‘Rebel’ MPs thrown out of Parliament

Saturday February 22 2014

(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


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.

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.

March 20, 2013
The High Court in Kampala ordered the MPs to appear before the party’s national disciplinary committee and give their side of the story. But the MPs, who were accused of indiscipline by their party, shortly after the ruling, said they would not appear before the disciplinary committee but would rather wait for the final judgement on their main case challenging the committee’s powers to discipline them, on May 13.

April 14, 2013
Mr Mbabazi addresses a press conference, revealing that the party’s disciplinary organ had expelled MPs Sekikubo, Nsereko and Tinkaziimire and suspended Mr Kyamadidi for four months. This opened the floor for a rigorous legal process that culminated into yesterday’s ruling.

May, 2013
Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga declined to throw out the MPs, arguing that the move was not backed by any legal or constitutional provision. Later, Ms Kadaga was accused of usurping court powers. This put her at loggerheads with the Attorney General and Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi. Government spokesman, Ofwono Opondo described the Speaker as a hypocrite for going against directions from the party’s top leadership in a decision she was party to, having attended the disciplinary committee hearings.

September 7, 2013
The Constitutional Court in a 4-1 ruling ordered the four MPs out of parliament until the main petition challenging their stay was disposed of. This ruling was to later raise legal and political questions with claims of bias and political influence on the part of the judges. At one time, the MPs’ legal team fruitlessly sought Justice Steven Kavuma to disqualify himself from hearing their petition citing bias, but he declined.

September 10, 2013
The Supreme Court ruled that the MPs stay in Parliament until the main petition was disposed of. In a 6-1 ruling, Justice Benjamin Odoki and learned colleagues quashed the lower court’s ruling which had suspended the MPs from Parliament.
Court ruled that the petitioners, Saleh Kamba and Maryam Agasha did not include the expelled MPs in their petition but merely argued against the ruling of Ms Kadaga. The MPs’ fate was then left to be determined by yesterday’s Constitutional Court ruling.

February 17, 2014
The Constitutional Court issued a notice of ruling on the case in which the NRM challenged the decision of Speaker Kadaga to stop the expulsion of the four MPs from the House.

February 21
The Constitutional Court rules that the MPs vacate their seats in Parliament.