Legal experts tell Museveni to back off Parliament

Legal experts yesterday asked President Museveni to apply brakes on his public mockery of Parliament, arguing such abrasive pronouncements “undermine the constitutional order” in the country.

Within seven weeks since October 12, the President has on three different occasions – at a press conference at State House Nakasero, NRM’s caucus retreat in Kyankwanzi and on Sunday in Soroti District, accused MPs of sabotaging development programmes he initiates.

Offering counsel in an interview with this newspaper yesterday, Chief Justice Benjamin Odoki, who oversees the Judiciary that is the custodian of the sanctity of our laws, said anyone dissatisfied with separation of powers can petition the Constitutional Court and the Judiciary “will pronounce itself on the matter.”

He said: “That is how institutions work under the doctrine of constitutionalism. We have kept our hands down; we are waiting. Let it [matter of power contention] come and we shall deal with it.”

Odoki’s take

Justice Odoki headed the commission that gathered views of Ugandans for the draft document later promulgated by the Constituent Assembly into the (now amended) 1995 Constitution.

Describing the present situation yet as political and a ‘moot point’, a reference to a debatable issue, the Chief Justice said the Judiciary will, however, not “delve into political matters.”

In his earlier complaints, President Museveni made clear no one would have dared challenge him during the bush days when he was commander of the then guerilla outfit, the National Resistance Army, which has since transformed into UPDF.

Constitutional lawyer Peter Walubiri, who is also UPC national treasurer, said Mr Museveni’s nostalgic references to his guerilla days expose his “inner ambition to rule with absolute power” and that he “abhors democracy, accountability and sharing of power.”

“The idea of checks and balances is that one arm of government cannot take decisions without being scrutinised or called to account,” Mr Walubiri said.

“The President wants to rule by his own whims yet, like any citizen, he can make mistakes. The idea that he wants to govern Uganda as if it was a rebel army or organisation is archaic and undermines the established constitutional order.”

The script of Mr Museveni’s complaint is that the 6th Parliament is responsible for electricity deficit in the country because it blocked construction of Bujagali Dam while lawmakers in the 8th Parliament, led by Kitgum Woman MP Beatrice Anywar and former Chwa County MP Livingstone Okello-Okello, rallied against his decision to dole out part of Mabira Forest and land in Acholi for sugarcane growing, resulting in sugar shortage. The President has outlined that he was unhappy that the NRM-dominated 9th Parliament, in October, debated allegations that three senior ministers pocketed bribes from foreign oil companies, and the legislators without consulting him as party chairman, passed 10 resolutions, one of which imposed moratorium on all oil transactions until substantive laws regarding the sector are in place.

Yesterday, Parliament Spokesperson Helen Kawesa said the House was simply performing its three constitutional functions of oversight, representation and legislation. “May be it is being misunderstood as sabotage,” she said by telephone.

Dr Jean Barya, the Makerere University Law don, earlier said Parliament is to blame for the gathering stand-off because for long, it pandered to the Executive’s wishes, and as such, its attempt to “regain the lost teeth” is viewed by the President as insubordination.