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Rwakafuza makes case for soldiers to be thrown out of Parliament

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PARLIAMENT | The Constitution of Uganda is very clear that members of the armed forces cannot have a place in politics, Ladislaus Rwakafuzi has said.

The renowned human rights defender, who was making his submissions before a panel of Constitutional Court justices that opened the hearing of a petition challenging the representation of the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) in Parliament, said the double jeopardy in having soldiers sitting and debating on matters politics is that they are civil servants who cannot hold public offices while they are being elected into Parliament.

The Constitution allows the UPDF representation in Parliament as a special interest group. The August House has 10 army MPs in Col Felix Kulayigye, Maj Gen Pecos Kutesa, Col Francis Takirwa, Lt Col Flavia Byekwaso, Lt Gen Ivan Koreta and Capt Evelyn Assimwe.

Others are Gen Katumba Kamala, state minister for works, Brig Innocent Oula, Gen Elly Tumwine, the minister for security, and Capt Suzan Lakot.

The case has been shelved for seven years, but once the petition was rolled before Justices Alfonse Owiny-Dollo (Deputy Chief Justice) and his bench of Justices Frederick Martin Egonda Ntende, Kenneth Kakuru, Ezekiel Muhanguzi and Cheborion Barishaki, Rwakafuzi, who represented Ellady Muyabi, the petitioner, had no kind words for the UPDF representatives.

He said that the army’s presence in Parliament can’t be tolerated since Uganda transitioned from the Movement system of governance to multiparty system 13 years ago.

By the army being part of very a partisan Parliament, Rwakafuzi said it goes against Article 80 (2) of the Constitution.

“The article stipulates that “the army shall be non-partisan and national in character,” among other things and, therefore, army representation in Parliament makes the army partisan and not national
in character,” Rwakafuzi said.

At this point Justice Barishaki tried to redirect Rwakafuzi’s submissions by tasking him to address court on Article 78(2), which provides that every five years Parliament will review representation of special interest groups.

The group are of UPDF, Woman district representatives, youth, workers and people with disabilities.

Rwakafuzi obliged and insisted that since Uganda transitioned into the multiparty dispensation, Parliament has never reviewed the legality of the special interest groups, particularly the army.

‘No listening posts’

This prompted Justice Owiny-Dollo — who was part of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the 1995 Constitution — to tell Rwakafuzi to explain what’s wrong with the army being in Parliament since
he said the rationale was to be in “kitchen where everything is being prepared.”

To this, Rwakafuzi insisted that it can’t work now because Uganda has multiparty system in which the army isn’t supposed to per take.

“Parliament in its nature is very partisan, people are supposed to take sides,” Rwakafuzi said, “So the army can’t just be in Parliament as listening posts. But we have them now voting yet they are supposed be neutral as per the Constitution.”

Rwakafuzi said the presence of army MPs in the August House contravenes Article 80(4) of the Constitution which bars public officers and persons employed in any government department, including the army, from standing and being elected MP in a multi-party political system.

Though Principal State Phillip Mwaka from the Attorney General’s chambers wanted to respond to Rwakafuuzi’s submissions the judges advised him that would be wrong move since he wasn’t ready. Instead they advised Mwaka to respond through written submissions.

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