9 January 2013

Uganda: House Recall in New Twist

The petition submitted by a group of Members of Parliament to recall the legislature from the recess hit a snag after some of the signatories withdrew their names from the petition.

Sources said Tuesday at least ten MPs wrote to the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga withdrawing from the petition.

These included Lyndah Timbigamba (Kyenjojo), Edward Sempala Mbuga (Nakaseke South), Beatrice Barumba Rusaniya (Kiruhura), Kakoba Onyango (Bikwe North), Godfrey Lubega (Kasanda North) and Sarah Nakawunde (Mpigi).

Others are UPC MP Fred Ebil (Kole) John Mulimba (Samia Bugwe North), and MP Yahaya Gudoi (Bunghoko North).

One of the MPs behind the petition, MP, Gilbert Olanya (independent) said MPs must be principled. "If you can change today that means you are not fit to represent 20,000 people." He denied that some of the signatures had been forged. Olanya said they would go ahead and collect more signatures.

Ebil addressed a press conference at Parliament on Tuesday confirming that he had written to the Speaker over the matter. He argued that he never signed the petition and was therefore shocked to read his names on the list published in the newspapers yesterday.

"I have already written to the speaker to inform her that my signature on the petition was forged. I am not party to the petition because I have a lot of work to do in my constituency which includes monitoring government programmes like NAADS and state of the health centres," Ebil said.

"What shocked me most is the forgery of my signature which I saw in the papers. As lawmakers, we cannot be lawbreakers by doing forgery. We have to be exemplary," Ebil said.

Lyndah Timbigamba also told New Vision yesterday that she had written to the speaker to withdraw her name from the list. "The issue is being handled as per now. My signature was forged. I have written to the speaker to clarify that my name was put on the list without my consent," she said.

Edward Ssempala denied that he had been pressurized to withdrawn his name.

"I had included my name on the petition because MPs were being arrested and there were threats to arrest the speaker. The situation has changed, the suspected culprit Adam Kalungi has been arrested and government has clarified it has no plan to arrest the Speaker," Ssempala said.

He also argued that the period left to February 3, 2013 when parliament is supposed to resume, is very short.

Parliament spokesperson, Ms Helen Kawesa said, "We have handed the matter to legal office of parliament for interpretation. If the legal officers ascertain that it is allowed for an MP to withdraw his or her name, the petitioners will be required to look for more signatures."

Onyango Kakoba said he withdrew his name because; "I realize the move to recall parliament had been overtaken by events after the culprit Kalungi had been arrested. I thought we needed to create harmony instead of antagonizing the executive."

If the Speaker upholds that the ten MPs have withdrawn, it will mean that the petitioners do not have the required 125 signatures.

On Monday, a group of lawmakers led by Ajuri MP, Denis Hamson Obua handed over to the Speaker's Office, their petition for recall of Parliament from recess.

The group wants Parliament to resume and debate matters relating to the death of Butaleja MP Cerinah Nebanda.

Under the Constitution, the Speaker is required to summon Parliament to meet within 21 days from the day she receives the petition.

Acting Government Chief Whip, Rosemary Namayanja wrote to the speaker asking her to allow her access the petition so as to verify the authenticity of the signatures. She told New Vision yesterday that she was yet to get the document as the speaker was upcountry.

Namayanja said she had received information that some of the signatures were allegedly forged and that some members were tricked to sign.

"One MP told us he signed after he was told that the Speaker was under house-arrest," she said.

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