For the last three days, as the issue of the tabling of the Private Members Bill motion to amend Article 102 (b) of the 1995 Constitution to remove the 75 years term limit, tempers on the either side of the House were running high. Two days ago, the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, had to adjourn the House when the Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs), heckled her and the NRM side when the Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, was due to table the motion.
They disrupted the House business for 30 minutes by singing the National Anthem and other patriotic songs. Kadaga then referred the House business to the next day.
On resumption of Parliamentary business on Wednesday, when the NRM tried to kick-start the process of the amendment, the Opposition MPs again became rowdy, making Speaker Kadaga to suspend 25 of them. Among those suspended was the Minister of State for Water, Ronald Kibuule, who was suspected of having a pistol in the House chamber.
Again, the MPs became insolent and refused to quit the chamber, Kadaga then called for the Sergeant-at-Arms to effect the ejection of those MPs from the House. It proved too much for him. At this point, standing on the ready to carry out her orders, were the Police and other security agencies personnel, in mufti, who had been stationed in the chamber all the time of the altercation.
Moreover, before that the heavily armed Police, patterned by Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) soldiers and Military Police had earlier, as in the past two days, surrounded the Parliament Building. Also, the rest of Kampala City was under tight security and notables like Kampala Mayor, Erias Lukwago, were surrounded and prevented from leaving their homes.
The Police had been evicting some Opposition MPs before the start of the business, as they suspected of wanting to protest the Age Limit motion. Some MPs had been arrested outside before they even entered Parliament.
In the chamber, when hell broke loose, the soldiers moved in to evict the unruly members from the Opposition. As they resisted, brute force was applied by the security personnel, reputedly of the Special Forces Command (SFC). This is the brigade that protects President Yoweri Museveni, and was previously commanded by his son Muhoozi Kainerugaba.
In the process, ten MPs sustained injuries of varying levels of seriousness; and were admitted in hospitals around Kampala. The most serious hurt was sustained by Francis Zaake, the MP for Mityana Municipality, who has been on life-support machine at Rubaga Hospital. Others admitted to hospital were: Angelina Osege, Soroti District Woman MP in Kampala Hospital; and Gunumi Angiro It was not immediately clear where the rest were admitted.
Other MPs who were arrested have been detained in various Police cells around the country.
After the eviction of the MPs, Kadaga resumed the parliamentary business, inviting Magyezi to present his request to be granted leave to table the motion to amend the Article 102 (b). The motion sailed through, with only a handful of Opposition MPs present in the House. It was seconded and adopted.
It will now start the process that all the Bills introduced in Parliament have to go through before they become law. Commenting on it, Kadaga said that, “The Age limit was not an issue that we can decide without the population.” It was not clear what she meant, after the adoption of the Magyezi Bill. But former Constituent Assembly (CA) Member, Wandera Ogalo, who was one of those involved in the drafting of the 1995 Constitution, decried the unruly conduct of the MPs. He said he was disturbed by the “deep scar that has been sullied on the conscience of the nation.” He further criticizes the manner in which the Speaker had handled the business of the House.
Addressing a press conference immediately after the chaos in the chamber, the Leader of Opposition, Winnie Kiiza, said the Members of the Opposition, who had all walked out of the House, will henceforth boycott Parliament until their security and safety is assured.
She compared events that had taken place in the House to the 1966 Crisis, when President Apollo Milton Obote, had ordered the arrest of five ministers as they were conducting Parliamentary business. She referred what had taken place as, no less than State capture and, “The defilement and rape of the sanctity of Parliament.”
25 Suspended MPs
Allan Sewanyana, Makindye West;
Monica Amoding, Kumi District;
Sam Lyomoki, Workers;
Francis Zaake, Mityana Municipality;
Moses Kasibante, Rubaga North;
Betty Nambooze, Mukonu Municipality;
Robert Kyagulanyi, Kyadondo East;
Ibrahim Kasozi, Makindye East;
Angeline Osege, Soroti District;
William Nzoghu, Busonghora West;
Gilbert Olanya, Kilak South;
Muhammad Nsereko, Kampala Central;
Jonathan Odur, Erute South;
Wilfred Nuwagaba, Ndorwa East;
Odonga Otto, Aruu;
Mubarak Munyagwa, Kawempe South;
John Baptist Nambeshe, Manjiya;
Nandala Mafabi, Budadiri West;
Joseph Sewungu, Kalungu West;
Ronald Mugume, Rukungiri Muniocipality;
Barnabas Tinkasimire, Buyaga West;
Muwanga Kivumbi, Butambnala;
Mbwatekamwa Gaffa, Kasambya;
Medadi Segona, Busiro East;
Ronald Kibuule, Mukono North.