Uganda: We Are Going to Sue - Sseggona

Ugandan MPs debate the age limit bill.
27 December 2017

Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona spoke to Baker Batte Lule about the controversial age limit bill passage and its fall-out.

Your take on the process through which the bill was handled...

Parliament engaged in a conspiracy against this country. It is criminal to conspire against this country especially where the conspiracy is by leaders who have no regard for the aspirations of the people of Uganda.

The way in which President Museveni deployed foreign mercenaries to take over parliament including the desecration of our chaplaincies; the Catholic and Anglican, is deplorable.

The way we legislate and amend our Constitution to fit into the whims of a particular individual is politically criminal and we may never be forgiven by the people of Uganda, and I'm talking about those well-intentioned Ugandans.

One of the issues you raised while debating was that there were cases in different courts concerning the matter. That debating the bill was offending the principle of sub judice.

There is an English saying that 'give man a rope to hang himself... ' I think we gave enough rope to parliament to hang itself.

The pressure we mounted drove them into committing bigger mistakes. If we had given up, some of those mistakes wouldn't have been made, and I know quite a number are fatal.

But others argue that you remaining and debating somehow legitimized the process.

Can you legitimize or sanitize something that is illegal? We actually assisted this country by pushing these people to commit more illegalities, which will render this thing unsustainable in the courts of law.

Wait when we file our court papers. They abused the rules, they abused the constitution, and they abused common sense.

There are allegations that within your ranks some people were given money.

If Museveni can pay someone to write a minority report against him, then that is how Ugandans would rate him. I think it's too pedestrian to imagine that a person would pay you to do something against his interest.

Museveni wanted this thing so badly; it was a do-or-die for him. Then how would he pay you to write something against a bill that sustains his last vein?

They are just finding a way of equalizing the equation. I don't know whether there is anyone of my colleagues who signed the report that was given money but if that happened, then the person who paid him is stupid. You pay for what?

Others say after the president established that he had the numbers, he had to make the process appear normal...

Museveni was not sure of the numbers; that's why up to the last minute he was fishing out all those who were hiding. How could he have been sure of the numbers when he exceeded the threshold by only 17 votes?

What happened to the usual forest? But look at the number of NRM MPs, the unexpected ones, who voted no.

So, he wasn't sure of the numbers and there was no way of balancing it to the extent that he would risk a minority report. I was at the forefront of writing it and Museveni knows he cannot bribe me. There are some Ugandans who are beyond that and I'm proud to say I'm one of those.

Would it surprise you that there are people within your ranks who would cut a deal?

It would surprise me because by somebody sitting in parliament, listening attentively and then vote no; that is character.

Let everybody use the weapon within his means. If somebody's weapon is to debate. I debated as much as I could. As a member of the committee, I'm not allowed but if you noted the procedural issues I was raising, you would see that is my ability.

There are those who managed to jump over tables whenever provoked by the illegalities; those ones also did their part. We need to respect each other's contribution. Use every weapon available to you, that is the only way you can ensure success.

I don't judge your loyalty by the height you have been able to jump over the table. I don't think coming up with a minority report is a small contribution. We were able to at least put the views of the people of Uganda on the table because they were ignored by the other side.

Sitting in that House to debate for the length of time we were able to debate, to even listen or to pass chits to colleagues to raise different issues; that is the best we could do for Uganda. We are not going to shoot and kill the whole parliament because the majority is saying this.

Nothing good came out of the Magyezi bill?

You see, if you prepare a delicious meal and pour poison in it, it can't be described as a good meal. I know you are tempted to ask me whether with the restoration of term limits Ugandans should breathe a sigh of relief. I would say no because they mixed it.

If you are talking about one enemy of the state that has caused us all this trouble and say at least we have limited him by the two-term stipulation... You think Museveni is bothered about that? How much time is he left with in which he would be able to stand? Not more than two terms.

If Museveni has been able to bribe his way; to remove term limits in the first place and now the age limit, even in 2030 he can remove those term limits you are talking about.

The most important thing is not even to defeat Museveni but to plant a culture of constitutionalism because that culture has one effect of compelling us all to respect the constitution and not to amend it out of convenience. Today we are working at the convenience of Museveni, tomorrow it will be at the convenience of Lubega.

I have heard some compare what happened to an abrogation and overthrow of the constitution, would you describe it in those terms?

What is the purpose of a constitution that cannot be implemented? You would rather abolish it and have people do things they want to do.

As a lawyer, what do you say about the extension of the tenure of the current parliament?

It's absolutely illegal and it shouldn't stand. I think those who brought that proposal were self seekers. We have a fixed contract under Article 77 of five years and it can only be extended by the person who gave you that mandate.

Because these people went for a bargain, they started bargaining locally with Museveni. He duped them that he would support their extension. Some said well, I would rather have this extension because they know they will not come back.

They need to collect some pension. It was not about the country but, really, about the stomachs of those individuals. They know they have offended the voters.

Does the amendment apply to all elective positions?

Those people don't know the law. We have never received any bill to amend Chapter 11 of the Constitution, which deals with local governments. Once not amended, it cannot apply across the board.

In the 8th Parliament there was this element of resignation when you cross the floor. The speaker then was Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi.

When it came to Beti Kamya who had left FDC to contest for the presidency, even Erias Lukwago, a DP member of parliament who wanted to contest for mayorship as an independent, the speaker I believe interpreted the provision rightly when he said it doesn't apply to people vying for other places because it was talking about remaining in parliament.

There is no corresponding provision in the presidential or local government elections acts. These are three different chapters in the constitution; one on the president, one of parliament and the local government.

So, it is too early for them to celebrate. But you know Museveni can do it notwithstanding the law because there is a law on LCs but have you seen them being elected?

Doesn't the law allow for amending by infection; where you amend one article and it affects other articles?

Yes, there could be a consequential amendment. It is there in constitutional jurisprudence but it's illegal. You must then go ahead and also amend the affected article in the constitution.

In the event that you go to court and it withholds what parliament did, what happens when 2021 comes?

We follow the law because court will have pronounced itself.

The court is mandated by the constitution to interpret the law. We are opposing it, we think it's illegal but we are not challenging that alone, we are challenging the entire package.

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