The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga has dismissed claims that she had a hand in the recent raid of Parliament by presidential guards.
Last week, on Wednesday, officers from the Special Forces Command (SFC), stormed Parliament and brutally evicted MPs opposed to lifting of the presidential age limit, and had defied the speaker's orders to vacate the House.
Kadaga suspended the 25 MPs including junior Water minister Ronald Kibuule for causing chaos during plenary the previous day on September 26. Kibuule had entered the chambers with a firearm which sparked off the first fistfight on Tuesday.
Within 3 minutes, after suspending the House for 30 minutes and ordering the Sergeant-At-Arms to evict the MPs, security officers from the SFC, who, had all along been at the back of the speaker's chair monitoring proceedings, stormed the chambers to evict the MPs.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga
Several sections of the society including the academia and some legislators have faulted the speaker for flouting the House rules when she allegedly allowed into the chambers the presidential guards.
“I did not invite any security organ to Parliament and did not command any security organ to take any action in Parliament. I am surprised that me, a civilian, is being accused of commanding security agents. I don’t know how a civilian can command. It just shows you how empty their thinking is,” a visibly angry Kadaga said.
Kadaga further told the legislators today that she was not even aware of the presence of other security organs in Parliament other than the parliamentary police and only learnt about their presence from media reports.
During a press conference organized by the newly constituted Parliamentary Forum on Constitutional Supremacy yesterday, Tuesday, MP Reagan Okumu (Aswa) who led the group, accused Kadaga of conspiring and allowing the invasion of Parliament by the army.
The forum, in its statement signed by 33 MPs, expressed sadness over the what they called the broad daylight defilement of the sanctity and independence of Parliament by armed military personnel in an attempt to come up with a gun point constitutional amendment.
“We demand that the Speaker apologises to Ugandans for colluding with the military to unleash terror on some MPs and for abdicating her cardinal role of protecting and defending the sanctity of Parliament in bending over to pressure from the Executive arm of government,” Okumu said.
However, Kadaga said she will not apologise, noting that the suspended MPs had violated the rules.
“I will not apologise for applying the rules of procedure in the House. There was a clear breach of our rules and the conduct that you saw here brought this House into disrepute. And those outside who are trying to run Parliament from the streets should know that I am the custodian of the rules of procedure,” the speaker said.
She reminded the legislators of her role in defending the rights of legislators, citing her intervention in the protection of the four NRM 'rebel' MPs Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Barnabas Tinkansimire (Buyaga West), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Mohammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), whom she prevented from being booted from the House by their NRM party over violation of the party constitution.
“My record on the protection, rights and privileges of MPs is very clear. Let me remind you that in the 9th Parliament, I took issue with my party, the NRM and upheld the constitutional rights of MPs in this House and that protection became the protection of all members in this House. No party can now withdraw a member from this House and it was upheld by the Supreme court. So those who are running Parliament from the street can forget it,” Kadaga said.
Kadaga suspended 25 MPs for three sittings on September 27, for what she termed as breaching house rules a day earlier by fighting in the chambers. Their suspension followed a fight in the chamber sparked by claims that Kibuule had smuggled a firearm inside parliament and threatened Kira municipality MP and opposition chief whip Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda.
Government chief whip, Ruth Nankabirwa told the House that the event in the chambers was tantamount to an attempted failed coup and government cannot allow such lawlessness in Parliament.
“Parliament is an arm of government and government cannot sit back when it is being attacked and the speaker is being threatened so that she is diverted from doing her work. Government will always come in to protect all the institutions including Parliament. This message should go out there to inform people who think they will threaten this arm of government,” Nankabirwa said.