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Lukwago war

By Stephen Kafeero

Impasse as Judiciary, Museveni tangle over Kampala City Lord Mayor

“Effectively, he is still the Lord Mayor but I doubt that he will be able to succeed in forcing himself on the Council.” Constitutional lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi’s words could prove ominous for Minister for Kampala, Frank Tumwebaze, who on Nov.25 presided over the purported impeachment of city Lord Mayor, Erias Lukwago.

If, as Rwakafuzi and others are opining, the impeachment of Lukwago by 29 of the 32 councilors does not count in law yet, Tumwebaze and his partner on the mission, KCCA Executive Director, Jenifer Musisi, might have to deal with unintended consequences.

Even innocent bystanders might not fail to fault the manner of the Lord Mayor’s impeachment.

In chaotic scenes that have come to characterise Kampala City Council Authority (KCCA) business, Tumwebaze and Musisi looked on as one of the councilors, Allan Ssewanyana of Makindye West, attempted to forcefully present an alleged court order blocking the impeachment proceedings and he was instead bundled out by a combined force of police, KCCA security, and unidentified strangers. Ssewanyana was dragged on the floor, banged on benches, and harassed until his clothes were torn.

Lord Mayor Lukwago’s lawyer, Abdallah Kiwanuka was similarly roughed up by police as he attempted to serve the court order at KCCA. His suit was shredded and his shirt and trousers badly torn as he was bundled onto a waiting police truck in a manner that would disgrace even a petty criminal.

Protests immediately erupted in the city and its surroundings and were quelled by police using live bullets and teargas.  Kisekka Market, the main source of used motor vehicle parts in the city, was closed as mobs burned tyres in the streets and erected barricades. Several people were arrested while others sustained injuries. No one was killed this time.

High Court deputy Registrar Fred Waninda had issued an injunction directing Tumwebaze not to implement the vote of no confidence against Lukwago until a matter before the court is disposed of.  Soon after the alleged impeachment, Justice Yasin Nyanzi of the High Court extended the injunction restraining the councilors from impeaching the Lord Mayor.

Later, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, the lawyer to the councilors who petitioned to remove Lukwago, would claim that the injunction by the judge came after the impeachment.

“It does not count,” he told The Independent.

Judiciary spokesperson Erias Kisawuzi meanwhile says there is “need to study the circumstances and come up with a conclusive statement.”

“What I can confirm is that there is an interim order which was issued and extended by the judge,” he told The Independent.

But City lawyer David Mayinja Tebusweke also argues that what was done by the councilors “is illegal and Lukwago remains Lord Mayor”.

The lawyer warns that if Tumwebaze, Musisi, and company go on and enforce the decision, their action could have lasting consequences for the authority, including heavy fines for damages and legal costs.

He warns that the authority and consequently councilors might fail to operate if the Lord Mayor’s alleged impeachment is effected because his deputy, Suleiman Kidandala is supposed to take over but the ED has refused to recognise him.

“How will KCCA pass its budget because even Parliament cannot approve it without the input of the authority?” Tebusweke asks.

But The Independent is aware that Tumwebaze and company are planning to quickly table an amendment to the KCCA Act 2010 that could possibly cure some of the feared outcomes of the fallout between Lukwago and the NRM-dominated KCCA.

As expected, Medard Seggona, another of Lukwago’s lawyers, says his client is still in office pending final determination of the court.

“What happened means criminality,” he told The Independent, “they (councilors) commenced a process which we didn’t know they would run away from.”

He adds that the alleged impeachment process of the Lord Mayor can best be described as “an idle process”. In any case, Lukwago has 21 days in which to file an appeal to the High Court if he feels he has been unfairly treated.

As the dispute over whether Lukwago’s impeachment is legal or otherwise, some observers like Rwakafuzi say any court battle “could only delay the inevitable but it would not stop it”.

“The best that could happen is that Lukwago might continue to be in court for the rest of his term,” Rwakafuzi says.

Francis Babu, a veteran politician who went through the ranks as a city councilor in the late 1980s and is also a former Kampala Central MP, has a fair understanding of Kampala City business. He says the law that set up KCCA is to blame for the three-year deadlock at KCCA.

Babu says the provision in the KCCA Act for the Lord Mayor to be elected by adult suffrage rather than an electoral college is to be blame for Lukwago, an opposition-allied politician, emerging as head of an authority dominated by ruling party affiliated councilors. Babu says President Museveni might now take over Kampala’s administration.

He says the city had a more effective system in 1989 when then-mayor Christopher Iga was elected by an electoral college composed of RC3 councilors who had gone through the ranks from the grassroots at RC1 all the way up to RC3.

“The council then was so rich and diverse – comprising a mix of highly educated and respectable people in society unlike today’s where city councilors can hardly speak proper English.

“The existing system has failed so we need to revisit such systems to ensure that we get a council that represents the crème la crème and a mayor who can command the respect of the people,” he says.

He cast doubt on the ability of the judiciary to sort out Kampala’s current problems.

“Lukwago and his lawyers have been insulting the Judiciary as ‘cadre judges’ so how will the same judges deliver a judgment they can trust?”

He says Lukwago has himself to blame for “refusing to work with everybody else and making the mayorship a platform for political activism to fight President Museveni”.

He faults him for refusing to work with his Council, the ED and her technical team and even going to the extent of abusing the minister he reports to publicly instead of being tolerant of people he did not like so as to do the job he was mandated to do.

“If you are given a job to do and you don’t do it, you have to be sacked.  Consequently, the people he refused to work with are pushing him out, which was the only logical thing to do in the circumstances,” Babu says.

Lukwago’s woes at KCCA started even before he was elected Lord Mayor. During the election in 2011, the vote had to be nullified after it was found that the ballot boxes had been stuffed with pre-ticked votes in favour of President Museveni’s favoured candidate, Peter Ssematimba.

In a repeat vote, Lukwago defeated Ssematimba in a race that was marred by unprecedented brutality by goons alleged to be in Museveni’s NRM camp. Many voters and journalists were badly beaten up.

Lukwago declared that he had defeated President Museveni and the NRM rigging machinery because it was a battle between him and the State and not his rivals.

“Museveni did all he could to fail me but in vain,” Lukwago told his cheering supporters.

Lawyer Rwakafuzi says from that moment, Lukwago “was always going to lose the battle because it is not easy to fight against Museveni and win.”

“President Museveni is so overbearing that you can’t do anything independent of him. You either work at his bequest or you completely avoid going into public office. He is a god of some sort and the sooner Ugandans realize that the better,” he says.

Even before Lukwago, President Museveni had tried but failed to have a member of his NRM party occupy the Mayor’s Parlor through elections as the city electorate has consistently voted for opposition candidates.

In 2005, he sought to get by legislation what he had failed to get by election. His party-dominated Parliament enacted a law whose centre piece was the change of Kampala from district status into an authority headed by a technocrat executive director appointed by the central government.

In what has been described as a bungled legislation, the same law provided for the election of a lord mayor as “political head” of the authority. Soon after Lukwago and Musisi entered office, they started jostling for power in a stand-off that has ensured that KCCA has been effectively non-operational since 2011. Musisi has been running a one-woman authority. Several attempts to remove Lukwago through the courts and Parliament were tried but flopped.

Frustrated by failure to pass any business legally, the process to impeach Lukwago started in May when 17 councilors led by Bruhan Byaruhanga petitioned Minister Tumwebaze to remove him.  Tumwebaze, as required by law, established a tribunal led by Justice Catherine Bamugemereire, which established a prima facie case against Lukwago for incompetence, abuse of office, and misconduct. His main crime is that he failed to sign minutes of meetings of the council.

Lukwago applied for a judicial review and obtained an interim injunction in the High Court restraining the minister from acting on the report of the Tribunal until the main petition slated to be disposed of on Nov. 29.

But Tumwebaze soon realised he faced another snag. The KCCA Council was not fully constituted without four councilors representing interest groups and could not impeach the Lord Mayor as per the ruling by High Court Justice Vincent Zehurikiize in Lukwago’s petition against the legality of the Tribunal in June.

Elections were quickly organised and the councilors were elected with Frank Kanduho, representing the Uganda Law Society, Verna Mwinganisa Mbabazi for Uganda Society of Architects, Karuma Kagyina representing Uganda Institution of Professional Engineers and Dr. Denson Nyabwana for Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Association. On Nov. 25, the now fully constituted council then sat to impeach Lukwago.

But Jacqueline Asiimwe, a social justice lawyer and political rights activist, says the struggle at KCCA extends beyond Lukwago and the other actors into issues of democratic governance.

“It is about a president who has over stayed in power,” she told The Independent, “It is easy to get lost in this Lukwago- Musisi saga and not see the big picture but unfortunately that seems to be the trend.”

She warns that impeaching Lukwago will have an effect on the voters. “The voters feeling disenfranchised won’t create peace and the leaders had a chance to stop it but didn’t, it will burst on them because it always does.”

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