13 January 2013

Uganda: Petition - Speaker Kadaga Rules This Week

The complicated fate of the MPs' petition seeking a recall of Parliament to discuss events following last month's death of Cerinah Nebanda and the "undermining the doctrine of separation of powers" will be known this week.

Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga will announce whether she will recall the House during a news conference this week, her office handlers have said. The petition was lodged with office last week. The decision is expected to be announced to the public not later than Wednesday. Kadaga's action stems from a petition submitted to her office last week by a group of 128 MPs led by the Ajuri county MP, Hamson Obua Ogwal. They petitioned Kadaga to recall the House as provided for under Article 195(5) of the Constitution.

The petition, however, has courted its fair share of controversy. Some petitioners have since asked to withdraw their signatures and others claim their signatures were forged. Kole county MP, Fred Ebil (UPC), NRM MPs Sempala Mbuga (Nakaseke South), Beatrice Rusaniya (Kiruhura Woman), Boaz Kafuda (Busongora South), Sara Nakawunde (Mpigi Woman), Godfrey Lubega (Kasanda North) and Onyango Kakooba (Buikwe North) have written to the speaker's office demanding to withdraw their signatures.

And Rosemary Namayanja, the acting chief whip, has also since written to the speaker, questioning the authenticity of some of the signatures appended to the petition.

"My office has received information from some NRM MPs to the effect that some signatures which are appended to the petition are allegedly forged...the purpose of this letter is to request you that in the event you receive the petition, allow my office to access the petition and the signatures to enable us verify whether they are authentic or not before you take a decision to recall or not to recall Parliament," Namayanja reportedly wrote in a letter dated January 4.

In light of the controversy, the matter was referred to the legal department at Parliament for advice. Pius Perry Biribonwoha, director of Legal and Legislative Services at Parliament, confirmed to The Observer that the matter was referred to him. "I am supposed to give that opinion to my client and apparently I have done so; so, there is nothing more I have to tell you," he told The Observer.

We understand that there was also a view to refer the matter to the Rules committee. But, the Rules Committee chairperson, Fox Odoi told The Observer the matter is a preserve of the Constitutional court. "The petition is to do with Article 95(5), this is not within my jurisdiction and I told them that we are not supposed to speculate on that matter since it is not within our mandate," he told The Observer.

"This is a matter of public importance in which the speaker's opinion is sought and this is going to happen within this week," Cosian Opata, the substantive Principal Private Secretary to the speaker of parliament, told The Observer at the weekend.

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