Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Uganda: Expelled Lawmakers Seek Supreme Court Order

Legislators expelled from Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) plan to petition the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking an order to prevent their expulsion from all parliamentary activities.

The NRM expelled the "rebel" lawmakers after accusing them of undermining the party in parliament.

The Constitutional Court ruled last Friday their continued stay in parliament was illegal and barred them from participating in all subsequent parliamentary activities. The court also ordered the electoral commission to organize elections to replace them in their respective constituencies.

The expelled legislators include, Theodore Ssekikubo, Muhammad Nsereko, Wilfred Niwagaba and Barnabas Tinkasiimire. Ssekikubo says the ruling party erroneously based their expulsion on their pronouncements in parliament about the country's poor state of affairs. The lawmakers expressed concern in parliament about problems the country faces, including corruption, poor service delivery, and alleged misuse of oil revenues.

"We are proceeding to the Supreme Court of Uganda to seek two orders; one, that there be a stay of execution of the Constitutional Court orders; two, we seek for an interim injunction prohibiting the Electoral Commission from holding fresh elections in our constituencies and also prohibiting the speaker of parliament from implementing the orders of the Constitutional Court," said Ssekikubo.

The expelled parliamentarians would be unable to perform their legislative duties until the Supreme Court rules in their favor. But Ssekikubo says in its ruling, the Constitutional Court refused to grant the lawmakers enough time to challenge the court's ruling at the Supreme Court.

"Once you make your ruling, you allow a period for the appeal. But now you don't allow the aggrieved time to appeal or room to seek redress from a superior court. They want [the order] to be implemented immediately," said Ssekikubo.

He contends the Constitutional Court overstepped its boundaries in its ruling that barred them from carrying out their parliamentary duties in the legislature.

Some observers say the speaker of parliament is the only person mandated to declare the seat of a lawmaker vacant, which allows the electoral commission to organize an election in the legislator's constituency.

Ssekikubo says the court was wrong to order the electoral body to organize elections in their constituencies.

"The speaker of parliament is the one responsible for declaring a seat vacant to the electoral commission. But, now you can see [the] court ordered the electoral commission directly and that is why we are saying that the Constitutional Court jumped into the [political] arena," said Ssekikubo.

He also says the expelled lawmakers have legally challenged their expulsion from the ruling party.

"We are still seeking a judicial review of the NRM decision to quash the decision of expelling us from the party," said Ssekikubo. "The issues we are being accused of that formed the basis for our expulsion from parliament were the facts we spoke on the floor of parliament. Those facts are protected by the law. Once a member of parliament speaks in parliament he enjoys immunity."

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