Tuesday, 16 April 2013

What next for expelled NRM ‘rebel’ legislators?

Uganda’s ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) party top administrative organ, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), has cracked the whip on dissenting members of parliament expelling four and suspending one. In a weekend CEC meeting, chaired by President Yoweri Museveni, party executives resolved to expel the four youthful legislators who have been perceived as too critical of most party policies and positions on service provision and governance matters.

The expelled MPs include Theodore Ssekikubo, Wilfred Nuwagaba, Barnabas Tinkasimire, and Mohammed Nsereko. CEC accuses the legislators of malicious propaganda, decampaigning official party candidates in recently held by-elections, and working for foreign interests in oil and gas affairs. The accused MPs deny the accusation arguing they work in the interests of Ugandans they represent in parliament.
Expelled MPs: Niwagaba, Tinkasimire and Ssekikubo (Getty Image)
NRM’s secretary general is chest-thumbing that the action leaves the expelled MPs anonymous in parliament and his party will see to it that they lose their parliamentary seats. But this is just one side of the story. The expelled MPs are also petitioning the High Court over the dismissal.

Technically, their dismissal means they will lose their places on parliamentary committees because the committees are constituted basing on party considerations. They will, however, remain in parliament as legislators. Lawyers say there's no provision in the constitution that makes an MP lose his seat after being expelled from a political party.

The Constitution which is the supreme law in Uganda says one automatically loses their parliamentary seat if they cross to another party. These legislators technically are still the official representatives of their constituents until, NRM petitions the Speaker to kick them out. Trust me they won't just go down without a fight.

Last evening I was at the chambers of one of them and he was buried in files, making frantic calls to save his neck and those of buddies. But one thing is certain; they aren't NRM anymore as long as the expulsion stands. They reportedly violated the party’s internal code of conduct.

But again, when you come to think of it, NRM leaders should remember that when your child disobeys you don't just disown him because that worsens the problem. Dialogue has always been the key to building parties. You don't build parties by expelling whoever questions your actions. Otherwise, NRM, in my opinion, is building a mountain out of a mull-hill.

Clearly, the battle lines have been drawn. We are yet to see the winners and losers in the battle of beating errant party members into the line.

Mubatsi Asinja Habati

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