Army in­va­sion of par­lia­ment against con­sti­tu­tional sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers

The East African - - NEWS - By GAAKI KIGAMBO Spe­cial Cor­re­spon­dent

AS UGANDA’S Par­lia­ment at­tempts to pick it­self up and forge ahead with its busi­ness, the un­sightly in­va­sion of its chan­bers last week by mem­bers of the elite pres­i­den­tial guard has, ac­cord­ing to anal­y­sists, seared its sa­cred­ness, robbed it of its in­de­pen­dence and punc­tured the con­sti­tu­tional or­der of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers. Sources told The Eastafrican the Age Limit Bill has been gazetted and will likely be tabled for its First Read­ing this week.

In the days ahead as the con­tro­ver­sial bill goes through the par­lia­men­tary paces, more clashes both in­side and out­side Par­lia­ment can be ex­pected. The op­po­si­tion ap­pears de­ter­mined to make up for what they lack in par­lia­men­tary num­bers by am­pli­fy­ing their voices and stir­ring public re­sis­tance to­wards the Bill.

Af­ter the First Read­ing, the Bill will be for­warded to the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Le­gal and Par­lia­men­tary Af­fairs where the finer details will be ham­mered out.

In the Amend­ment Bill that re­moved pres­i­den­tial term lim­its in 2005, the com­mit­tee and its chair had sig­nif­i­cant say in the con­tent and struc­ture of the Bill. If this is still the case, the Age Limit Bill will then be tabled to the Com­mit­tee of the Whole House for fi­nal pas­sage.

Deputy Speaker Jacob Ou­lanya had pub­licly boasted about re­mov­ing the term lim­its while he chaired the com­mit­tee in the 7th Par­lia­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to Demo­cratic Party leader Nobert Mao, the in­va­sion of par­lia­ment this past week by mem­bers of the elite pres­i­den­tial guard went against the Con­sti­tu­tion.

“Our Con­sti­tu­tion en­vis­ages three co-equal pil­lars of the state: Leg­is­la­ture, Ju­di­ciary and Ex­ec­u­tive. Th­ese pil­lars are sup­posed to be in­de­pen­dent so that the prin­ci­ple of sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers and checks and bal­ances may reign. What we have seen to­day is the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy,” he said in a state­ment on Septem­ber 27.

“Ugan­dans ex­pected the Speaker [Re­becca Kadaga] to have the back­bone to de­mand that the Ex­ec­u­tive com­plies with her rul­ing that a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment is not a ca­sual af­fair to be ini­ti­ated by ev­ery Tom, Dick and Magyezi [Raphael, the rul­ing party MP spon­sor­ing the age Bill].

“Con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments, es­pe­cially one as con­tentious and con­tro­ver­sial as the lift­ing of the pres­i­den­tial age limit, should be done in a con­sul­ta­tive and in­clu­sive man­ner. It is not enough to merely im­pose the will of the par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity on the coun­try ... The Speaker un­rea­son­ably turned a deaf ear to all rea­son, suc­cumb­ing to pres­sure from the ex­ec­u­tive.”

On Wed­nes­day, op­er­a­tives from the Spe­cial Forces Com­mand (SFC) stormed the Cham­bers of Par­lia­ment, some through an en­trance that links to the Of­fice of the Pres­i­dent. They roughed up and dragged some 30 mostly op­po­si­tion mem­bers out of the cham­bers to wait­ing po­lice vans “as if they were grasshop­pers,” said MP Robert Sen­tamu aka Bobi Wine.

Ms Kadaga had sus­pended 25 MPS over al­leged in­volve­ment in a brawl over the same Bill the pre­vi­ous day.

On Wed­nes­day, hardly had the Sergeant-at-arms, whom she had in­structed to evict them, set about his work than suited men pro­ceeded to seize and bun­dle out nearly ev­ery­one on the side of the op­po­si­tion, re­gard­less of whether or not they in­cluded those who had been sus­pended the day be­fore.

The leg­is­la­tors were protest­ing State Min­is­ter Ron­ald Kibu­ule’s en­try into the ple­nary, al­legedly with a gun, for which the Speaker duly sus­pended him. They were also dis­turbed by what they viewed as Ms Kadaga’s bla­tant dis­re­gard of her pre­vi­ous rul­ings on pri­vate mem­bers’ Bills, which she said must await com­pre­hen­sive amend­ment pro­pos­als by the gov­ern­ment.

The mo­tion to es­tab­lish a Con­sti­tu­tional Re­view Com­mis­sion, which had been brought to the Speaker’s at­ten­tion on Septem­ber 18, ought to have been heard be­fore the one in favour of the re­moval of age lim­its, which was even­tu­ally pre­sented when the ker­fuf­fle had ended.

Dur­ing the de­bate, prom­i­nent op­po­si­tion politi­cians like Kam­pala mayor Erias Luk­wago and Kizza Be­si­gye had been de­tained in their homes. Se­cu­rity per­son­nel pa­trolled the city ar­rest­ing any­one who protested against the re­moval of age lim­its.

A state­ment by 18 Ugan­dan and for­eign non-prof­its said the ar­rests and de­ten­tions in­fringe on con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed rights.

“We con­demn the grow­ing law­less­ness, in­tol­er­ance and im­punity that have got Uganda to this point of shame. The events of yes­ter­day are all but a sign of a sad jour­ney of a coun­try be­ing mis­led,” said the NGO state­ment that was is­sued on Wed­nes­day when the in­va­sion of par­lia­ment hap­pened.

The Demo­cratic Party is mo­bil­is­ing pe­ti­tions through its cam­paign to af­firm public re­sis­tance to the dele­tion of the age caps, be­yond the hash­tags and tweets that the cam­paign has so far gen­er­ated.

The party’s ef­forts have been re­in­forced by civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions that re­solved to “sup­port and rally be­hind all pro­gres­sive lead­ers work­ing to de­fend the sanc­tity of our con­sti­tu­tion and fur­ther strengthen it for pos­ter­ity”.

Ac­cord­ing to their Septem­ber 27 state­ment, they also de­ter­mined to in­ten­sify “cit­i­zen mo­bil­i­sa­tion all over the coun­try geared to­wards achiev­ing a mean­ing­ful po­lit­i­cal con­sen­sus that will en­trench a pro­gres­sive con­sti­tu­tional or­der and gov­er­nance regime for our coun­try.”

The Speaker un­rea­son­ably turned a deaf ear to all rea­son, suc­cumb­ing to pres­sure from the ex­ec­u­tive.” Demo­cratic Party leader Nobert Mao

Pic­ture: AFP

Stu­dents of Mak­erere Univer­sity protest against the of­fi­cial pro­ce­dure to scrap a pres­i­den­tial age limit from the Con­sti­tu­tion in Kam­pala on Septem­ber 21.

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