By Agather Atuhaire
Ninth parliament chews off more than it can bite?
They started their term with fire when they rejected four of President Yoweri Museveni’s proposed ministers and went on to disagree strongly with many of his policies. They have since in Museveni’s “way” in fight against corruption, forced three ministers to resign, and threatened the governor of the central bank.
But when a section of MPs on March 14 started collecting signatures in a move to impeach the President, some described it as the epitome of their seriousness while critics called it the cap of their lunacy.
But the opposition MPs, led by Aruu county MP Odonga Otto and Rubaga South MP Ken Lukyamuzi, argue that President Museveni must be impeached for abuse of office, willful violation of the oath of allegiance, misbehavior, and conducting himself in a manner which has brought the office of the president into hatred, ridicule, contempt and disrepute. , the legislators say they want Museveni out of office in accordance to article 107 of the 1995 constitution.
They had, according to Otto so far gathered about 50 signatures by March 19, and were to give their motion to the Speaker of parliament.
Details in their petition are accepted as accurate. They include accusations that the president condoned corruption by shielding corrupt ministers due to his lack of political will and being corrupt himself.
They ask why those ministers involved in one corruption scandal or another have not been punished.
The MPs hold the president responsible for the economic flaws that have driven the country into an economic depression. They argue that the president has exhibited high levels of financial indiscipline through purchase of jets and lavish campaigns pushing the inflationary rates to a whopping 30% as per end of last year. They say it is the reason Uganda’s external debt has tripled in less than two years from US$1 billion to US$ 4 billion and the domestic debt moved from Shs 300 billion to about Shs 3 trillion.
These financial facts are confirmed by a World Bank report which says extravagant government expenditure is responsible for weakening the Uganda shilling.
All those are genuine grounds on which any President can be impeached under the 1995 Uganda Constitution but observers say it is impossible in Uganda and that the movers of the motion should have known better than waste their time.
They say considering the jocular characters of the petitioners, who are branded as political jesters by some, make it possible that neither Museveni nor some Ugandans will pay any attention to their petition.
That aside, observers wonder what made these MPs think they can censure Museveni if they have failed to oust some of his ministers. Parliament attempted to censure Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi and Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek when they refused to willingly step aside for allegedly soliciting bribes from oil companies.
Recently in the businessman Basajabalaba compensation saga, the Public Accounts committee of parliament indicted among others Bank of Uganda Governor Tumusiime Mutebile and Ministers Syda Bbumba and Khiddu Makubuya. While Museveni let Makubuya and Bumba resign, he defended and eventually pushed Parliament to absolve Mutebile of any wrong doing.
All this shows that the President does not care about what Parliament does or doesn’t pass; he always gets his way like one analyst put it. It is even more pointless that the petitioners have no support from any ruling party member. In the past battles with the executive, a number of NRM MPs and opposition MPs have worked together. Not this time.
“First look at the people petitioning,” said Wilfred Niwagaba one of the MPs that have been at the centre of fighting corruption. “They are comedians and no one will take them serious.” He said he has not looked at their statement to see the issues they are raising but says “this motion will not go anywhere because most people have no confidence in the movers”.
When the independent told him that some of the issues in their petition was corruption and failure to prosecute corruption culprits, Niwagaba asked whether the President is the one responsible for prosecuting culprits.
Another NRM “rebel MP” as they call them, Rwampara county MP Vincent Kyamadidi says the petitioners are just being diversionary. He said they talked about it as the MPs fighting corruption and bad governance and did not agree on the step that Otto and Lukyamuzi took saying it might disrupt their work and solidarity as parliament.
“We were fighting as a bipartisan parliament but these people now want to turn it into a battle of the opposition against the NRM they will definitely lose because they are out numbered,” Kyamadidi said. He argued that it would be better to first deal with more realistic things “because Museveni is still popular in Uganda and no one will join them on that move”.
“Do you know why we lost on Amama Mbabazi and Mutebile?” he asked. “It is because Museveni interfered, so tell me what will happen when it is himself being impeached.”
“We had put the President in a tight corner already,” he continued. “The last time I saw him he was very worried but now he will think we are a bunch of jokers.”
Researcher and analyst Fredrick Golooba Mutebi also thinks it is a weak move.
“It is not the first time Lukyamuzi has talked about impeaching Museveni,” he said.
He said although under normal circumstances Museveni would be impeached because their arguments are based on strong grounds, such a thing cannot happen in a country like Uganda.
“In Uganda under the prevailing political conditions with the NRM having the majority in parliament, I doubt this debate will be allowed even on the floor of parliament,” Golooba said.
But Golooba said impeachment petition is important because it will be written in the annals of Uganda’s history. “It will be recorded that there was a move to have president Museveni thrown out of office over such and such blunders but that’s all,” he said.
It will be similar to when, shortly after independence, Kabaka Yekka Secretary General Daudi Achieng attempted to censure then-president Milton Obote and mounted a vote of no confidence.
In the ninth parliament, Aggrey Awori also attempted to impeach Museveni but did not succeed. Although most people are treating this petition as a joke, a few observers think the two legislators have been brave enough to do what others have feared to do. The duo needs the signatures of all the opposition MPs, the independents and a couple of the NRM MPs to come up with the required 125 signatures. In any case, they will have succeeded even if they fail.