Uganda’s Supreme Court plans to begin hearings on Wednesday on a petition challenging the expulsion of four members of parliament from President Yoweri Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).
The expelled lawmakers include Wilfred Niwagaba, Barnabas Tinkasiimire, Mohammed Nsereko and Theodore Ssekikubo. Ssekikubo says their expulsion from the NRM was unjustified and illegal. He expressed confidence that they will soon return to parliament.
“We are sure and confident that with an impartial Supreme Court we do hope that justice will prevail,” said Ssekikubo. “We are sure that even the matter that we had put to the High Court contesting our expulsion, it should be a strong, sound and very good reason for them to have stayed the proceedings in the Constitutional Court.
“We hope the seven justices of the Supreme Court would not be biased as those in the Constitutional Court,” he said.
Last week, a Constitutional Court ruled that the expelled NRM members be prevented from taking part in parliamentary activities or accessing the building until the Supreme Court’s hearing.
“We have raised it to the president to stop meddling in the affairs of courts. We have information and we raised it with the judges that they should not entertain the president’s intervention and influence because he was a party to the proceedings,” said Ssekikubo.
But government officials dismissed Ssekikubo’s accusation, saying Uganda has the most independent and impartial judiciary in the East African region.
Some Ugandans have urged the expelled legislators to join other political parties or become independent candidates in the various constituencies they represent in parliament.
But, Ssekikubo disagreed, saying the suggestion goes against the ruling party’s constitution.
“The repercussions of quitting of the party means that we have amended the constitution, [and] the constitution is clear that a member loses his or her seat on leaving the party,” said Ssekikubo. “It will stifle democracy and members of parliament would not be able to discharge their oversight functions because every Member of Parliament would be fearing to be dismissed from the party.”
Ssekikubo says they are being unfairly targeted for insisting that senior government officials who have engaged in graft and other financial malfeasance be removed from their positions.
“We stood out, and we were warned that if we continued being what they called stubborn, they would be decisively dealing with anybody [like that]. And the president at the caucus of the party said anybody digressing from the party position was undisciplined, and he said he would not tolerate it. And he said ‘You wait I am going to show you,’” said Ssekikubo.
The ruling party executives have rejected the accusation, saying the legislators were expelled for refusing to abide by the rules governing the NRM.