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Minister Muhwezi faces censure over torture

Minister Jim Muhwezi

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | History is set to repeat itself as the Opposition in Parliament start a process seeking to censure the Minister of Security, Maj. Gen. Jim Muhwezi for abdicating responsibility in the face of torture of Ugandans by security operatives, which President Museveni himself has repeatedly condemned.

This would be the third time Jim Muhwezi faces censure as a minister. The first time was when the Sixth Parliament successfully censured him and he lost his job as minister for Basic Education. He was then accused of influence peddling and abuse of office.

The Sixth Parliament was not divided into opposition and ruling party and decisions were taken over the merit not on camps. So to control corruption tendencies which were beginning to manifest, the Parliament moved decisively and sacked several ministers. They included Sam Kutesa from the Economic Planning portfolio.

Mathew Rukikaire who was in charge of Privatisation also faced censure over the fraudulent sale of Uganda Commercial Bank to a shady Malaysian group and Kirunda Kivejinja, faced censure for diverting 2,000 litres of fuel across projects. Both Rukikaire and Kivejinja decided to resign rather than go through the humiliation Kutesa and Muhwezi suffered.

But with partisan politics of camps now playing a strong influence, the party with the majority, in this case NRM, can easily block a censure motion even if it is urgent and justified with valid evidence.

The Leader of Opposition Mathias Mpuuga revealed a new move to censure Muwhezi on Tuesday as the next action being taken by his team as part of the two weeks boycott of plenary sittings that was declared last week on Thursday.

“We have resolved to invoke rule 109 of our Rules of Procedure and Article 118 of the Constitution to censure the Minister of Security because over the last one and half years, he has been receiving complaints from the public…I laid documents in Parliament in his presence over torture, forced disappearances, murders and he did not respond,” Mpuuga told journalists at parliament.

He says that he has already lodged an official notice of censure to the Clerk of Parliament, Speaker and Deputy Speaker’s office. Mpuuga accuses the Minister of Security for totally abdicating his responsibility, breach of public duty and that they find him unfit to continue being in occupation of a sensitive public office.

A copy of Mpuuga’s notice received by the Office of the Speaker and the Clerk on 8th February indicates that Minister Muhwezi has violated the oath of allegiance and office by condoning human rights violations including enforced disappearances, torture while in detention and extra judicial killings.

Censure Process

Rule 109 of Parliament’s Rules of Procedure provides for the Vote of Censure Process against Ministers and requires any member desirous of moving this motion to notify the Clerk in writing of his or her intention, citing the ground for the proposed censure motion and giving detailed particulars supporting such grounds.

“The Clerk shall, within three days upon receipt of the notice of censure notify Parliament by causing the notice, the ground and particulars supporting the ground of proposed censure motion to be pinned on the Members’ notice board. The Clerk shall on the date and time of pinning the notice of censure cause to be prepared and deposited with the Sergeant-at-Arms, for a period of ten working days, a list of all MPs with an open space against each name for purposes of appending signatures,” the rules read in part.

The rules require that any signature appended to the list shall not be withdrawn and after at least one third of the MPs have appended their signatures in support of the proposed censure, the Sergeant-at-Arms shall forward the list to the Clerk. Out of the total 529 MPs in the 11th Parliament, the Opposition would require 176 signatures for the motion to succeed.

After raising the required signatures, Clerk is required to transmit the notice of censure, not later than 24 hours to the Speaker accompanied by the particulars supporting the various grounds of censure and signatures.

“If after the ten working days, less than one third of all the Members have appended their signatures on the list, the notice of censure shall lapse,” the rules further provide.

In the event that the required signatures are raised, the Speaker then places the proposed censure motion on the Order Paper for formal presentation on the floor of parliament by the petition. After this, the Speaker forwards the text of the motion and supporting grounds and documents to the President within 72 hours for onward transmission to the concerned Minister.

Now, 14 days from the date of transmission of the motion to the President, the Speaker appoints a Select Committee to which the motion documents are referred for scrutiny, allow the Minister in question to offer defence against allegations. This Select Committee is given 14 days to handle the issue and report back to the House with findings.

It’s at this stage that parliament debates the matter and vote on the motion. If the motion is carried by more than half of all the voting MPs, the Speaker informs the President within 24 hours from the time the motion was voted upon.

Asked whether the Opposition will raise the required signatures, Mpuuga said that those convinced about their call will sign and that they are not going to force MPs to sign the proposed censure motion. The ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party has majority MPs in the House boosting of 336 legislators, Opposition political parties 109 MPs and Independents 74.

In regard to a statement on the alleged torture reports by the Attorney General scheduled for presentation in the House in the absence of the Opposition, Mpuuga said that the Opposition protest continues and that on return to the House, they will move their own motion with demands.

Meanwhile, Mpuuga also told journalists that the Opposition has resolved that at every Constituency, a register is going to be opened where citizens can officially record their complaints regarding human rights abuses.

“We are going to pursue, demand for justice for these citizens. And this is not a preserve for Members of Parliament from the Opposition, NRM MPs, it is in your interest that you put up a register so that your people can register their complaints officially,” said Mpuuga.

He added that the Opposition is planning to provide telephone contacts through which people can register their complaints and that all these will be appended to a motion that the Opposition will move before Parliament after their boycott.

In the past two weeks, several pictures and videos of citizens have been circulating on different media with reported torture by security forces while in detention. The most recent case is that of Novelist Kakwenza Rukirabasaija and Samuel Masereka, the National Unity Platform-NUP Coordinator in Kasese district who displayed torture marks on their bodies received under detention.

Past Efforts to Censure Ministers

This is not the first time that the Opposition in Parliament is moving to censure different ministers. In the past parliaments, different Opposition leaders sought to censure Ministers but the process collapsed after failing to raise the required signatures due to their decimal number in parliament.

In 2013, a motion seeking to censure the then Kampala Minister Frank Tumwebaze flopped after only 20 MPs signed out of the required 125 for the censure to go ahead during the 9th Parliament.

Another censure motion against former Security Minister, Gen. Elly Tumwine collapsed after a section of Members of Parliament faulted their colleagues for shying away from the censure process. Tumwine was being accused of contempt of Parliament.

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