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Court issues timelines in Mao-NRM deal case

DP’s Mao hands Museveni a DP cap at the IPOD summit in 2018. FILE PHOTO

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT |  The Constitutional Court has set timelines for a  case in which six Democratic Party members, led by Richard Lumu Kizito, a Member of Parliament are challenging the agreement made by their President General Norbert Mao and President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

The other legislators involved in the case are Michael Phillip Lulume Bayigga, John Paul Lukwago Mpalanyi, Fortunate Rode Nantongo, Richard Sebamala, and Fred Kayondo. They filed their case against President General Mao, Secretary General Gerald Siranda, the Democratic Party, and the Attorney General.

The Deputy Registrar for the Court of Appeal/Constitutional Court has directed eight law firms involved in the case to prepare for conferencing by filing a joint written scheduling memo, including brief facts for each party. The parties are also required to indicate the issues/complaints to be resolved in the appeal/petition and submit a list of authorities each party intends to rely on, with relevant parts highlighted.

“The parts in the authorities you are referring to should be highlighted with a marker,” reads the order. The parties must file and serve conferencing notes by March 1st, 2024, with the petitioners filing and serving submissions by March 18th, 2024, and the respondents by March 29th, 2024. Any rejoinder should be completed by April 15th, 2024.   The Court will then hear the conferencing interparty on April 18th, 2024, at 11 am. “Thereafter, the Outcome of the conferencing session will be forwarded to the Head of the Court for directions on the way forward in relation to the Quick disposal of the appeal/petition,” reads the order.

The petitioners argue that they were elected to Parliament on the DP ticket and are members of the Party’s National Executive Committee, the decision-making organ of the party. They contend that, without proper authority, consultation, or consent from the party’s organs, Mao, under the title of “Chairman General” (a position not recognized in DP’s constitution), signed a cooperation agreement with the ruling National Resistance Movement. This agreement includes provisions for DP’s support of the NRM government on various matters in Parliament.

Among others, records show that DP was to cooperate with NRM in supporting the overall governance agenda and supporting Parliamentary Votes on matters of confidence and supply for the full term of this Parliament. In addition the DP will support the NRM Government on procedural motions in the House and at Select/sessional Committed on the terms set out in the Agreement.

It also indicates that Mao would be appointed as Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister then DP and NRM agreed that by 2026, there shall be no existing structures of DP within the central part of the country.

According to the Court records, the Ministers appointed from the DP agreed to be bound by the Cabinet Rules in the Exercise of Ministerial Responsibilities, an in particular,agree to be bound by the provisions on conduct, public duty and personal interests of Ministers.

“The Ministers appointed from the DP will be bound by the Principle of Cabinet confidentiality as det our in the Cabinet Rules . The DP will support the government on procedural motions in the house and in committees, subject to consultation being undertaken . The DP undertakes to keep full voting members present whenever the House is sitting where the DP has committed to support the NRM Government and on matters of confidence and supply”, reads the records.

That following the said agreement, Mao was accordingly appointed the Minister for Justice and took oath on August 2nd 2022.

According to the Legislators whereas they have no problem with Mao being appointed as Minister in his personal capacity, his actions of signing the cooperation with NRM while still serving as the DP President undermines the spirit, letter and principles of democratic governance enshrined in the constitution.

They as such asked Court to declare the Agreement null and void and not binding on the DP and also asked for a permanent Injunction Restraining all organs of the DP from ratifying the impugned cooperation Agreement between NRM.

However where the controversy is in the issue is that when this case was filed , the Legal Advisor of DP Lawyer Nalukoola Luyimbazi through an affidavit of Ochaki Alex Oke of the members of NEC representing the West Nile Sub region of Uganda saying the case should be dismissed because it was misconceived and wrongly filed against the party.

They agreed with the petitioners though that there has never been any gathering of the Democratic Party membership or leadership for purposes of consultation in respect of the impugned agreement.

But then,  Mukasa Mbidde who is also the Vice President also filed an answer to the petition saying he didn’t authorize Nalukoola to respond to the petition.

It’s against this background that the Court during the conferencing has to also deal with this party  in-house matter.

In 2022, lawyer Male Mabirizi instituted criminal charges against Mao and Siranda at Entebbe Chief Magistrates Court, preferring charges of common nuisance, disobedience of statutory duty and conspiracy to defraud against following the 42 clause agreement.

Mabirizi alleges that Mao and Siranda and others still at large, between July 20th and 27th 2022,  well aware that their respective five year terms expired in 2020, signed a document titled ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ with  Museveni holding out as Chairman NRM which was an act not authorized by law thereby causing annoyance or inconvenience to the public.

He also accuses Mao and Siranda for having refused to vacate their respective offices and going ahead to sign the contested Memorandum of Understanding which he says is an act or omission forbidden by written law.

Mabirizi further accuses Mao in particular of having taken oath as Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister while at the same time holding out as President Democratic Party, an Opposition political party which was not authorized by law and it also reportedly caused annoyance or inconvenience to the public.

According to Mabirizi’s charges, the two also conspired to defraud when they signed the document in exchange for selfish positions such as Minister for Justice and Member of East African Assembly-EALA in respect of Siranda.He asked the Court to send them to jail.

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