Members are not ready to proceed with business, and the Speaker is not ready to preside over a House where Members are not ready to transact business.
These were Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah’s sentiments as he prematurely adjourned the plenary sitting of Parliament on Tuesday 28 August 2018. This was the second time Oulanyah was being forced to put off the sitting over matters surrounding the Arua Municipality by election.
MPs demanded a response from President Yoweri Museveni, to a letter said to be authored by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga asking government to reprimand errant army officers accused of brutalising MPs.
MPs mainly from the opposition said a response from Museveni is a pre-condition to sittings of Parliament, short of which they vowed to boycott proceedings.
“Parliament cannot disregard the welfare of MPs and continue with business as if nothing happened. Before we proceed with business, the security of MPs must be addressed,” said Chief Opposition Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju.
Leader of the Opposition, Betty Aol, said pending Museveni’s response to the letter, a copy of which Oulanyah acknowledged receipt, there should be no business transacted.
“What the Speaker [Rebecca Kadaga] wrote to the President is about those who tortured our colleagues. If there is no response, what business do we have here?” she said.
Parliament was Tuesday scheduled to debate a statement on the security situation in the country presented by Security Minister Gen. Elly Tumwine last week and a motion for the adoption of a Report of the Ad hoc Committee on the investigation into the condition of members and other suspects arrested ahead of the Arua Municipality by election.
“The letter, a copy of which I received yesterday, is that business is likely to suffer. She didn’t say on the terms that you have stated,” said Oulanyah.
“A communication was sent yesterday, I’m supposing. As to whether the President has seen it, I am not aware. If it is being handled at that level, should we not respect that process?” he added.
MP Odonga Otto (FDC, Aruu) said Parliament should halt proceedings pending Museveni’s response.
“During the Constitution Amendment [debates], the Speaker wrote to the President. There wasn’t even an acknowledgement of receipt of the letter. It can’t be business as usual,” said Otto.
Kadaga’s letter, the contents of which have been extensively reported in local media, concerns the aftermath of the chaotic Arua Municipality by-elections.
Local media say the Speaker asked President Museveni to identify and reprimand army officers belonging to the elite Special Forces Command (SFC), which has been accused of brutalising a host of MPs who have since been freed on bail.
Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda made efforts to convince the MPs to allow continuation of proceedings, but was not accorded audience as MPs inundated his speech with interruptions.
“The Arua incident was unfortunate and has had significant ramifications…I condemn the attack on President Museveni in Arua because that was the genesis of the problem,” said Rugunda.
“Let us continue to do business as usual; let investigations continue so that we have a rational basis on which we can take decisions,” added Rugunda.
Oulanyah ultimately adjourned Parliament to Tuesday next week, as President Museveni prepares a response to the said letter.
In a series of posts on his Facebook page, Museveni has condemned the violence in Arua, blaming it on the opposition, which he accused of masterminding an attack on his convoy.
The MPs and their supporters’ arrests and alleged torture would later attract wide condemnations, forcing the army in a statement to vow reprimand on the said soldiers.