72-hour limit for govt to notify MPs on Congo war ends today

President Museveni  

What you need to know:

  • Certainly there is concern about the desire by the regime at all times to operate outside the realm of the law.

President Museveni is yet to brief Parliament and seek its approval on the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) incursion in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), a day to the expiration of the period allocated by the Constitution, Daily Monitor has learnt.   
This follows the military’s bombing of two locations in eastern DR Congo as they targeted the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel hideouts on Tuesday.

Article 124 of the Constitution on the declaration of a state of war requires the President, as the commander-in-chief, to seek approval of Parliament before declaring war. 
In the event that this is not done, the Constitution mandates the President to give a report to Parliament within 72 hours.
Since the bombings, legislators have called on the Executive to explain the surprise deployment of the armed forces across the border.  
During yesterday’s plenary, Deputy Speaker Anita Among acknowledged the gravity of the issue and urged government to urgently explain why the deployment was done without Parliamentary approval.

“The chair ruled that we would have a comprehensive statement tomorrow [today]…We said we need an action to know what is happening, who gave them [UPDF] the powers to do whatever is being done and that will come tomorrow [today],” Ms Among said.
Ms Among’s demands followed attempts by Lwemiyaga Country MP Theodore Sekikubo to have the Speaker compel government to explain the procedures and decision that informed the deployment of the UPDF in DR Congo during yesterday’s sitting.
Mr Ssekikubo wanted Vice President Jessica Alupo, who was in the House, to explain government’s position.

 “I was here and I was part of Parliament that enacted the UPDF Act of 2005, and therein provided that Parliament shall give its approval on top of the constitutional mandate, and now since these events happened on Monday, we are proceeding as if it is normal. The constitutional order is being violated. By the time we debate this matter on Thursday it will be stale. If you did not want institutions in this country, why did we provide for them in this Constitution,” he said.
Mr Solomon Asiimwe, an associate professor of security and international relations on Tuesday told Daily Monitor that what Parliament does next will be important in the oversight of the incursion. 

 “We need to find out if this was an emergency.  We are going to wait and see how Parliament will handle this because they need an explanation. These are military operations, maybe if they had reported to Parliament, they would have missed the opportunity of surprise. It puts the army in an awkward position. Parliament could find a way of improving on that law,” he said.
The UPDF attack on ADF camps in eastern DR Congo, in which Uganda has deployed fighter jets, artillery and infantry, is an act of war only possible with the declaration by the President.
Insiders said the UPDF began pounding ADF bases at about 3am on Tuesday, although it remains unclear what time the war was declared and the order to strike given. 

If the decisions were made prior to the air raid, then the 72-hour deadline within which the President is expected to formally notify lawmakers of the offensive ends today. 
A failure to formally notify Parliament about the declaration of war could raise constitutional questions for the Executive.
When asked about the President’s position, and what he is considering next, Presidential Press Secretary Lindah Nabusayi referred us to the UPDF spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, who in a phone interview said her office does not mandate her to speak on the President’s behalf.

Efforts to reach the Minister of Defence, Mr Vincent Ssempija, on his known mobile phone contact were futile by press time.
The UPDF launched airstrikes against the ADF camps in eastern DRC in the wee hours of November 30, without the approval of Parliament. This leaves the President with a window of 72 hours to brief the legislature about the military undertakings.

Mathias Mpuuga, Leader of Opposition

Certainly there is concern about the desire by the regime at all times to operate outside the realm of the law. 
The framers of the Constitution knew well that at some stage, the national army may need to be deployed in another country either on a peacekeeping mission or on any other duties assigned under the international law. 
The Constitution required Parliament to make a law which is the UPDF Act, which is very clear that such deployment shall be done with the approval of Parliament and where it is done as an emergency, government would consider to come to Parliament in not more than 21 days to seek retrospective approval. 

In circumstances no emergencies can be pleaded because the time government spent negotiating with the government of DR Congo should have been the same time they should have taken to submit to Parliament the nature of manpower, the kind of resources and because  before you know it, they are going to come to Parliament with a shabby application for a supplementary request, the kind of things that make Parliament look as though it is simply there to perform rituals. 

If we allow this kind of work method by government to continue unabated, it has total effects of leaving Parliament naked and unable to defend the sanctity of Parliament and the Constitution.  
Not that we are oblivious of the security issues in the region but Parliament as representatives of the people should have an input and the questions for government to clarify. The extent, the length of stay,  is it an internal stay? 

The last time they were there, some of them committed a crime. We have obligations to Congo via a decision of the international court to which we owe Congo billions of dollars, so we wanted to ask questions relating to whether safeguards have been put in place to ensure discipline of the armed forces, the implications to the people, how they are going to deal with other obtaining issues in the region, how they are going to avoid intra-regional conflicts in the Congo we know they are players there.


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