24 February 2013

Uganda: Opposition to Sue Kadaga

Opposition MPs frustrated by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's refusal to recall Parliament last month have resolved to challenge her ruling in the Constitutional court. The petition for a recall of Parliament in the wake of the mysterious death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda set the MPs on an epic collision course with President Museveni.

The Observer has learnt that during an opposition caucus meeting of Shadow ministers chaired by the Leader of Opposition Nathan Nandala-Mafabi, it was resolved that MPs Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri) and Merdard Sseggona Lubega (Busiro East) who were part of the main petitioners take the matter to the Constitutional court.

Sources have further told us that during this closed-door meeting at Parliament, Mafabi vowed to take the matter to court if the duo failed. Confirming the developments, Mafabi told The Observer that, indeed, the opposition wants the two to take the matter to the Constitutional court.

"We shall certainly challenge the decision of the speaker in the Constitutional court," Mafabi said.

We have been told that during the shadow cabinet caucus meeting, lawmakers fully rallied behind the move to challenge the speaker's decision, which they viewed as an indictment on parliamentary practice. Luweero Woman MP Brenda Nabukenya told us: "We cannot be party to opportunism. We are going to challenge that decision".

The proposal was initiated by Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga.

"We want to challenge this decision and make sure that it does not form ... a precedent. It is very clear under our laws that the speaker had no powers not to recall Parliament," Mpuuga told The Observer.

Asked why he thinks the speaker had no powers, Mpuuga said: "Because the Constitution is clear on the matter in Article 95 (5) that says that "notwithstanding". This word means something that should be read as a superior clause. And indeed, the provision says "shall", which is a command".

We have been told that Mpuuga told the meeting that the law doesn't allow MPs to withdraw signatures apart from exceptions which have to be examined by court; although the speaker cited withdrawal as one of the grounds to throw out their petition. In her letter to the petitioners dated January 15, Kadaga said the petition fell short of the required number of signatures, given the withdrawal of some signatures, and alleged forgery.

"Prior to receiving your letter together with its attachment, my office had received written communication dated January 4, 2013 from five Members of Parliament informing me that whereas they had earlier appended their signatures to a petition to recall Parliament, they had now decided to withdraw their support to the petition for various reasons."

Speaker Kadaga declined to comment on the matter.

"I don't want to discuss that matter with the media," Kadaga told The Observer late last week.

Helen Kawesa, the public relations manager of Parliament, said she was unaware of the MPs' plan.

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