MPs walk out on Museveni

Sunday October 23 2011

MPs walk out on Museveni

In his 25 years as president, Museveni has not had as much internal opposition as he now faces. 

By Yasiin Mugerwa & Sheila Naturinda

Why they walked way
Theodore Ssekikubo.
“When we saw that some of our members were conniving with the President to hijack the independence of Parliament we walked out.”

Chris Baryomunsi.
“I don’t take alcohol that I disregard what I debated on the floor so when they come on the floor to rescind them, I will definitely oppose them again.”

Cerinah Nebanda.
“My conscience wouldn’t allow me be part of a group which wants to hoodwink the public. Why didn’t we do it in the open but hide in Kyankwanzi?”

Henry Musasizi.
“I have never seen honorable MPs debate and turn around to say they debated with no information.”

Wilfred Niwagaba.
“We can’t be party to undermine the institution of Parliament.”

Nsereko Muhammad.
“Some of us are not willing to change Parliament resolutions because it is our country first. Let them have their views and we have ours.”

In an unprecedented response to what they called “a sinister plot to hijack the independence of Parliament and entrench corruption in the oil sector”, a group of legislators yesterday walked out on President Museveni at the party’s stormy Kyankwanzi retreat.

Those who witnessed this drama, told Sunday Monitor that the trouble began after the President proposed that the NRM Caucus resolve to overturn the Parliament resolutions on oil that placed a moratorium on executing oil contracts and oil transactions on the Executive until the necessary laws have been passed by Parliament.

“The President wanted us to give him power to proceed and sign new oil agreements as if nothing happened in Parliament and we thought this was ridiculous,” a source said. “We told him that we were not drunk by the time we passed a resolution to halt the signing of new agreements. We wanted to first see transparency and accountability before oil turns into a curse.”
When the President refused to budge, the retreat that had started on a lighter note, proposing ways on how to fix the strained economy later turned riotous with ministers led by Henry Banyenzaki (State Economic Monitoring) and other members from the Movement Secretariat heckling whoever attempted to oppose the President.

While Mr Museveni defended his ministers accused of being corrupt, some MPs were accused of conniving with the opposition to paralyse government using the oil debate.

But chief petitioner Theodore Ssekikubo told the President that by usurping the powers of Parliament he was attempting to tinker with the Constitution whose framers were unequivocal on separation of powers. But in an infuriated response, the President reportedly warned that if the NRM Caucus refuses to grant him the power to proceed with the status quo, “his only option will be going back to the bush.”

In a heated exchange between the NRM Chairman and Mr Ssekikubo, as others banked, tabled and heckled, the President was tasked to explain whether by going back to the bush he will be seeking to “overthrow himself”.

As debate raged on, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi reportedly proposed that MPs return to House with a motion to annul what Parliament had agreed upon. But the President rejected this and instead asked the caucus to give him powers to sign new Production Sharing Agreements; a move Parliament stopped until oil laws are enacted.

“The President wanted to arm-twist us but we rejected that proposal in public interest and we broke ranks. We told him that the NRM Caucus is not Parliament but he refused. When we saw that some of our members were conniving with the President to hijack the independence of Parliament we walked out and we don’t have any regrets to make,” Mr Ssekikubo said.

Other MPs who walked out of the President are; Dr Chris Baryomunsi, Muhammad Nsereko, Wilfred Niwagaba, Henry Musasizi, Cerinah Nebanda and Barnabas Tinkasiimire.

Dr Baryomunsi yesterday said he wouldn’t shoot the same Parliament whose role he is charged with protecting. “We did what we did in Parliament, I don’t take alcohol and we were sober. So, when they come on the floor to rescind them, I will definitely oppose them again,” Dr Baryomunsi said.

Mr Niwagaba told Sunday Monitor that before they walked out in protest, they had put a spirited fight from 9:30am to 7:30pm. “We couldn’t be a party to sinister plots seeking to undermine and overthrow the institution of Parliament,” Mr Niwagaba said.

The President reportedly argued that the resolutions were going to affect the $2.9 billion deal to bring Total and CNOOC into Uganda’s oil industry through a farm-out by Tullow Oil.

“We cannot get taxes from an illegal transaction. That’s why we asked him to respect the decision of parliament. In fact, Ssekikubo told him that we can even get a better offer.”

Asked why the President was keen to have the $2.9 billion Total-CNOOC farm out deal with Tullow signed, Mr Ssekikubo said: “He told us that investors would lose confidence in him, a claim we rejected in public interest.”

Mr Ofwono Opondo, deputy NRM party Spokesperson, yesterday faulted the party Executives for ‘inefficiency’ and probably “telling lies” to President Museveni. “What happened in Kyankwanzi was an attempt by part of the Executive which clearly showed incompetence and got itself overrun by the motion movers. They told a number of lies to the President and some of the resolutions passed,” he said.

Mr Opondo said President Museveni is of the view that some of the resolutions passed by Parliament have tremendous consequences on the economy. Mr Opondo revealed that the President wanted to know if the $424 million (about Shs1.1 trillion) tax money paid by Tullow would not be refunded when the resolution to put a moratorium is upheld.

According to sources, after some MPs walked out on the President, Soroti Municipality MP Mike Mukula moved a motion which was seconded by Mr Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) binding the NRM Caucus to allow the President to proceed with the signing of the $2.9 billion Total-CNOOC farm-out deal with Tullow.

It was also agreed that when Parliament reconvenes this Tuesday, Energy Minister Irene Muloni tables a request to reconsider some of the resolutions “as provided for in the rules”.

Sources said the MPs also resolved to have a moratorium put on future agreements. The Caucus Vice Chairperson, Mr David Bahati (Ndorwa West), yesterday confirmed the developments at Kyankwanzi.

MPs U-turn
A section of NRM MPs who had passionately debated in support of the oil debate and its motion stunned most of their colleagues when they said while on the floor, they didn’t have enough information prior to the debate, and supported that the motion now be withdrawn.

At the Kyankwanzi retreat, former Ministers Capt Mukula and Gen Muhwezi said they didn’t want to create an impasse between Parliament and the Executive. The duo hadn’t contributed to the motion during debate, although none of them raised an objection throughout the two days Parliament debated the motion.

Sources show that Ms Harriet Ntabazi led the group of women MPs who heckled their colleagues, and that she kept shouting that the motion be withdrawn. Ms Ntabazi is also said to have alleged that the motion movers were in league with the opposition to disrupt the party.

However while she debated on the floor, Ms Ntabazi was so passionate saying Parliament was making a precedent in the country. “I would like to tell you that we are receiving messages right here from the people at the grassroots saying that we are doing a wonderful job. This Parliament is being commended for the work it is doing even as we are seated right now.”
Another of the vocal ones, Medard Bitekyerezo told the caucus that because he didn’t know when debating, he would now support the withdrawal of the already passed motion. However while on the floor, the Hansard shows Mr Bitekyerezo saying thus; “I am one of the people who signed this petition and I have no regrets. I cannot apologise to anybody.”