Kampala, Uganda | GODFEY SSALI | A dramatic day at the High Court today started with supporters of Speaker Rebecca Kadaga protesting briefly before Justice Margaret Oguli Oumo ruled that a case filed by MPs questioning a decision to throw them out of parliament during the Constitution Ammendment Bill, should instead be referred to the Constitutional Court.
The protest scenes were reminiscent of those in support of Police Chief Gen Kale Kayihura in 2016 at a case in Makindye, after he was accused of brutality against Dr Kiza Besigye supporters.
The protesters at Makindey sieged the court, forcing lawyers to seek refuge in the Chief Magistrate’s chambers. Hundreds of pro-Kayihura protesters turned riotous and threatened the lawyers. Government came out to condemn the protests.
On Wednesday at the High Court in Kampala, the pro Kadaga protests with placards stating “Leave Kadaga alone” were peaceful but Justice Magret Oguli Oumo did not come to the open court. She instead sent Acting Assistant Registrar Joy Kabagye to deliver a ruling that indicated the matter was before a wrong court, saying the case should be taken to the Constitutional Court for interpretation.
Lawyers, politicians, MPs, Opposition and NRM supporters as well as journalists who had turned up to attend the hearing of the case in which Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, was expected to defend herself on the way she mishandled the six suspended MPs, were left perplexed.
Erias Lukwago the lawyer representing the suspended MPs tried to stand up to seek clarification from the registrar what exact case she was handling, and in turn the clerk said she was asked to read to the parties in the suspended MPs case against Kadaga and the Attorney General.
According to a ruling written by Oguli and read by Kabagye, having perused the evidence on record, she came to a conclusion that the MPs inappropriately filed their case against speaker Kadaga and Attorney General before a wrong court.
The case is related to last month’s debate to lift the presidential age limit, among other constitutional changes, that has since been passed by Parliament and was on December 27, 2017 assented into law by President Yoweri Museveni.
The suspended MPs Gerald Karuhanga , Jonathan Odur, Mubarak Munyagwa Sserunga, Anthony Akol, Allan Sewanyana and Ibrahim Semujju Nganda, came to court accusing the speaker of ordering them out of parliamentary chambers without giving them a hearing.
Oguli noted that the court was of the considered opinion that the suspended MPs case falls squarely under interpretation of the constitution. She added that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the High court and she was referring it to the constitutional court for appropriate action.
Lukwago said he and the applicants were stunned that a judge had taken a decision on a matter that she has not heard, more so on something far different from what the parties filed in court. Lawyers from Attorney General’s Chambers and Parliament including Johnson Atwera, Solomon Kirunda and Stinah Cherotic had turned up in court, as ordered.
Last week the Oguli had issued fresh summons against Kadaga and the Attorney General William Byaruhanga giving them today as the last chance to defend themselves.
Lukwago said all they wanted was a judicial review of the speaker’s actions, and orders enforcing their rights, not constitutional interpretation.