Opposition storm out of Parliament for third time

The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, during the plenary session at Parliament on October 19, 2023. PHOTO | DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • They demand full accountability for the November 2020 killings as the country convulsed under waves of election violence visibly fanned by security personnel and regime backers. 

Pressure is mounting on authorities at Parliament after Opposition MPs, again, stormed out in protest at the government’s seeming indifference towards their cries against human rights violations by the security forces.

Yesterday’s walk-out was the third in two weeks. Before he marched out with his colleagues, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, presented a list of issues he said the House must address, turning down pleas for calm by Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa.

“We demand that an extensive debate on disrespect for human rights be allowed, we demand that our leaders must be respected, we also demand that the government makes a commitment to end the violation of the rights of Opposition leaders and supporters,” he said shortly before he led his colleagues out.

Mr Mpuuga said as long as the harassment, torture and extrajudicial killing of Opposition supporters continues, they will not relent in exposing human rights abuses by State agents.

“We should recall that we, as legislators, take an oath of allegiance to the Constitution. We derive our authority from the relevant provisions and the spirit of the Constitution, and it is to the provisions of the Constitution that we owe allegiance,” he said.

Among the issues presented yesterday, was demand for full accountability for the November 2020 killings as the country convulsed under waves of election violence visibly fanned by security personnel and regime backers.

He demanded to know what action has been taken on security personnel who were filmed aboard Police 999 Patrol 17, firing live ammunition at unarmed citizens that November.  He called for accountability for all Muslims indiscriminately arrested, accountability for the 18 Ugandans confirmed missing by the Uganda Human Rights Commission, and accountability for all political prisoners in jail without trial.

“Release of all political prisoners in the [army] court martial, we demand that the Minister of Justice appears before Parliament to [address] the House on this detention without trial and accountability for killings by the military…,” he said.

Mr Mpuuga reminded Parliament that three years after the November 2020 bloodbath, there is no justice for the many who were shot dead simply for protesting the violent arrest of National Unity Platform (NUP) presidential candidate Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.

“The details of the report remain a top secret only known to the State despite the President’s promise to make the same public. It will be exactly three years next month since the angel of death was parachuted onto our streets by the very people charged with a duty to protect,” he said.

He mentioned the deliberate knocking down of Frank Ssenteza, one of Mr Kyagulanyi’s bodyguards, by military police vehicle, Reg. No. H4DF 2382 at Busega roundabout. He spoke of Ritah Nabukenya, also intentionally knocked dead by police vehicle, Reg. No. UP 4841.

“Were these government vehicles auto-piloted that no driver or commander is available to face charges of pre-meditated murder of these innocent Ugandans? Is the House of Representatives too timid and cowed to demand… a proper accounting as well as justice for the victims?

The Leader of the Opposition rejected a rejoinder by State Minister for Internal Affairs, Gen David Muhoozi, who said the government has responded to these issues before.  Mr Mpuuga said it has become fashionable in Uganda to blame all murders on Muslims.

For instance, he said, following the twin bombings in Kampala on November 16, 2021, Musa Mudasir, alias Moze was shot dead at Bwaise, Kawempe Division. On the same day, he said another suspect, Muhammad Kiryowa, alias Musa Kiryowa was also shot dead in cold blood.

He also referred to Sheikh Muhammad Abbas Kirevu -- reportedly shot dead by security agents while handcuffed.

Similarly, the Opposition leader decried what he said were trumped-up terrorism and reason charges routinely preferred against their supporters whose only ‘crime’ was to oppose the government.

“These charges cannot be sustained in any court, for they lack premise. Many such victims, including civilians, have ended up in military courts in total violation of the Constitution,” he said.

In agreement, Mr Muhammad Nsereko, the MP for Kampala Central, said Muslims feel marginalised.

“No single young Muslim child should be raised up to have fear for law enforcement arising out of the indiscriminate arrests. I am speaking of a community I belong to, whenever I go to them, the clerics say that we are not sure of tomorrow…,” he said.

Yesterday, Prime Minister and Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Ms Robinah Nabbanja, said the House should proceed without the Opposition.

“However much you tolerate, for them they are on a mission. Their mission is to collapse the government and we cannot allow that to happen, so let us continue members,” she said.