NUP MPs Move to Impeach Speaker Among

 


For nearly three weeks now, the hashtag “#UgandaParliamentExhibition” has been prominently featured among the top trends on X, formerly Twitter, as Ugandans utilize the platform to highlight instances of corruption within Uganda’s parliament.

This exhibition, which originated last year with a focus on showcasing the prevalent issue of potholes in Kampala, was initiated by a coalition of individuals including Makerere University Lecturer Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo, Journalist Agather Atuhaire, and activist Edwin Toko.

Since its inception, the exhibition has had a significant and far-reaching impact. It has not only brought attention to the widespread corruption within Parliament but has also led to increased scrutiny of its leaders from across the political spectrum.

The fallout from the exhibition has extended beyond the House to include the National Unity Platform (NUP), the largest opposition party in

parliament. Following the exposure of what has been labeled as corruption, particularly involving the speaker of parliament, allegations include increasing her per diem from $900 to $4,000, claiming allowances for trips not taken, and withdrawing hundreds of millions of shillings through aides for purported corporate social responsibility activities, many of which have been in her Bukedea district.

As a result, there have been calls for the speaker of parliament, Anita Among, to resign. However, it is widely acknowledged that her resignation would be unlikely unless there is significant pressure. Therefore, the exhibitors are now directing their efforts towards the National Unity Platform, urging them to bring a censure motion against Among.

The Observer understands that following the revelation that the former leader of the opposition in parliament, Mathias Mpuuga, was awarded Shs 500 million in a service award and his party’s request for his resignation, a request he has declined, the party also wishes for its MPs to initiate a censure motion against Among. However, they are aware that this would be a nonstarter in a parliament dominated by MPs from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM).

Of the 529 voting members of parliament, the NRM holds 336 seats, while the NUP has 57, the Forum for Democratic Change has 30, Uganda People’s Congress has 10, Democratic Party has 09, Jeema has 01, and People’s Progressive Party has 01. The remaining 84 MPs consist of 10 representing the Uganda People’s Defense Forces and 74 independents, the majority of whom, like the UPDF MPs, are allied with the NRM. Therefore, unless the NRM decides otherwise, Among’s position remains secure.

Despite the obvious lack of the required numbers to impeach Among, NUP leaders, nonetheless, desire their MPs to pursue the motion, at least for its symbolic significance. However, even though the motion would likely fail, it remains a topic of discussion among many MPs.

UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES CAN A SPEAKER BE IMPEACHED?

According to the 1995 Constitution of Uganda, Article 82 establishes the office of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament. The Speaker and Deputy Speaker are elected by Members of Parliament from among their number. However, the law prohibits the Vice President and Ministers from becoming the Speaker of Parliament.

Subject to Article 81(4) of the Constitution, no business shall be transacted in Parliament other than an election to the office of Speaker at any time that office is vacant. The election to the office of Deputy Speaker takes place at the first sitting of Parliament after that office becomes vacant.

The law specifies that the Speaker or Deputy Speaker shall vacate their office if:
1. They are appointed to any public office.
2. They become a Minister.
3. Theyresigntheirofficebywriting signed by them and addressed to the Clerk to Parliament.
4. They cease to be a Member of Parliament.
5. Theyareremovedbyresolutionof Parliament supported by not less than two-thirds of all Members of Parliament.

NUP MPS SCARED

The Observer reached out to 40 of the 57 NUP Members of parliament, of whom 15 were able to answer their calls, while 25 did not answer and failed to return calls. Among those who answered, only two outrightly stated they would sign the petition to censure Among.

These two are Makindye East MP Derrick Nyeko and his Mityana municipality counterpart Francis Zaake. Others, including Mukono Municipality’s Betty Nambooze, Kiboga Woman MP Kaaya Christine Nakimwero, Mityana Woman MP Joyce Bagala, and Nakaseke Central’s Allan Mayanja, stated they would make a decision when the petition is presented.

“Why are you speculating? Let the motion come, and the mover lays down the evidence. I’ve never been shy when it comes to deciding the correct thing. Is anybody moving it?” Nambooze said.

“We need to know the claims because some of the claims can be explained. The challenge that we have is that we have not accessed information; we are just depending on propaganda and social media exhibition. As members of parliament, we need to see really what this money was used for; was the allowance allowed? If the money was approved for an activity, was the activity undertaken? If we get the right information, then we can make decisions, but currently, it is hearsay,” Nakimwero said.

For Muwada Nkunyingi of Kyadondo East, he intends to adhere to the party’s stance on the issue.

“I’m a member of NUP and a supporter of my president Robert Kyagulanyi; therefore, I will follow the party’s position on the matter,” Nkunyingi stated.

Others, upon learning the reason for the call, declined to comment, citing ongoing meetings. These include Luweero woman MP Brenda Nabukenya, Michael Kakembo of Entebbe, and Ronald Balimwezo of Nakawa East. Meanwhile, Mukono North MP Abdallah Kiwanuka simply stated that he had no comment.

Francis Katabazi, the MP for Kalungu East, expressed reluctance to discuss the matter concerning others. Dr Twaha Kagabo, the MP of Bukoto South, emphasized the need for solid reasons before initiating a motion to censure the speaker.

“What wrong has she done? No, there must be a substantive reason as to why somebody needs to get the courage and pass a censure motion against the person of the speaker,” Kagabo asserted.

Interviewed, Asuman Basalirwa, leader of Justice Forum party and formerly allied to NUP, said, “I don’t want to criticize people based solely on information from social media. Let those in charge of information come out and clarify the authenticity of the documents, then we can conduct a thorough investigation to establish what happened.

After that, we can determine the appropriate course of action. Otherwise, for now, it would be premature to discuss censure. It’s also true that there has been a mix-up of things. It’s impossible to be paid to visit two places at the same time. That’s not how parliament works. So, there is likely an explanation for many of these occurrences.”

Interviewed for this story, Alex Waiswa Mufumbiro, the deputy spokesperson of NUP, stated that as a party, they haven’t formulated a position on whether to censure Among or not. However, he expressed the view that it would be the right course of action.

“Definitely, we would support anybody who brings a motion to censure the speaker. We have asked our own commissioner [Mpuuga] to resign; so, it would be the right thing to impeach her if she refuses to resign. Let’s not even focus on the money they have taken, but the criminal intent. I think our members will sooner or later take action regarding this criminality. Of course, we are constrained by the numbers, but we must take action,” Mufumbiro said.

When asked about the possibility of the motion causing further division within the party, Mufumbiro stated that if the price they have to pay for trying to impeach the speaker is the division of the party, they are willing to bear it.

“I’m aware that some of our MPs have been put in a compromising position by the same speaker, but for anybody who values accountability and this country, it is obvious that Among must resign. Anybody who refuses to support that stance, I think, has been benefiting from her mismanagement,” Mufumbiro said.

Friends of the speaker whom we have spoken to say that although she has not publicly commented on the accusations, she is, nonetheless, very stressed about the public criticism.

“I believe the system is trying to undermine her because nobody obtains that information unless it’s provided by the state. I’m yet to understand the real motivation for this, but of course, there are many power brokers that Among undercut when she became speaker, and they are unhappy with her,” said the MP, who requested anonymity to speak candidly. He also added that there are few MPs willing to engage in open confrontation with Among.

“I’m here waiting to see who will bring that motion and who will sign it,” the MP added.

Yusuf Serunkuma, a political pundit, commented that by playing the moral and anti-corruption card, NUP has set itself on fire because, contrary to the revelations in the online exhibition, Speaker Among and former LoP Mathias Mpuuga are not the only ones implicated.

“Their entire NUP house is deeply entrenched in Museveni’s money, and their illicit possessions—buildings, concubines, automobiles—are being exhibited one by one. Unless they claim the Shs 500m was an exaggerated figure, the test of NUP’s resolve lies not in actually impeaching Speaker Anita Among, but in rallying all their 57 MPs or even half to sign a petition against her.

Sadly, even the Leader of the Opposition will have to privately seek permission, explaining the political value of their action for their gullible audience, from the speaker to draft such a petition. And if Anita Among is not convinced, she’ll not allow it. Because, as Kalundi Serumaga has noted, ‘parliament itself is the bribe.’ Every parliamentarian in that house, to varying degrees, sold their soul to the speaker because this speaker is only vending and trading in opposition MPs,” Serunkuma said.

-Observer

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