Opposition bids to censure Muhwezi over torture claims

Police and MPs fight for black protest T-shirts that Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala had reportedly brought for colleagues. Inset is security minister, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, PHOTO/DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • Registration of abuse cases and evidence collection will commence today, officials said, to aid pursuit of justice for torture victims.

Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) yesterday announced their intention to censure the Security minister, Maj Gen Jim Muhwezi, over unchecked arrests and alleged torture of incarcerated civilians by State operatives.  

Maj Gen Muhwezi, whom lawmakers censured on March 4, 1998, was not immediately available yesterday to respond to the planned censure that will likely be a long shot for the Opposition whose members comprise about one-fifth of the legislature.

The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament (LoP), Mr Mathias Mpuuga, said Maj Gen Muhwezi, a former director general of Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Uganda’s domestic spy agency, had done nothing to rein in errant security operatives accused of brutalising government opponents and critics in custody.

“So, by the end of tomorrow [today], we would be having documents of censure for MPs to append their signatures. We believe the minister of Security has totally abdicated responsibility, he is in breach of that public duty and seemingly, he isn’t concerned and we find him unfit to continue being in occupation of that sensitive public office,” Mr Mpuuga said.

The minister of Security is broadly responsible for national security and superintends the internal and security intelligence agencies, which collect and collate intelligence to inform security decisions. 

But their operatives have not been accused of involvement in arrests and tortures.

Instead, torture victims, the latest among them being satirical writer Kakwenza Rukirabashaija and National Unity Platform (NUP) party coordinator in Kasese, Mr Samuel Masereka, have singled out the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) as a leading rights violator.

CMI is the intelligence arm of the military, which falls under the ministry of Defence, while the ministry of Internal Affairs superintends law enforcement within the country’s borders.

Nonetheless, Mr Mpuuga said they had formally notified the Speaker of their intention to file a censure motion and Security minister Muhwezi is their target.

Article 118 of the Constitution empowers Parliament to censure a minister, but by a resolution supported by more than half of all MPs. The grounds listed in the supreme law for removal of a minister include abuse of office or willful violation of the oath of allegiance or oath of office; misconduct or misbehaviour; physical or mental incapacity; mismanagement; and, incompetence.

Addressing journalists at Parliament Building in Kampala yesterday, Mr Mpuuga said they will circulate registers in every constituency in the country to enable Ugandans file cases of missing or tortured persons. 

Registration of abuse cases and evidence collection will commence today, officials said, to aid pursuit of justice for torture victims. 

Announcement of the censure plot comes five days after Opposition lawmakers walked out of the House, and promised to stay away from plenary for two weeks, as a show of displeasure in government over alleged widespread torture of citizens.

The government yesterday tabled its own statement in which Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Muruli Mukasa said torture is not an official government policy and perpetrators will be held personally liable.

The legislators yesterday invoked Rule 109 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, and Article 118 of the Constitution, to argue that Security minister Muhwezi had taken a “backseat” despite harrowing tales of rights violations by security operatives.

MPs flex with police
As the Opposition addressed the media, a scuffle broke out after police at Parliament temporarily seized Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala, also a member of NUP, for allegedly bringing in black protest T-shirts for colleagues.