MPs Dismayed by Court Ruling on their Disqualification

1756 Views Kampala, Uganda
A ruling by the Constitutional Court on the illegality of MPs to keep their positions once they have changed their political alliances has sent ripples of discontent throughout Parliament today. Yesterday the Constitutional Court declared that MPs must vacate their seats if they join another party different from that to which they were elected to Parliament. It added that MPs listed as Independents, who formally ally with political parties after election, must step down for reelection. According to the court, failure to do so is a betrayal of the people who elected the MPs to Parliament and an exhibition of the highest form of political hypocrisy. The ruling affects 70 different MPs, some who are now serving as cabinet ministers. This morning, Edward Ssekandi the Speaker of Parliament allowed the affected MPs to attend a parliamentary debate on the Institution of Cultural and Traditional Leaders Bill. He said he wouldn't act on the ruling until he has internalized it. //Cue in: "Let us take time ..." Cue out: "... the Attorney General."// William Okecho, the West Budama MP whose status in Parliament led to a court case on the matter, is furious with the ruling. He accuses the Constitutional Court of abusing the rights of parliamentarians to associate with political parties of their choice. Okecho has appealed to the Supreme Court to review the ruling as soon as possible. //Cue in: "There are some legal issues ..." Cue out: "... trampling on people's rights."// George Owor, a West Budama voter, dragged William Okecho to court demanding that he resign his seat. Owor pointed out that Okecho, who was elected to Parliament as an Independent, had stood for election in last year's National Resistance Movement polls. He argued that by standing in the party's primaries, the MP had switched his political allegiances and could no longer serve in the House. This morning, several MPs affected by the court's verdict, openly expressed their dismay. Jane Alisemera, Joy Kwebiiha, Fred Mukisa the State Minister for Fisheries and Omara Atubo, the Minister for Lands, Housing and Urban Development all complained that the trial wasn't fair. They said they should have been granted an opportunity to defend their position before the judges. ###