July 30, 2013

Opposition MPs End Parliament Boycott

Opposition Members of Parliament will today return to the House and attend plenary sessions after a week of protest.

The Opposition including some Independent legislators walked out of Parliament on July 19th and declared three days of protesting after the Appointments Committee approved the nomination of General Aronda Nyakairima as Internal Affairs minister.

The seats  Opposition MPs occupy were empty last week
The seats Opposition MPs occupy were empty last week

Aronda, the former chief of defence forces, was appointed Minister of Internal affairs in May this year. But Parliament refused to vet and approve his appointment insisting that he was still a serving army officer. After a two-month stand-off and the intervention of President Yoweri Museveni, the Appointments Committee chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga endorsed General Aronda’s appointment.  The opposition walked out in protest.

Terego County MP Kassiano Wadri, a member of the Forum for Democratic Change, says when they decided to boycott plenary for three days, they knew that the ruling National Resistance Movement had the numerical strength to transact business.

However, they wanted to send the message that they were not happy with the abrogation of the constitution, and that the rule of law and good governance were slipping through their hands.

The MPs have since gone to the Constitutional Court to challenge the appointment.
Wadri however, expresses worry about the way the judiciary would handle their case, putting in mind what is going on in the NRM rebel case.

Opposition MPs protested General Aronda Nyakairima's appointment and approval as Minister of Internal Affairs
Opposition MPs protested General Aronda Nyakairima’s appointment and approval as Minister of Internal Affairs

He states that the Acting Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki’s move to declare a constitutional court quorum to be of three judges and not five as required by law puts to question the impartiality and professionalism of the judiciary.

City lawyer Eron Kiiza, petitioned the constitutional court for an interpretation and pronouncement on whether it is constitutionally right for Gen. Aronda, a serving army officer to be in Cabinet which is a civilian and political office.

The petitioners argue that Gen Aronda is barred by section 99 of the UPDF Act 2005 from seeking political office prior to resigning or retiring from the Defence forces. They therefore state that the President’s action in appointing Aronda is inconsistent with and contravenes the constitution.

Masaka Municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga says their aim was to tell the NRM that Parliament is not about numbers but common sense.

Mpuuga, who is also a member of the appointments committee, adds that before the committee they explained the extent of the law and precedence, but it all fell on deaf ears.

He adds that the members who approved Gen Aronda seemed to be in a hurry to achieve an objective that some of them were not privy to.

Alice Alaso, the Serere Woman MP and FDC secretary general, says it’s unfortunate that Gen. Aronda’s first utterances upon taking up office were to warn the opposition and the media. Alaso says the Minister has no clue that his office requires him to handle civilians and not the army.

Ayivu County MP Bernard Atiku hopes that Parliament learnt its lesson not to entertain illegalities and the appointing authority to keep in mind what the law says in regard to appointment of civil servants in ministerial positions.

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