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Without concrete evidence, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, which is processing the Raphael Magyezi age limit removal bill, won’t listen to baseless accusations against its members, committee chairman Jacob Oboth-Oboth has said.
The West Budama South MP’s stern warning seems to be a direct challenge to Igara West MP Magyezi who has in the recent past publicly questioned the committee’s objectivity in handling the Constitution Amendment (No 2) Bill 2017, which seeks to remove the 35 and more so the 75-year age caps for presidential candidates.
Last week, Magyezi told journalists that the 23-member committee has some NRM and opposition MPs who are strongly opposed to the draft legislation and should be replaced with neutral ones.
He also accused the committee leadership, led by Jacob Oboth-Oboth of curtailing one of his members, Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South), from contributing during committee sittings. He called for the reconstitution of the committee. Kafuuzi seconded the bill while Magyezi was the mover on September 27.
In an interview with The Observer on Thursday, Oboth-Oboth described Magyezi’s views as unfortunate and unfounded.
“To say that we are already biased even before the committee sittings start is rather pedestrian. They [Magyezi] are trying to distract the course of a parliamentary process, including the NRM side,” Oboth said, adding, “Should anybody including Magyezi raise evidence to think that I am not competent to handle the committee, I can remove myself. I am honorable enough to do that.”
Though Magyezi insisted some committee members are not independent, neutral and objective enough to process the highly polarizing bill, Oboth said his members are capable of suppressing their views and listening to others.
“Must we not listen to the voice of reason and listen to others albeit our opinions? I have been able to be neutral and not show my side. You think court judges don’t have biases but don’t they dispense justice?” he questioned.
The Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Winnie Kiiza, told The Observer in an interview yesterday that there is no need for the committee to be reconstituted. She said this is not the first time a controversial matter is being handled by a parliamentary committee.
“Every time we have issues here, many people have their feelings on different matters and this is not exceptional. On many occasions we have had different opinions and no member has ever suggested that the committee should be changed. It does not work like that,” Kiiza said.
Opposition snubs consultations
The committee is expected to start work on October 31 with public hearings on the bill. Among those to be consulted are the seven former presidential candidates in the 2016 general elections.
They include; Dr Kizza Besigye (FDC), Amama Mbabazi (Go Forward), Abed Bwanika (People’s Development Party), Gen Benon Biraaro (Uganda Farmers Party) and independents Joseph Mabirizi, Maureen Kyalya and Venansius Baryamureeba.
However, some candidates like Besigye have scoffed at the invitation.
“The Magyezi bill is tainted with illegality, in fact even with criminality. It was introduced in the House in violation of the House rules. It was brought in the chamber when it was not on the order paper,” Besigye said.
Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) acting president Alice Alaso said the party is not in agreement with the manner in which the bill was processed. Alaso said appearing before the committee would in essence be okaying something that is illegitimate.
Democratic Party (DP) president Norbert Mao told The Observer by telephone that he will not honor the invitation.
“We are challenging the matter in a court of law over the legality of the process because we feel the speaker did not comply with the rules,” he said.
Bwanika will not appear but Biraaro said he is ready to meet the committee. Oboth, however, said, “People like Besigye would help themselves and the country at large to share their views on this matter. Isn’t this an opportunity for him to speak out on the amendments now and then in the Constituent Assembly in 1995?”
In the CA, Besigye who was an army delegate, opposed the inclusion of the age limit in the constitution. He argued then: “We should respect the sovereignty of Uganda and I do not think that we should engage in putting [the] age limit here. I support the deletion [of the age-limit],” he said then.
Kiiza said FDC members on the committee will be handed views currently being collected by the opposition across the country during consultation meetings.
Reacting to a police order banning his concerts, Kyadondo East legislator Robert Kyagulanyi alias Bobi Wine yesterday revealed that he was approached by people in government to sing for the regime but he declined.
In a long statement posted on his Facebook wall, the singer said: “I have always been approached by some of these people [in government] with requests that I sing in support of the dictatorship or at least keep quiet.”
“Several offers have been made to turn me into one of their puppets. But I rejected them flat. They told me recently that they will block my shows and frustrate my businesses until I run broke. Too bad for them, they have been made to believe that money is everything. They wrongly think that by stopping my shows they will impoverish me, break my firmness and compromise my values.”
Kyagulanyi has had his shows in Mukono, Kasese and Kamuli summarily blocked by police, prompting him to file a court suit against the force saying stopping him from singing was denying him his source of livelihood.
“Singing has been my job for ages from which I derive my livelihood, that of my family and very many of my dependants. My shows are also a source of enjoyment and pleasure to millions of Ugandans,” he said.
The police say when they allowed him to sing at his Busabaala One Love beach, he uttered political statements.
Appearing on NBS TV’s morning programme, Kampala Metropolitan police commander Frank Mwesigwa, said: “Music is not supposed to be partisan. One can’t use music to push their political ambitions.”
But MP Kyagulanyi hit back: “You notice that when some of my colleague artists sing political songs in support of the regime – the real inciting songs because they get most people angry – the police don’t come out to stop them. In fact, they are given police protection! You can perform ‘Tubonga Naawe’ anywhere, any day without restriction.”
Tubonga Naawe was sung by a group of muscians led by Moses Ssali (Bebe Cool) in support of President Museveni’s candidature in the 2016 polls.
“I have said this to them in private and I repeat it in public; I Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (Bobi Wine), shall never sell my soul to the devil. I shall never use my voice to sing for a dictatorship that is running our country to hell. I shall never sing to console the enemies of the people,” Bobi Wine wrote.
“I shall always sing for a better Uganda, because friends, this is the only home we have -- whatever is still left of it, we are Ugandans.”
In order to raise the Shs 29 million for each MP to go and consult constituents on the age limit removal bill, parliament has cancelled foreign travel bookings for its staff and parliamentarians.
A number of MPs and staff had been scheduled to travel this weekend to attend conferences in Senegal and South Africa but owing to the realignment of the legislature’s financial priorities, they have been told parliament will not foot their travel bill until the third quarter (April to June 2018).
“Travel abroad is not going to happen because the funds were exhausted. We expect the next release [of funds] in the third quarter of the financial year,” the director of Communications and Public Affairs, Chris Obore, said yesterday.
The MPs, therefore, have to either miss their trips or spend out of their pockets and wait for the third quarter for reimbursements.
“They have told us to use our money; that they will pay in future,” Kooki MP Boaz Kasirabo told The Observer.
Kasirabo was part of a team travelling to South Africa.
The Kooki MP together with his Nakaseke South counterpart Paulson Luttamaguzi Ssemakula indicated on Thursday they would fund their trips in the hope of getting a refund in future.
For each day out of the country, an MP is entitled to an allowance of $720 (Shs 2.56 million), $200 more than what they used to get in the previous financial year.
This increase, according to some sources at parliament, is the official reason being given for the suspension of the foreign travels because it had not been budgeted for.
Other sources, however, pointed to the need to cover for more than Shs 12.6 billion that has been diverted to facilitate the age limit consultations.
The reallocation was reportedly allowed last week by Finance minister Matia Kasaija after NRM MPs told President Museveni that they did not have money to facilitate their consultations on the Raphael Magyezi bill. The bill is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee.
Also last week, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Winfred Kiiza (Kasese Woman), during a press conference, questioned the source of the money since the Parliamentary Commission on which she sits had never met to approve the age limit consultation budget.
“The government chief whip [Ruth Nankabirwa] is not a member of the Parliamentary Commission; how did she know that the commission was going to [allocate] that money to the MPs?” Kiiza wondered.
Ruling party MPs were promised after last week’s NRM caucus meeting that the money would be wired to their accounts this week but by press time, the payments had not been effected.
Meanwhile, it is also understood that parliament has not paid MPs and staff their full monthly emoluments. MPs get a monthly net salary of Shs 6.1 million plus allowances ranging between Shs 30 million to Shs 40 million, depending on the distance between parliament and their constituencies.
This money is usually posted to their accounts in the first week of a new month but this time round, parliament has only disbursed the Shs 6.1 million salary.
“All staff and MPs have not yet got allowances. It is to do with financial flow but it will be settled; this not the first time it has happened,” Obore said.
This financial situation has also made it difficult for parliament to clear a debt of about Shs 3 billion owed to various travel bureaux, according to insider sources. Parliament works with about 10 travel bureaux to fix flights for its staff and MPs.
Obore did not respond when asked about the debts. The ministry of Finance yesterday said it had given Parliament up to 50 percent of its approved 2017/18 budget.
“All funds have been accessed by parliament; we availed money as per the approved budget,” ministry of Finance’s spokesman Jim Mugunga said.
Mugunga denied reports that the ministry had allowed parliament to reallocate money from some of its budget items to finance the budget for the age limit consultation.
“We haven’t given them any money for the age limit and we haven’t told them to divert any money; we released the money as per their budget and it is up to the accounting officer [Clerk to Parliament Jane Kibirige] to make re-allocations but after following due process,” Mugunga said.
Police have fired teargas and live bullets to disperse a group of protestors opposed to the amendment of the constitution to remove the age limit cap at Nateete and arrested the area MP.
Mr Kato Lubwama, the Rubaga South MP was arrested at Lorry park at Nateete along Nakawuka road as he had gone to welcome Makindye West MP Allan Ssewanya, and taken to unknown destination. He had scheduled a meeting to consult his electorates on the proposed removal of article 102 (b) from the constitution to allow president Museveni who has been in power for over 30 years contest for another term of office in 2021.
Police deployed in Natete to disperse Opposition rally on age limit. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA
Police seems to be in control of the situation. Teargas trucks are strategically parked as officers on foot patrol continue to disperse the residents of Natete who had gathered to listen to Mr Lubwama.
Traffic has also been paralysed as some police trucks are parked in the road.
The group turned rowdy after police fired teargas and live bullets to disperse them. PHOTO BY JAMES KABENGWA
Stick-wielding goons were also seen working with police officers to disperse Mr Lubwama’s supporters.
The Leader of Opposition, Ms Winnie Kiiza who had scheduled to begin at Nateete sped off as soon as chaos broke out.
Teargas trucks are strategically parked as officers on foot patrol continue to disperse the residents of Natete who had gathered to listen to their MP during the age limit consultative meeting. PHOTO BY ABUBAKER LUBOWA
Meanwhile, at the nearby Kyengera town in Busiro East constituency, MP Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala MP) has also been detained and police fired bullets and teargas to disperse a consultative meeting on age limit.
Early this week, Asumani Mugyeni, the Director of Operations Uganda Police Force directed all Regional Police Commanders, District Police Commander and Officers in Charge of Police Station to block joint consultative meetings by opposition legislators.
He said each legislator is expected to consult in a constituency that he/she represents. By the time of filing this story, a number of Kampala Capital City Authority councilors and those from the Divisions had already taken to the podium to address the voters.