Speaker speaks out on court ruling on rebel MPs

Published 5 years ago -

The Rebel Mps have so much in common including love for laughter. Photo Credit – InsiderUg

On 30th October 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a Member of Parliament (MP) cannot lose their Parliamentary seat even after being expelled from their Party. This decision was reached after MPs, Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East), Mohammad Nsereko (Kampala Central) and Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga East) dubbed as“the rebel MPs” contested the constitutional court ruling instructing them to vacate their seats.

Initially, the Speaker of Parliament, Honorable Rebecca Kadaga in a ruling on 2nd May 2013 had declined to evoke powers of her office to dismiss the MPs[1]. This was after the Chairman of the National Resistance Movement Organization (NRMO), His Excellency, Yoweri Museveni wrote to her requesting that their seats be declared vacant, this letter was received on the 16th April. The same letter asked the Speaker to direct the Clerk of parliament to inform the Electoral Commission of the move so that by- elections are organized in the respective constituencies as per Article 81(2) of the constitution[2]. She instead advised that the matter should be handled by the Courts of Law under the constitution of Uganda and other laws.

Off-course there were parties  that were dissatisfied with the Speaker’s decision, they included but were not limited to Peter Nyombi, the Attorney General then, Honorable Kamba Saleh and the NRMO. So they took it upon themselves to file constitutional Petitions 16, 19 21 and 25 of 2013. Although petition 25 of 2013 was dismissed, by a majority of four to one, Justices of the Constitutional Court granted petitions, 16, 19 and 21 of 2013.  Dissatisfied with the ruling, the four appealed to the Supreme Court which is the highest appellate court in Uganda.

The Supreme Court upheld its autonomy in their ruling and lauded the Speaker’s decision on the matter. The court ruled that the Attorney General or any other dissatisfied parties had to petition the High Court and not the constitutional Court as had been in this case. This is clearly spelled out in Section 86 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005[3]. The Constitutional Court was wrong when it upheld the petitions and declared the seats of the Members vacant because it simply did not have the power to do so.

It was also ruled that majority of the Justices in the Constitutional Court erred when they interpreted Article 83 (1) (g) of the Constitution[4] to mean that the MPs who had been expelled from their party had to vacate their seats. So on that ground they were wrong.

It was also ruled that it is important for the principle of separation of power to be observed to avoid the erosion of the constitutional functions of other arms of Government. This was in support of Speaker Rebecca’s decision not to perform a function meant for the judicial arm of government. This, it was said gives confidence to third parties when dealing with Government. There was nothing unconstitutional about her guidance on the matter. Therefore, the constitutional court erred when they held that the Speaker created a peculiar category of MPs when she let them stay in the House after they had been expelled from their party.

During the November 10 2015  sitting, the speaker expressed her gratitude and termed the ruling as, “a landmark decision” in Uganda’s Jurisprudence and for Parliament. She also said that the decision in relation the independence of the Legislature in executing its constitutional mandate guaranteed the freedom and tenure of Parliament and also frees the legislature from the handcuffs of the Attorney General save for matters of contract, agreement or legal transactions to which government or the institution is party to or had interest. She also asked for an apology from all those who pointed accusing fingers during the time she declined to rule on the members’ plight.

The MPs by Tuesday were still sitting in the secluded area designated by the Speaker, and she asked them to think about whether they wanted to return to the right-hand side of the Speaker where the ruling party sits.

On that note I would like to congratulate the four MPs on their victory and encourage others not to be afraid to stand for what is right despite the consequences. Justice prevails more often than not. Notwithstanding I also laud the Speaker of Parliament for not yielding  to the various pressures exerted on her. She has set a precedent that I hope will stand the test of time.

[1] Parliamentary Hansard of 2nd May 2013

[2] 1995 Constitution Article  81(2)

[3] Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005 Section 86. Determination of questions of Membership

[4] If that persons leaves the political party for which he or she stood as a candidate for election to Parliament to join another party or to remain in Parliament as an Independent member;



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