Supreme Court leaves six 10th Parliament MPs grumbling

FILE PHOTO: Asuman Basalirwa taking oath to join the 10th Parliament.

A ruling last week by the Supreme Court that six MPs illegally earned Shs 9 billion from the 10th Parliament, has left the affected politicians quibbling, blaming the court for being unfair to them.

The MPs, some of whom lost their re-election bids to the 11th Parliament are; Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality), Elioda Tumwesigye (Sheema Municipality), Tarsis Rwaburindore Bishanga (Ibanda Municipality), Hashim Sulaiman (Nebbi Municipality), Patrick Ocan (Apac Municipality) and Peter Lokoris Abrahams (Kotido Municipality), got elected to Parliament following the operationalisation of their respective municipalities in 2018.

A panel of five Justices including Mike Chibita, Paul Mugamba, Faith Mwondha, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Percy Night Tuhaise ruled that the Constitutional Court was right to eject the MPs from parliament for being elected in non-existent constituencies.

The Justices held that the elections were neither conducted in a general election nor as a way of by-election which are the only recognized ways of electing Members of Parliament.

In December 2019, the Constitutional Court led by the then Deputy Chief Justice, Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, ruled that the elections conducted in the six municipalities were not elections for an office of MP existing under the Constitution.

This followed a petition by Eddie Kwizera challenging the legality of a number of constituencies created after the 2016 general elections. He argued that the seat contested for did not have a vacancy and were already represented by elected MPs in the 2016 general election.
Kwizera, the seating Bukimbiri MP, argued before the Constitutional Court that the resolutions of Parliament creating the contested constituencies violated Articles 61(c) 63(2) and 91(1) of the Constitution, and asked the court to have the MPs expunged from government records, nullify their election and direct them to refund taxpayers’ money.

Articles 61 and 63 prescribe how constituencies are to be created while Article 91(1) mandates parliament to make laws through bills passed and assented to by the president.

The Supreme Court described their election in the previous term of Parliament as improper since they were conducted prematurely for non-existent vacancies.
The MPs however say that it is government and the Electoral Commission that need to be held accountable.

“So, I came in as any other Ugandan to participate and I went through. I didn’t know that the seat was non-existent and I still believe that I represented my people rightly,” Hashim Sulaiman said.
“If there is any problem they should fault government and the Electoral Commission and not us,” he added.

Regarding the money earned during the 10th parliament term, Hashim said that suggestions by sections of the public for them to pay back the money are not reasonable since they only participated in an election that was conducted by authorities.

On his part, Basalirwa argues that they effectively represented their voters in the 10th Parliament and also made laws during the period that the court has pronounced itself on.

To Basalirwa, asking them to refund money means that even all the work and laws passed were illegal.

The Court did not pronounce itself on the money they earned illegally but ordered the six to pay costs to the petitioner costs of the case.

“The petition was filed before the said elections were held with one of the remedies sought being a permanent injunction barring the holding of the elections therein. The nullification of the said elections was a mere consequence of the declaration that the constituencies were unconstitutionally turned into vacancies. As such, the appellants’ reliance on the case of Theodore Ssekikubo and others Versus Attorney General (2005) is unfounded,” Justice Chibita stated in the majority decision.

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