Opposition MPs Drag Govt to EAC Court of Justice Over Attack on Parliament

A legislator struggles against plain clothed men trying to drag him out of the Parliament chamber on September 27, 2017

Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) have petitioned the East African Court of Justice challenging the conduct of the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and government during the infamous invasion of the House by security operatives on September 27.

Four MPs of the opposition including Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Betty Nambooze, Winfred Kiiza (leader of opposition), John Baptist Nambeshe lodged a complaint to the EAC court on November 24. Other applicants are former MP Alice Alaso and women’s rights activist Irene Ovonji.

They are represented by the Pan African Lawyers Union, Chapter Four Uganda and Victoria Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The petition is filed against the Attorney General who is the legal representative for the government of Uganda since according to the applicants, the offenses committed were perpetrated by Parliament (an arm of government), the Inspector General of Police, Cabinet, Presidency and other organa of the state.

The petitioners fault Speaker Kadaga for inviting and allowing the deployment of Special Forces Command (SFC) agents to forcibly and violently eject the 24 suspended MPs from Parliament.

This is in regard to events that transpired on September 27 following a decision by the Speaker to suspend opposition MPs who had defied her call to order during the introduction of the contentious Bill seeking to remove Presidential age limits.

When the Speaker Kadaga asked the suspended MPs to exit the chamber, they were hesitant and minutes later, unknown plain clothed men entered the chamber and began to drag the MPs out.

The applicants desecribe the treatment that the MPs were subjected to as brutal, dehumanizing and humiliating, contrary to the constitution and Parliamentary Rules of Procedure.

They say that for the Speaker to look on while the House was attacked demonstrated approval of the unlawful conduct of the security operatives.

“The Speaker precipitated the fracas, chaos and anarchy in the House when she invited and authorized elements of SFC to use brute force, violence and might against the named and suspended MPs by inviting strangers instead of invoking and applying Rule 80 (6) of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure,” part of the petition received by the East African Court of Justice registry in Kampala reads.

The complainants state that the power to deal with the suspended MPs rested with the Sergeant-at-Arms who commands a professional, well trained and equipped team to handle Parliamentary security.

By inviting the security operatives “to wreck havoc in Parliament”, the applicants accuse the Speaker of falling short of the expectations of a Speaker as an accountable, democratic, law abiding and transparent leader by acting “in an arbitrary and irrational manner not guided by the requisite wisdom and good judgment”.

They have promised to produce CCTV footage and video footage captured by various media outlets as evidence of what transpired. They also say they will tender in a copy of the Identity Card which testifies to the fact that the security operatives worked for SFC.

In regard to the proposed removal of the constitutional age limits by the ruling NRM party, the petitioners refer to this as a removal of the remaining safeguards to a peaceful transition of power which contravenes Article 6 (d), Article 7 (2), Article 8 (1) (c) and Article 123 (3) (c) of the Treaty that established the East African Community (EAC).

Article 6 (d) of the Treat provides that EAC partner states shall be guided by principles of “good governance including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law, accountability, transparency, social justice…. as well as the recognition, promotion and protection of human rights”.

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