The Observer (Kampala)

17 February 2013

Uganda: Did We Ever Check Context of 'Coup Talk'?

opinion

Though talks of a coup in the country that have been doing the rounds have now toned down somewhat, they still do form the spice of discussion, especially in the media.

It is now almost obvious that there was a deliberate distortion of what was actually said. Reason and logic inform us that the NRM government will not undermine the 27 years of peace and stability that are now witnessed in almost every part of the country. For those deliberately distorting the message, why are they omitting the crucial background of President Museveni's remarks that threw the rumour mill into overdrive?

In his remarks, the president stated that there were instances before where Parliament had acted unconstitutionally and that the Constitutional court in Petition No 47 of 2011 had made a ruling to that effect. On this occasion, Severino Twinobusingye dragged the Attorney General to the Constitutional court challenging some of the resolutions we had passed as Parliament during the famous October 2011 Oil debate whose foundation it has now been proven was based on forged documents.

That MPs could assemble forgeries to create debate conceivably explains why we - the political class ? will jump onto anything to excite the public in the search for status and relevance. As part of its ruling, the Constitutional court had this to say: "Resolution 9(c) which required the Prime Minister and other ministers to step aside with immediate effect pending investigations and a report of the Ad-hoc committee of Parliament is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void."

But much as the president restricted himself to this constitutional court ruling, on this occasion, there was a catalogue of confusion that had been created by the political class which bordered on abuse of privileges. Some of these included the attempt to grab the speaker's mace during the debate on the Oil and Gas bills.

In the recall petition that the speaker wisely rejected, there were claims of signatures being forged. In a clear manifestation of confusion, one of the petitioners spent sleepless nights knocking at colleagues' doors for signatures such that he even forgot to append his own signature! In fact of the 127 'signatures', two had their names on the list but did not append their signatures.

There were those who signed twice in a bid to hoodwink the public into believing the petitioners had got the required signatures ? and gave the impression that the speaker was intimidated into submission by the executive. The extent of the anomalies exposes our fragile integrity. Otherwise, how on earth could members put wrong dates against their names, with one dated ten days before the circumstances that led to the petition while another one was dated December 2, 2013?!

This is not to mention two others who signed by proxy and Hon Tony Kipoi's signature that was cancelled by prison authorities but also appeared as legitimate. In my humble opinion, these anomalies are not consistent with Article 95(5) of the Constitution. In the case of comrade Mike Mukula, the very people who were referring to his building as "Gavi House" when he was first arraigned before court are the ones now preaching "selective judgement."

Their anti-corruption fight has now become tribal. It is against this background that the president cautioned against confusion, indiscipline and the return to the turmoil of the past. The president was reminding us of generational responsibilities that we hold as leaders ? chosen among the many millions.

It is also worth noting that Defence minister Crispus Kiyonga and the CDF, Gen Aronda Nyakairima, did not call press conferences to talk about the coup but, rather, the two gentlemen were asked about the subject by journalists. Gen Aronda's opening remark spoke volumes: "We are going about our business as normal."

In essence, the coup talk was really misplaced. For all he said, Article (3) of the Constitution makes it the duty of every Ugandan to defend the Constitution at all times and specifically to resist any person or group of persons seeking to overthrow the established constitutional order.

Article 3(5) adds: "any person or group of persons who, as required by clause (4) of this article, resists the suspension, overthrow, abrogation or amendment of the Constitution commits no offence." The indiscipline perpetrated by some of us in the political class threatens the Constitution, and those putting up a resistance in defence of the Constitution commit no offence.

The author is Member of Parliament for Bunya West.

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