Uganda: UPDF Raided Parliament After Police Call - Muhoozi

Winfred Kiiza, the leader of the opposition in parliament, centre, struggles to control tears as she engages a police officer in Mbale after police officers fired teargas to disperse an age limit rally.

The Chief of Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi, yesterday explained why soldiers of the Special Forces Command (SFC), the elite presidential guard, stormed Parliament during debate on the controversial age limit Bill last year culminating in violent scenes inside the national assembly building.

Under cross-examination during the hearing of the age limit petition in the Constitutional Court yesterday, Gen Muhoozi said the UPDF was invited to Parliament by the then Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kaiyhura, to back police in anticipation of a threatening security situation there.

The petitioners' lawyer, Mr Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, reminded Gen Muhoozi that the military can back the police under emergency situations and asked the army chief what emergency situation justified the deployment.

"I told you that the IGP called me at around 1pm that he needed reinforcement and I passed the message down to the command chain. I asked the SFC commander to assign some of his soldiers to Parliament," Gen Muhoozi said.

The army chief told court that his forces were deployed to restore the integrity of Parliament given the emergency situation at hand.

On September 27, 2017 violent scenes played out at Parliament as MP Raphael Magyezi was tabling the age limit Bill on the floor of the House to remove the presidential age limit from the Constitution.

Many MPs mainly Opposition were seriously injured, including Mukono Municipality MP Betty Nambooze, who was later taken abroad for treatment. The Speaker of Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga, suspended 25 MPs mainly from Opposition who were challenging the tabling of the Bill.

Judge's query

During the court proceedings, Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo asked Gen Muhoozi why he deployed the army, which is constitutionally mandated to guard the country against foreign aggression instead of letting police get reinforcement from the nearby Central Police Station and Jinja Police Station.

In response, Gen Muhoozi said the need to have the military reinforcement was determined by Gen Kayihura, adding that he trusted his judgment.

In a related development, Ms Nambooze, who was crossed-examined, lamented to court how part of her warning to Parliament during voting and passing of the age limit Bill was omitted from the Parliament's Hansard.

"My lord, I voted no but before I pronounced my no, I brought to the attention of the Speaker that I was doubtful of what we were doing- the legal process- and I do not know why those particular words were not properly captured in the Hansard," Ms Nambooze said.

The other government officials cross-examined yesterday included: Parliament's Sergeant at Arms Ahmed Kagoye, outgoing Commandant of Kampala Metropolitan Police Frank Mwesigwa, Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige, and Public Service head John Mitala.

Muhakanizi on budget

Earlier in the day, Mr Keith Muhakanizi, the Secretary to the Treasury, found difficulty in explaining why government has budgeted for a referendum on the extension of the President's term next financial year. "I am not aware but I need to go back to cross-check because the budget was presented to Parliament and I do not know whether it will be approved for the referendum," Mr Muhakanizi told court.

His response was prompted by Mr Erias Lukwago, a petitioners' lawyer, who had put it to him that about Shs253b had been budgeted for the referendum in the 2018/19 financial year which starts in June.

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