Are the ‘Rebel MPs’ Par­lia­men­tary seats Safe?

By: Jacky Kemigisa

The con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment bill was read for the first time on 30th April 2015. It was met by ex­cite­ment and a mix­ture of worry from the ‘rebel MPs’ for­merly NRM but ex­pelled from the party.

MP Theodore Ssekikubo, one of the “Rebel MPs” as la­beled  by the me­dia , raised a con­cern on the pro­ce­dure. He pas­sion­ately called for a stay on the de­bate on the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ments be­cause the mat­ter on Con­sti­tu­tional Amend­ment bill in re­gards to amend­ing Ar­ti­cle 83 is be­fore court and is, there­fore, sub-ju­dice.

The pro­ce­dure point later turned into a mo­tion for a res­o­lu­tion of par­lia­ment urg­ing Min­is­ter of Jus­tice
and con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs to with­draw clause 4(1) {g}.

The con­tro­ver­sial clause 4 pro­poses an amend­ment Ar­ti­cle 83 of the Ugan­dan con­sti­tu­tion so that any mem­ber of Par­lia­ment that leaves a po­lit­i­cal party or or­ga­ni­za­tion for which he or she stood as a can­di­date for elec­tion to par­lia­ment to join an­other po­lit­i­cal party ceases to be a mem­ber of that or­ga­ni­za­tion hence loses his /her seat in Par­lia­ment.

It also pro­vides that per­sons wish­ing to stand as In­de­pen­dent can­di­dates in an elec­tion will re­quire sig­na­tures of at least one thou­sand reg­is­tered vot­ers in a con­stituency, for di­rect and dis­trict women par­lia­men­tary seats.

The amend­ment is vague be­cause it does­n’t state the terms of an MP leav­ing his/​her po­lit­i­cal party. ‘Rebel ‘MPs’ worry was the mis­use of the par­tic­u­lar amend­ment if adopted by Par­lia­ment.

“Un­der my mo­tion, I call upon par­lia­ment to urge the Min­is­ter for Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs to with­draw the amend­ment for it con­tra­venes the priv­i­leges of a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment” said MP Ssekikubo. MP Wil­fred Ni­wagaba, an­other of the ‘rebels Mps’, sec­onded the mo­tion as he cau­tioned Gov­ern­men­t’s in­ten­tion to­wards such an am­bigu­ous amend­ment.

Deputy Speaker of Par­lia­ment, Ja­cob Oulanyah said he will give guid­ance on whether de­bat­ing Ar­ti­cle 83 is sub ju­dice in re­gard to Con­sti­tu­tion, but asked the At­tor­ney Gen­eral to com­ment on the mo­tion. “We have a cau­cus com­ing up, we will meet and dis­cuss this then get back to par­lia­ment” Deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mwe­si­gye re­sponded.

On July 30 2015, the con­sti­tu­tion Amend­ment Bill was fea­tured on the or­der pa­per, as the Rebel MPs shifted un­com­fort­ably in their four chairs placed in the mid­dle of the op­po­si­tion side and the NRM side in Par­lia­ment.

The chair­ing deputy Speaker, asked the At­tor­ney Gen­eral to in­form the house, on the Ex­ec­u­tive’s stand on Clause 4.

“We in the Ex­ec­u­tive, sat and agreed with MP Ssekikubo’s pro­posal to with­draw clause 4{1} (g), we re­fer the clause to the Con­sti­tu­tional Re­view Com­mis­sion to come up with grounds un­der which the clause can be in­voked for in­cor­po­ra­tion in the Con­sti­tu­tion” the At­tor­ney Gen­eral replied.

His re­sponse was met by a gi­gan­tic ap­plause from all mem­bers of Par­lia­ment pre­sent at the sit­ting but the sighs of re­lief form the Rebel MPs were very em­i­nent and worth medals. Deputy Speaker Ja­cob Oulanyah in­formed the min­is­ter that, cur­rently there is no con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mis­sion, how­ever the deputy At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mwe­si­gye Ruku­tana said, the Con­sti­tu­tion Amend­ment bill would pro­vide for one.

What will be the rul­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tional re­view com­mis­sion? Is the Rebel MPs re­lief tem­po­rary or will the com­mis­sion rule in their fa­vor?