was mismanaging the affairs of Uganda. That on February 1, 2012, Mr Nsereko stated that Mr Museveni had betrayed NRM supporters, including members of Utoda.

He was accused of acting as an agent to further the interests of another political party in a manner detrimental to the interests of NRM contrary to Rule 4(b) of the NRM code of conduct. That during the by-elections in Bukoto South last year, Nsereko supported Mathias Nsubuga (DP), in violation of Rule 5 (d and e).

For Mr Ssekikubo, on October 14, 2011, he was quoted on a sound clip played on Capital FM, stating that Mr Museveni was a lawyer for the corrupt and gave examples of the Temangalo and Chogm scandals.
Also at issue, was the membership of the Parliament Four in the Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas, an association which has come up against the official line on oil.

The contentious clause 9 of one of the oil laws, which gave the energy minister sweeping powers over licensing, was one area where the disagreement was manifested with the MPs warning that it was open to abuse.

For this, they were accused of forming cliques/factions and intrigue contrary to Rule 4 (a) of the NRM code.
It was claimed that the Forum allowed itself to be used to further the interests of foreign powers.
And that on November 26, 2012, Mr Ssekikubo and others, in disregard of the party’s House caucus, protested a ruling of the Speaker to re-commit clause 9 which had been already been voted upon by Parliament. The lawmakers have also been accused of calling press conferences in which they accused the NRM government of bribing members to pass the health budget without the promised salary increase for health workers.

Mr Ssekikubo was accused of willfully and intentionally reporting and disseminating false and malicious allegations. He was also accused of using abusive language and use of the wrong forum to address issues contrary to rule 4 (J) of the NRM code.

Mr Niwagaba was accused of being a member of the oil forum which, according to Government Chief Whip Justine Lumumba (the official who filed the complaints at the party’s disciplinary committee on November 30 2012), is opposed to the NRM position on oil. He was also accused of denouncing the NRM position on health budget.
Before Sunday’s decision, the expelled MPs had appealed to the High Court, seeking interpretation of whether an MP should execute his or her mandate according to the Constitution or according to the whims of party leadership.

The lawmakers said charging them in the disciplinary committee for what they said within the precincts of Parliament would be curtailing their constitutional right to freedom of speech. A decision is expected on May 13.

What the Constitution says

Article 83. Tenure of office of members of Parliament.
(1) A Member of Parliament shall vacate his or her seat in Parliament-
(a) If he or she resigns his or her office in writing signed by him or her and addressed to the Speaker;
(b) If such circumstances arise that if that person were not a member of
Parliament would cause that person to be disqualified for election as a member of Parliament under Article 80 of this Constitution;
(c) subject to the provisions of this Constitution, upon dissolution of Parliament;
(d) if that person is absent from fifteen sittings of Parliament without permission in writing of the Speaker during any period when Parliament is continuously meeting and is unable to offer satisfactory explanation to the relevant Parliamentary Committee for his or her absence;
(e) if that person is found guilty by the appropriate tribunal of violation of the Leadership Code of Conduct and the punishment imposed is or includes the vacation of the offence of a member of Parliament;
(f) if recalled by the electorate in his or her constituency in accordance with this Constitution;
(g) If that person leaves the political party for which he or she stood as a candidate for election to Parliament to join another party or to remain in Parliament as an independent member;
(h) if, having been elected to Parliament as an independent candidate, that person joins a political party;
(i) if that person is appointed a public officer.
(2) Notwithstanding paragraphs (g) and (h) of clause (1) of this article, membership of a coalition government of which his or her original political party forms part shall not affect the status of any Member of Parliament.
(3) The provisions of paragraphs (g) and (h) of clause (1) and clause (2) of this article shall only apply during any period when the multi-party system of government is in operation.