Even after the appeals court confirmed her ejection as Kamuli Municipality MP for lacking academic qualifications, Rehema Watongola has vowed to stand in the by-election.
Last Tuesday, all three Court of Appeal judges upheld the High court ruling that cancelled Watongola’s election, concluding she did not have an A-level certificate or its equivalent.
Watongola appealed after the Jinja-based High court judge Geoffrey Namundi nullified her election in June last year, saying first-time NRM MP failed to defend the authenticity of her papers after they were disowned by Busoga University.
But when she appeared on CBS radio’s phone-in programme, Nze nga Bwe Ndaba (The Way I See It), Watongola wondered why the Court of Appeal disregarded her strong evidence.
She said there’s no way her university’s vice chancellor could say she didn’t go to school yet he was the guest of honour at her graduation ceremony.
“I took enough evidence to court and I know what I have. The entire Busoga knows. My schoolmates and classmates are alive and we graduated together. What does an equivalent mean and why did they throw me out? What reason do they talk about?” Watongola asked.
Rehema Watongola swearing in as Kamuli Municipality MP
Watongola said she would contest in the now-impending by-election despite losing in both courts.
“The judges have done their work and now let’s go back to the voters and let them decide. They will vote for me. Those wondering which papers I’m going to use are not my voters. I know my voters,” she said.
Asked why she didn’t present the authentic academic documents to High court if she had them, Watongola lashed out at CBS journalist Alex Nsubuga, saying: “What does denying knowledge of my papers mean you good Muganda who went to school? You said I didn’t study from there and the university denied knowledge of me. Yes that’s true. Are you my father or my mother?”
Watongola maintains that the academic papers she will present are her secret. Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a renowned lawyer, said the nullification of Watongola’s election did not bar her from running for the same seat again. He said that if she contests, the Electoral Commission will have to vet her and if she has the right documents, she will be nominated.
“Court didn’t bar her from standing; they just nullified her papers and she is free to contest. May be she filed the wrong documents but once she forwards the right documents, no one can stop her from running. The EC cannot use the Court of Appeal judgement against her,” Rwakafuuzi told us by telephone on Friday.
In a telephone interview with The Observer, Dr Tanga Odoi, the NRM electoral commission chairman, said Watongola would only be allowed to stand if she forwards the authentic documents.
“We are yet to see the papers she is going to use. It’s our legal directorate to advise us and we have not yet even called for expression of interest in that seat,” Tanga said Friday.
Asked about Watongola’s eligibility, Electoral Commission spokesman Jotham Taremwa declined to comment.
“We have not yet received yet any formal clarification from the clerk to parliament and I would not really like to comment about such an issue,” Taremwa said.
Since she was appointed minister for education and sports nine months ago, First Lady Janet Museveni had skipped every scheduled meeting with the line education parliamentary committee, angering MPs.
But when her ministry’s budget was up for consideration last Tuesday, Janet appeared before the committee. Last month, some MPs publicly voiced their anger at the first lady’s continued snubbing of committee summons.
Two MPs asked that she resigns after she skipped an appearance before the parliamentary committee on education and sent the minister of state for higher education, John Chrysostom Muyingo, to defend her ministry’s budget estimates, which were under scrutiny by MPs.
After our report titled, “First lady absence sparks MPs’ walkout,” was published on February 1, Janet Museveni reportedly wrote to the committee leadership. In the letter, she said she would appear before the committee on February 7 but the meeting was called off to allow MPs attend the NRM caucus meeting at State House, which endorsed the six ruling party flag bearers for the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala).
In the follow-up letter, the committee clerk Geoffrey Owilli said the meeting would discuss the minister’s vision and priorities for the sector and that MPs would be free to raise matters affecting the education sector.
“The meeting is in part intended to address the concerns expressed by some members of the committee about the absence of the minister from committee meetings during consideration of the ministry’s budget,” the letter partly read.
On Tuesday, Janet Museveni made her way to committee room 139 on the north wing side of parliament by 10am amid tight security. Her security detail took charge of all the three gates of parliament, the corridor connecting parliament to the President’s office and five of the six levels of parliament. Her bodyguards, about 15, manned the entrance to the committee room.
For journalists, entry to the committee room was restricted to the few that were in the room before the MPs and Janet Museveni entered. During her presentation, she told the committee: “my strategic direction is to ensure that the aforesaid interventions guided by both national and international agenda are implemented in an effective and efficient manner to enhance education service delivery in the country,” she told the committee
“My prayer to honorable members of parliament is to request that you understand that when I fail to turn up in person, receive my colleagues to represent our sector in good spirit.”
MPs Joseph Gonzaga Ssewungu (Kalungu West) and Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) argued that it was time for Janet to resign her ministerial job because she has demonstrated that she can’t shoulder the heavy schedule of the two offices of first lady and minister.
Some MPs criticized security operatives for blocking journalists from accessing the committee room and the high presence of security personnel within parliament.
Morris Ogenga Latigo (Agago North), the former leader of opposition, described the blocking of journalists as unfortunate.
“It is a requirement for the first lady that she remains accessible to MPs and journalists because education is such a basic ministry that handles issues at the lowest level of society. The minister must be accessed at all times by all people and if she cannot stand it, it’s important that president relieves her of her ministerial duty so that she remains first lady,” Latigo told The Observer.
After nearly 70 days in jail since his arrest in November last year, Rwenzuru king Charles Wesley was yesterday afternoon finally granted bail by Jinja High court.
Now, details of the negotiations between the Rwenzururu king and government for his temporary freedom have started emerging. Mumbere was released on a non-cash bail of Shs 100m and his sureties bonded at Shs 100m each, non-cash.
Mumbere's lawyer, Caleb Alaka told justice Michael Elubu in Jinja High court that the king had agreed to some conditions with government for his release from Luzira prison.
Rwenzururu king Wesley Charles Mumbere
The king was remanded to Luzira prison in November last year together with his prime minister, Johnson Thembo Kitsumbire and 161 royal guards for their role in the Kasese clashes, which claimed the lives of more than 100 people including royal guards and policemen.
The suspects face 41 counts ranging from treason, terrorism, murder, attempted murder to aggravated robbery and malicious damage to property. On January 13, 2017, Justice Eva Luswata released Mumbere on bail but he was re-arrested shortly after and slapped with fresh charges.
As a result, Mumbere made a fresh bail application, which came up for hearing before Justice Michael Elubu. In his submission, Mumbere's lawyer, Caleb Alaka listed some of the conditions they had reached with government for his release.
He said that they had agreed that the Uganda People's Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Force takes over the security detail of the king. Mumbere is also expected to observe the bail terms set by Justice Eva Luswata during his earlier release.
They include restricting his movements within Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts. He also barred from traveling to Kabarole, Ntoroko and Kasese districts without prior permission from court.
Mumbere is also expected to report to the Criminal Investigations Department in Kampala once every month. Some of the people who stood surety for the king include his brother Christopher Kibanzanga, the Agriculture state minister, businessman Geoffrey Baluku, Constantine Bwambale, the former Rwenzururu premier, Edwin Kugonza, the managing director Real Marketing and Amos Mugisha.
Four of the 42 beneficiaries of the Shs 6 billion ‘presidential handshake’ from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) struggled to explain their roles in the Heritage Oil and Gas arbitration case.
Mathew Mugabi, the former URA Litigation manager, Samuel Kahima, the former acting manager Rulings and Interpretations, Moses Kibumba, the former Chief Assessor and former Natural Resource supervisor Annet Bazalilaki appeared before the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chaired by Bugweri County MP, Abdu Katuntu, which is investigating the oil cash bonuses.
Evidence before the committee shows that Mugabi and Kahima pocketed Shs 121 million each while Kibumba and Bazalilaki received Shs 73 million and Shs 56 million respectively.
During the meeting, the Committee chairperson Katuntu tasked the four officials to explain the ‘extraordinary’ roles they played in the oil arbitration case to warrant a special reward from the president.
MP Medard Ssegona consults with Cosase chairperson Abdu Katuntu and deputy chairperson Anita Among during the probe last week
Mugabi, who travelled to London more than five times, said his role was to provide background information on how they argued the case in the Arbitration Tribunal and High court in Uganda.
“The filing of this pleading, the drafting of this pleading, the research that was involved in coming up with sound pleading throughout the entire process - right from the tribunal stage, High court stage to the filing of submissions; to doing research - which involved a lot of issues that had no precedence as far as they were concerned; meetings with the different witnesses to interview them. Going over and above witnesses to find things that we did not know before, in my view amounted to a lot of effort on our part”, Mugabi submitted.
Busiro East MP, Medard Ssegona asked Mugabi the number of witnesses URA presented for the case. Mugabi said he couldn't remember the exact number, but only said they were more than two witnesses.
“You’re the one who brought up the issue that you interviewed witnesses; we are asking who were these witnesses?” Katuntu asked.
“My reference to interviewing witnesses was far as the proceedings before the tribunal was concerned. That is the reference I made and any answer beyond that, Mr chairman I want to give you facts as they are. I don’t want [the committee] to speculate…The number of witnesses was more than two”, he answered.
This response drew angry reactions from Ssegona and Katuntu who wondered how URA officials expect the committee to believe their claims to have played an extraordinary role if they are giving such half answers.
“If you don’t remember all those things, how do you want me to believe that you did an extraordinary job to justify retention on job, two; an extra reward?”, Ssegona said.
On his part, Kahima said he handled objections to the case since it was leaning toward enforcement measures. Kahima also said he was the only member of the team who had practiced under the income tax decree and was there to support the arbitration team by conceptualizing the matter.
He however, agreed with the Katuntu that even with this, he would ordinarily be performing his job.
Kibumba, the former URA chief assessor sent the probe committee into pro-longed laughter when he said that the Heritage Oil and Gas Company case was extraordinary since it generated abnormal heat and workload.
“The case was extraordinary that you never had the normal time to assess; you never had the normal time to do the job. So you had to think faster, you had to do things around the clock and we were put on 24-hour call, 24-hours call! And they provided cars at Crested Towers to allow us to move and move”, he said.
Bazairaki said her role in the oil arbitration case was to conduct research on the matter from the internet. The probe committee resumes on Wednesday with submissions from other beneficiaries from the presidential handshake from URA.
At least 42 government officials benefited from the presidential handshake for their role on the arbitration. The tax dispute arose after Heritage sold its interests in Uganda's oil to Tullow Oil.