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Museveni cannot suspend Parliament

By Haggai Matsiko

Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona spoke to The Independent’s Haggai Matsiko about parliament and President Yoweri Museveni.

As an MP who was at the forefront of the petition to recall parliament over the death of Butaleja MP Cerinah Nebanda, what was the driving force for you?

It is the will and love for this country; to try as much as possible to deliver this country from evil.

What is the evil because some people think the idea is to create anarchy and fail Museveni’s government?

I am not anti-Museveni; it is about policy, it is about principle. I would like to cultivate the best in President Museveni and activate the goodwill in Museveni. But I will excavate anything evil in Museveni not because we love him less but we love Uganda more. So we did not start this whole thing, we did not kill Nebanda.

The person to blame is President Museveni. He was reckless in his choice of words and manner of expression. He did not commit a crime by abusing us but he crossed the moral redline.  None of us have ever said that the government killed Nebanda, but I am not in a position to deny that.

I have seen civilians killed by the Museveni government and with his approval. The people killed in Kasubi. I represented the family of the late Patrick Owomugisha Mamenero who was killed by Museveni’s soldiers in CMI, he was a civilian. The late Andrew Lutakome Kayiira after defeating Museveni in a treason case was gunned downed by people in military uniform at a friend’s house in Konge and the information we got is that police dogs detected the killers to have left and returned to the barracks in Mengo. So, how else do governments kill?

Your critics think that you are involved in an ego contest; that you are trying to square off with the president?

It is not egoistic at all. We know the law but he is innocent of the law. We are not fighting with him, but our lives are at stake. We are not going to continue dyeing like cockroaches because someone is shouting `no don’t talk about it’. We must investigate what caused Nebanda’s death. These silly stories of narcotics, I hear heroin then the next day someone is talking about cocaine. These people kill you and then scandalise your name. They are merciless.

Isn’t it possible that Nebanda could have died of anything?

You see, if you are not drunk, you do not stagger. This government is drunk. And in law we have an accomplice after the fact, they are accomplices in this whole thing, at least by fact. I have seen people who die of poison, the characteristics, I saw her body and it was poison. But not only that, we knew our colleague; we worked with her for some time. There are people you look at in government and you say there must be some intoxicant driving them, we never saw that in her.  But besides that, I mean, they were against her. He quarreled with her. I know, as a lawyer that circumstantial evidence if inconsistent with any other hypothesis other than guilt is safe to convict. Circumstantial evidence, the way I look at it is safe to convict government. That is my opinion, nobody can take it away.

Some MPs have said that when you were collecting signatures, you did not tell them what it was about and have since asked to withdraw them, what does it say about the parliament you belong to?

They have cast us in bad light; that there are MPs who can sign onto a document without understanding it. I think those ones are below the scale. We brought an idea to organize and discuss what was happening because we are the oversight body of the state. They were convinced, on every signature sheet that we circulated was attached the petition we have submitted to the Speaker in English.

A friend has advised me that possibly these MPs were bribed. But if there is an MP who can be bribed by this little money, then that person is greedy. On the other hand if there is an MP who can be intimidated and coerced into submission and subservience, then the president was right in describing some people the way he did. Once you submit to the speaker and the speaker receives with the requisite signatures and the petition on the face of it complies with the law, you have set in motion a constitutional process that is irreversible.

If you remember, in 1998 there was an attempt to censure Hon. Jim Muhwezi as minister and along the way some people wanted to withdraw their signatures and the ruling by then Speaker, the Hon. James Wapakabhulo was that once you have submitted this petition to the Speaker, you cannot withdraw your signature.

What about cases of forgery because some of them cite forgery?

The problem with this government is that they thrive on all sorts of mischief. So they imagine we all forge.

Those who call it a contest between parliament and the President say the President will be pushed to the wall and suspend parliament, don’t you foresee that?

I don’t. Like any another dictator, he can only raid the parliament, he cannot suspend parliament legally.

He can just do it?

I am speaking from a legal perspective, I mean, a robber can come and still your T.V set; he  does not acquire legitimacy over it. He would be a rebel, that would be treason and under the constitution, one day once we regain our sovereignty and power we would punish him.

What is your view of the idea that parliament should be moderate, use soft power to try and work with this government?

That is what we are doing. If we were not, we would be talking about impeachment because he has already transgressed. We are soft because we consider the best interests of the country first, peace and tranquility. We can pay some price for peace but we should not be blackmailed that you see for me I am a bad boy, if you mess up with me I can cause trouble. Whom do you cause trouble to? You can cause trouble and face catastrophe, it is our country.

As a young man aspiring to be an MP is that the kind of parliament you wanted to be part of and if not what are you doing about it?

I knew there was some level of dirt in politics, which we needed to clean. I did not know that it gets to this level. But I am not a lone voice in parliament and society. We will try to attract more honest beings and see how we can change things.

What about the idea that the groups like Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) are funded by foreigners who are interested in Uganda’s resource to distablise the state? That your motive is to foment chaos with the ultimate goal of ousting the government?

My membership and participation in PFOG has been in seminars that I have attended. So if I was fomenting trouble, Museveni’s ministers would not be excused as well including the Vice President. I think only President Museveni and his Prime Minister are the ones who have not attended PFOG workshops. Some of us have the brains to critic a law on its merit. We feel insulted when some of us spend sleepless nights trying to come up with the best law for the country but because we did not make a law for President Museveni, we are branded enemies and collaborators with external forces. External forces are always bad if they are not giving President Museveni money.

What about the argument that you parliamentarians have concentrated on peripheral issues other than core parliamentary business like debating and passing bills?

That is based on ignorance. Our work is legislation and oversight, good governance is a core of business. Under article 79(3), parliament has a duty to protect the constitution and to ensure good governance in this country.  Laws are ordinarily not supposed to come from MPs; they are supposed to come from the executive including these oil Bills. But we literally pushed government to bring the oil Bills. They do not want us do oversight so that they can keep stealing our money. No way, that is not we are mandated to do.

In your view, we have blamed a lot on the executive but the parliament has not been perfect, has it?

I think we need to improve the quality of MPs, in terms of thinking patriotically. We should do some more reading, listen to our seniors and learn certain things from them. Learning from others will improve the quality.  From the administration, the speaker and the commission, I think they should do more training.

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