During closing arguments of the Constitutional court hearing of the NRM-sponsored petition seeking to oust four expelled MPs from Parliament last week, the defense team made a spirited case for the suit to be dismissed. The four MPs fighting to keep their seats are Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West) and Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central).
On Friday, the MPs' lawyers, led by retired Supreme Court judge George Wilson Kanyeihamba, asked court to dismiss the NRM petition with 'generous costs.'
Kanyeihamba argued that article 78 of the Constitution showed that MPs represent constituencies in Uganda's political system and not political parties as the NRM legal team had claimed. He said NRM lawyers had misleadingly cited a situation in New Zealand, where MPs are elected to represent parties.
Kanyeihamba added that although the parties sponsor MPs during the election, it does not mean they own them.
"Many of us sponsored these MPs though we don't belong to their parties. So once they are in Parliament they are supposed to put the interest of the county a head of the party," he said.
Ben Wacha, another defence lawyer, explained that although article 83(i) g of the Constitution stipulated that an MP would lose his Parliamentary seat if he left his party, the MPs in this case had been expelled, and were challenging that move in the High court.
He prayed court to reject NRM's argument that expulsion and leaving mean the same thing.
Wacha cited a 2005 effort by the NRM to amend article 83(i)g of the Constitution to include the word expel, which was later withdrawn after heavy resistance from MPs. He warned that if court ruled in favour of NRM, court would have amended the Constitution, yet those powers reside with Parliament.
On Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's ruling that kept the four MPs in Parliament, Caleb Alaka argued that she was not interpreting the Constitution because there was no provision for her to kick them out of the house. The NRM had equated Kadaga's ruling to interpreting the Constitution, which powers reside with the Constitutional Court.
Constitutional lawyer Peter Walubiri explained that Attorney General Peter Nyombi acted in error when he wrote an opinion to the speaker, challenging her decision to keep the four MPs in the house.
"The advice of the AG is just advice. It is not stated anywhere in the Constitution that the speaker must implement it," Walubiri asserted.
He added that Nyombi's advice was only needed on contracts, procurement and drawing agreements but not when making certain rulings. Finally the MPs' lawyers argued that the NRM petition was brought before the Constitutional court prematurely, yet the High court was already hearing a case in which the MPs were challenging their expulsion from the NRM.
Kanyeihamba explained that the High court case should have been determined first since the court had jurisdiction over whether an MP is legally in Parliament or not.
The lawyers finally asked court to dismiss President Museveni's affidavits, arguing that they were full of historical falsehoods concerning Uganda's history. They pleaded that ruling in NRM's favour would give political parties a lot of power to determine the fate of MPs in parliament, which would create anarchy in Uganda's political system.
After the proceedings, the Coram of Justices Steven Kavuma, Remmy Kasule, Augustine Nshimye, Faith Mwondha and Richard Buteera ruled that they would give their judgment on notice.