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Uganda Supreme Court Rules in Favor of ‘Rebel Lawmakers’

FILE - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.
FILE - Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni.

A member of parliament from Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) says he is excited and feels vindicated following the Supreme Court’s ruling that prevents his expulsion from the legislative body.

Theodore Ssekikubo and three other members of parliament were expelled from the NRM after they were accused of being rebels and undermining the party by refusing to follow instructions from the party. The NRM contends that the continued stay of the “rebel lawmakers” in parliament” contravened the constitution, since they don’t belong to the party anymore following their expulsion.

Lawmakers Ssekikubo, Wilfred Niwagaba, Mohammed Nsereko, and Barnabas Tinkasiimire, appealed the constitutional court’s ruling, which backed the NRM’s position that the expelled parliamentarians should vacate their seats in the lawmaking body since they do not represent the party anymore.

The Constitutional Court then ordered the “rebel parliamentarians” out of parliament and declared their seats vacant.

But, the Supreme Court ruling on Friday that followed an appeal by the lawmakers, said the NRM party does not have the power to remove the lawmakers from parliament. Local media quoted justices of the Supreme Court as saying “Political parties cannot subvert the will of the people.”

Ssekikubo says the Supreme Court’s ruling frees parliamentarians from being bullied or facing retribution if they fail to abide or challenge the dictates of their parties. He also says the ruling strengthens parliament to effectively function as enshrined in the constitution in the country’s burgeoning democracy.

“First of all we are delighted about this judgment of the Supreme Court, in the sense that we have been vindicated,” said Ssekikubo.

“The tyranny of the political parties has to have limits. There are members of parliament who fear to speak up their minds because their political parties would object to their position, and therefore, they would be expelled. But now, that has been overcome. It therefore, remains open for members of parliament to speak up their minds on matters of national importance to defend the rights and interests of their people without fear or favor of being victimized.”

“The freedom has been rather restored to the institution of parliament,” said Ssekikubo.

“There is nothing rebellious about members of parliament, a member of parliament, out to speak up his or her own mind freely without fear or favor. And I think once you speak under fear you are emasculated, you don’t perform your duties truly as a member of parliament. Now the effect of today’s judgment of the Supreme Court is to say, hey look, you are free, go on articulate the issues of your people, and even if you do so, the executive will no way to gag you and stop you from doing your job.”

He says he will continue to caucus with the ruling party after President Yoweri Museveni, head of the NRM, recently invited the expelled lawmakers back to the party after admitting publicly that the group made a mistake in its decision against the parliamentarians.

“I am still a member of the NRM in spite of the expulsion. We have never ceased being members of the NRM. And recently when the president asked us back to the NRM, we gladly did so,” said Ssekikubo.