Uganda's Supreme Court ruled Thursday in favor of four parliamentarians, stopping a Constitutional Court order that would have forced the legislators to vacate their seats in the law making body.
The "rebel lawmakers" were expelled from President Yoweri Museveni's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) after they were accused of bringing the group's name into disrepute and sowing divisions within the rank and file of the party. The NRM wanted the "rebel lawmakers" to be thrown out of parliament following their expulsion.
Mohammed Nsereko, an expelled NRM parliamentarian, hailed the ruling, describing it as a rare victory for judicial independence from the government's influence.
"I can tell you that all the people in the country are very much delighted and they welcome the decision with open arms. It was a very much expected decision," said Nsereko. "It's terrible to get justice in Africa, so this is one of the victories that we've come up to witness because if the judiciary becomes stronger in the face of tyrants, I know it's a huge challenge, but I know we can overcome."
Nsereko says the ruling has implications that would change the country's political landscape. He says it indicates to political groups that they can't force legislators from their groups because they don't toe the party line instead of representing the interests of the constituents that voted them to parliament.
"This [ruling] implies that I represent the people and I should be there for as long as I serve the aims and aspirations of my voters," said Nsereko. "Therefore this is justice for the people... and the interpretation is to the effect that a member of parliament represents the people and not a political party."
Nsereko, Theodore Ssekikubo, Muhammed Nsereko Wilfred Niwagaba, and Barnabas Tinkasiimire were all expelled from the NRM
last February. Their seats were declared vacant and the speaker of parliament was ordered to prevent them from participating in any activities of the law-making body.
Nsereko says the Supreme Court's ruling will ensure their continued stay in parliament till their term expires. He adds that the four legislators have decided not to be on the side of the NRM during debates and votes in parliament.
"We can no longer caucus with the NRM," said Nsereko. "We are people that want to work for the people for the prosperity of the people, to improve the healthcare of the people... to improve the economic situation of our countrymen," said Nsereko. "We shall move forward now to create a new political dispensation that shall liberate our country."