30 December 2012

Uganda: Don't Recall Parliament, NRM Leaders Tell MPs

The National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has launched a campaign to discourage legislators from signing a petition to recall the House from recess. The petitioners want the House to urgently discuss the fallout with the Executive over the death of Butaleja woman MP, Cerinah Nebanda.

The acting NRM Chief Whip and minister in charge of Luwero Triangle, Rose Namayanja, on Friday sent bulk text messages to MPs across the political divide, begging them to ignore the petition, which she contends has "a hidden political agenda."

"It is not true that the Police have summoned the Speaker. That is a rumour used by some group with a hidden political agenda. We need time to be with our constituents," one of the messages seen by New Vision reads.

"It is unfortunate colleagues are in custody," the second message, in reference to MPs Muhammad Nsereko and Dr. Chris Baryomunsi read, adding "All avenues are being explored to resolve the issue. It is not necessary to recall Parliament now. Please do not sign the petition."

Namayanja later owned the messages in an interface with journalists labelling media reports that the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, had been issued with Police summons for 'rejecting' the Government's official toxicology report as "rumours that are not factual."

"There are laid down procedures to be followed if the Police wants information from high profile people like the speaker of Parliament and this is what the President talked about. The President has on many occasions been interrogated by public accounts committee of Parliament, for example," Namayanja said.

President Museveni's remarks that the Police might interrogate Kadaga in case she has useful information on the untimely demise of Nebanda has set tongues wagging, with MPs pushing for the recall of the House from recess as one of the grounds for doing so.

Over 80 MPs, according to Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona, had appended their signatures to the petition, which, if it gets the backing of a third of the House (125 out of 375 MPs), will see the Ninth Parliament recalled from its recess for the second time.

Sseggona, Joseph Ssewungu and Simon Mulongo (Bubulo East), contend that recalling the House is necessary to counter the executive's affront on the legislature, following the acrimonious and passionate eulogies to Nebanda.

"Parliament has been defiled and it is only fair to clear the air," Mulongo said on Friday, after appending his signature, adding: "We cannot be called denigrating names for holding dissenting views."

The push to raise the required 125 signatures is being handled by MPs: Sseggona, Ssewungu, Obua Hamson and Mathias Mpuuga.

In a related development, the Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Director (CIID), Grace Akullo on Friday met the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah at Parliament to ascertain whether Parliament had sanctioned and facilitated Dr. Sylvester Onzivua to carry out toxicology tests on Nebanda's body samples.

In a follow up on a letter by the Police boss, Kale Kayihura, to Speaker of Parliament, dated December 19, Akullo also sought to know whether Parliament is conducting parallel investigations into Nebanda's death.

Oulanyah later told journalists that Kadaga will make a response to the queries at an appropriate time "since she is the head of the institution."

When asked whether Parliament had actually enlisted the services of Dr. Onzivua in an attempted parallel inquest, Oulanyah responded: "I do not know."

The Executive and the Legislature have been on a collision course since Nebanda's death mid this month, with the House pushing for an independent inquest into the death.

Since then, the intriguing circumstances surrounding Nebanda's death have seen Dr. Onzivua arrested and charged for allegedly stealing Nebanda's body samples, two MPs arrested and others quizzed by the Police.

Onzivua and Baryomunsi were charged and released on Friday, while Nsereko was remanded with no charge until tomorrow.

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