President Museveni and Speaker Rebecca Kadaga started the new year on a collision course, in what is shaping up into an apparent clash of the titans over an impending petition to recall the House from recess.
At a meeting at his upcountry home in Rwakitura on New Year’s Eve, President Museveni reportedly disagreed with Ms Kadaga after the NRM leader demanded that the petition by MPs, who want Parliament recalled, be blocked. The President said recalling the House would not stop the police investigations into the death of Butaleja District Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda.
According to sources, the fireworks began when the President tried to dissuade the Speaker from convening a special sitting of the House to discuss the issues arising from the MP’s unsolved cause of death. It took the President about four hours, trying to persuade the Speaker and several other members to give up the bid to reconvene the House.
Sources at the meeting, which was also attended by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah, told the Daily Monitor that Ms Kadaga, backed by one of the parliamentary commissioners, Dr Chris Baryomunsi, explained to Mr Museveni that her hands were tied, since recalling the House is a constitutional right.
The lawmakers behind the petition want Parliament recalled to discuss the arrest of their colleagues over their comments on Nebanda’s death, as well as the fate of Ms Kadaga, who could face questioning for rejecting the government’s postmortem and toxicology report that linked the MP’s death to narcotic drugs.
The MPs also want the President to apologise and withdraw his derogatory comments, in which he described as “idiots” and “fools”, the lawmakers who had accused the government of killing Nebanda.
Sources quoted Ms Kadaga, as telling the President that “Nebanda had told me twice that she did not drink alcohol”.
In a meeting that ended without resolving the standoff between the Executive against the Legislature over the MP’s sudden death, Mr Museveni, according to sources, swore that Parliament would only be recalled “over my dead body”.
He told those behind the petition that should they defy him and proceed, they should be ready for “severe repercussions” and that they should not say he did not warn them.
Sources said the President also clashed with Dr Baryomunsi, whom he recently accused of conniving with Dr Sylvester Onzivua, a forensic pathologist at Mulago Hospital, to “steal” Nebanda’s body samples.
Dr Baryomunsi told the President it was in the Parliament’s mandate to act independently, citing Article 95 (5) of the Constitution.
While Mr Oulanyah told the President that [even if MPs raise the required 125 signatures] he would not chair such a session, Ms Kadaga said her final decision on the matter would be made after receiving the petition. A follow-up meeting will take place on Saturday.
Addressing journalists on Christmas Eve, Mr Museveni said police would knock at Ms Kadaga’s office, salute, and question her about Nebanda’s death. The President was responding to a question as to whether the Speaker would be questioned for rejecting the government’s report on Nebanda’s death.
Dr Baryomunsi and Kampala Central MP Mohammed Nsereko were arrested last week over comments they allegedly made at the MP’s burial. The two MPs have since been released on bail.
Bunyole East MP Emmanuel Dombo recorded a statement with the police last week but was not arrested.
Four other MPs – Dr Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Dr Medard Bitekyerezo (Mbarara Municipality), Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), and Ms Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality) – are also wanted by police over utterances on Nebanda’s death, but were still at large by the time we went to press.