A section of Parliamentarians has demanded an update from Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka over the continued incarceration of MPs Allan Ssewanyana (NUP, Makindye Division West) and Muhammad Ssegirinya (NUP, Kawempe Division North) for the past eight months.
The demands follow congratulatory remarks by the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among to the legislators for commemorating one year in Parliament.
“As we come towards the end of this session, I would like to congratulate you and remind you that you have made one year and this requires you to provide accountability because this is the day when we were sworn in,” said Among.
However, Kira Municipality MP, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda demanded to know whether the accountability as asked for by the Speaker also applied to Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya who have been incarcerated for the past eight months.
He demanded an update and explanation from Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka on why their colleague MPs had not been given bail even after spending eight months in jail, which the law allows.
“There is mandatory bail after eight months in jail. Can the Government tell us why in the case of our colleagues, they are not following the law,” Ssemujju wondered.
Ssemujju also accused Kiwanuka of discrimination while giving the legal interpretation. He said that the Attorney was swift in issuing legal interpretation when the seat of the Speaker of Parliament fell vacant but is reluctant in matters touching on the detention of the MPs.
“When it came to the election of the Speaker, in one hour, the Attorney General had given the legal interpretation that elections must be conducted. I hope that he will give the same interpretation that MPs who are in jail for eight months should be freed or tried,” he added.
Bugiri Municipality MP, Asuman Basalirwa demanded an explanation from the Attorney General on why Government first arrests people and investigates later.
“Our colleagues have spent a lot of time on remand and they are not the only ones. There are many Ugandans who have been arrested, remanded and government investigates later,” said Basalirwa.
In response to the concerns, Kiwanuka said that the matter was before the courts of law and it was fair to allow the courts to decide on the case.
He also noted that he was constrained to comment on the case because of the sub judice rule, which bars discussions about active cases in court.
“The sub judice rule will catch me on the wrong side. All prayers in respect to their release should be made to the court,” said Kiwanuka.
The two MPs, who have been on remand since September 20, 2021, were first accused of murder, attempted murder, and aiding and abetting terrorism alongside several other suspects arrested in connection with last year’s spate of killings that left 26 people dead in Greater Masaka. They were later granted bail but re-arrested as they left prisons, and slapped with fresh charges.
The Speaker was equally concerned over the delay in listening and determining the case relating to the two legislators. She directed the Attorney General to present a report on the legislators during the afternoon plenary session.
“Why are they still in prison? When will they be tried? These people have families,” said Among.