A feisty parliamentary session that supported a censure motion against the minister of state for Housing Persis Namuganza has brought into public view a potentially damaging feud between the under-fire minister and Speaker of Parliament Anita Annet Among.
Unless President Museveni gets heavily involved, MPs are baying for Namuganza’s blood. She will ‘surely be censured,’ vowed several members of parliament from across the political aisle interviewed by The Observer newspaper recently. According to the MPs, there are very few colleagues willing to defend Namuganza.
Their motives vary, but many hate the minister’s character, and others are afraid to go against the wishes of a towering figure in the house who is wielding power ruthlessly to get the minister kicked out.
According to our sources, speaker of parliament Among has a personal interest in Namuganza’s downfall. And there are very few MPs who can cross the speaker’s path. Many MPs from across the political divide venerate the speaker because of the strong grip she has on parliamentary management.
“If you are not in good books with the speaker, you will not get trips, which are the lifeline of many MPs. Even talking on the floor these days has been weaponized. If you are seen to be fighting the speaker, just know that your welfare issues will not be addressed. You will always struggle to speak on the floor,” an MP who declined to be named to speak freely, said.
So, in any fight, whether personal or not, between the speaker and anybody, many MPs are likely to side with her.
“You know there is a big fight among Museveni’s women. They are all fighting for his attention. Each one wants to be the only one with Museveni’s ear. Do you know that Among is also fighting Nabbanja Robinah, the prime minister] and Alupo [Jessica, the vice president]? Surely, parliament has been sucked into a personal fight,” the MP said.
In her submission before the plenary session, which debated and finally adopted the report recommending her censure last week, Namuganza hinted at the real reason she is facing a censure motion. She said her censure has everything to do with the marriage between the speaker and Moses Magogo, the Budiope East MP and Fufa president.
She promised to move a motion in the future against the speaker and Magogo, whom she accused of procuring a fraudulent marriage. Parliament never allowed her to elaborate on the matter, but in an interview with NBS television, she let the cat out of the bag.
“Among has a personal interest in this. She procured a fraudulent marriage with the so-called husband; you know, a husband is defined legally. They went and attacked my husband because he is a civil servant and forced him to sign papers. They were not there [physically]; they sent their security team, and they made him sign under duress. And after what happened, he reported to security and rescinded the marriage,” she said, adding, “They sent several people intimidating him that he must sign to retract the papers that were rescinding the marriage. We have brought the matter to the attention of the president, and he has directed CID to investigate. My husband has already made a statement, but she [speaker] has been sending messages intimidating him, saying how I’m going to punish your wife, and we have proof,” Namuganza said.
In that NBS interview, Namuganza was referring to the former Makindye division town clerk, Geoffrey Rwakabale. Rwakabale was sacked last August after lodging a complaint with the police. He claimed his life was in danger after he rescinded the registration of the marriage between Among and Magogo.
Another MP, who is familiar with the disagreements between Namuganza and Among, said the marriage issue presented the perfect opportunity for Namuganza to strike back.
“The marriage issue was just weaponized by Namuganza’s team because, as you see, the Naguru and Nakawa investigations started in March this year, and it’s the main public fallout between the two,” the MP said.
WHAT WE KNOW
On March 1, this year, parliament constituted a nine-member ad hoc committee headed by Kazo MP Dan Kimosho to investigate the Nakawa-Naguru land allocations after receiving complaints of corruption.
In their probe, MPs said they found that several government officials, including ministers, had participated in the fraudulent allocation of land. For Namuganza, who was the minister of state for lands at the time, the committee found that she ordered the dubious give-away of public land.
“Namuganza… brought to the attention of the ULC [Uganda Land Commission] “presidential directives” for the allocation of land to entities, yet such presidential directives were not documented, traced, or even made available to the committee. A case in point is a letter dated January 24, in which the minister brought to the attention of the Chairperson of the ULC entities and persons to whom the president is purported to have issued directives for the allocation of land… The committee noted that these ‘presidential directives’ were non-existent, and Mr. Anil Damani denied ever writing the letter to the minister and the signature appended to it,” the committee report reads in part.
The committee recommended that Namuganza be held accountable for abuse of office. They asked the president, who is Namuganza’s appointing authority, to order her to temporarily step aside to allow the Inspectorate of Government to investigate the matter. However, when the report was presented to parliament, Speaker Among said it was final and there was no need for the IGG to investigate.
She asked the executive to implement the report by forcing Namuganza to step aside. In 2013, a court ruled that parliament lacked the authority to ask a minister to resign. This was after parliament then asked that ministers Amama Mbabazi, Sam Kutesa, and Hilary Onek step aside as an investigation into their alleged role in corruption deals in the oil sector proceeded.
Incensed not only by the committee report but also by its recommendations, Namuganza said parliament had been misled. In an interview with NTV, she also reiterated that the recommendation for her removal from office was at variance with the law. In July, Solomon Silwanyi, the MP for Bukhooli Central, raised a procedural point. He said Namuganza’s public statements and posts on WhatsApp had tarnished the reputation of parliament.
Thomas Tayebwa, the deputy speaker, referred Namuganza to the Rules, Privileges, and Discipline Committee, chaired by Bugweri County MP Abdul Katuntu. The committee report released a fortnight ago found Namuganza guilty of undermining parliament and its speaker.
“The committee notes that the right to freedom of expression is not absolute, and according to Article 43 of the Constitution, the right must be exercised in cognizance with the rights and freedoms of others or in the public interest. Accordingly, the right to freedom of speech and expression must be balanced against the need to maintain the authority of, and public trust and confidence in, the integrity of Parliament.
“From the evidence presented to it, Hon. Namuganza made the impugned statements on social media as alleged by Hon. Silwany and corroborated by the testimonies of Hon. Sarah Opendi, Hon. Elijah Okupa, and the “Admins of the 11th Parliament Official WhatsApp Group. The evidence on record further supports the assertion by Hon. Kibalya Henry Maurice that Hon. Namuganza made derogatory statements about Parliament during a television interview with NTV Uganda regarding the report of the Naguru-Nakawa land allocations,” the report reads in part.
According to the report, Namuganza’s posts on the parliamentary WhatsApp group questioned the selection of ad hoc committees, yet there are other committees that are vested with the responsibility of handling the very issues that are being given to them.
“What I am emphasizing with colleagues is that it is very bad to just be used to fight each other. We still have a long way to go, even after the Parliament. You need to study a matter yourself and decide without being influenced to fight a colleague…The powerful committee wouldn’t even find time to go and interact with H.E. himself? … And these so called Ad-hoc committees all the time? We have substantive committees of Parliament; they should be the ones to handle matters that fall under their responsibilities..As if they are hired to embanass…All this is done in bad faith; you can continue and defend it the way you want because you are a member, but this must stop… All members of parliament come to these parliamentary committees. We shall raise a point of order if another ad hoc committee is formed,” Namuganza allegedly wrote in.
In her NTV interview that also rubbed the MPs the wrong way, Namuganza questioned the legality of the parliamentary resolutions and the truthfulness of the report.
“This report was misleading members of parliament, debating things which they don’t know about and finally passing resolutions, which they don’t know. On this basis, first, I belong to the executive, and I know that they will have to forward the resolutions to the executive for confirmation, and I’m sure the executive is sober and will not act the way they acted,” Namuganza said in the interview.
It was these statements that forced the legislature to drag her before the rules committee. Namuganza appeared before the committee once, arguing that its proceedings were illegal because she was challenging them in court. She was overruled by the committee, and the matter was heard and determined.
When it came up for debate last week, Namuganza raised the same court matter, but she was overruled by Deputy Speaker Tayebwa. Tayebwa said he had not been served with court papers to know that the matter was in court.
In her interview with NBS, Namuganza questioned whether speaker Tayebwa was aware of the law. She said once the Attorney General, who is the respondent in the matter, is served, parliament is equally served.
“Whatever is happening now, the proceedings are illegal, they are unconstitutional. We have matters taking place in the Constitutional court and the Court of Appeal. The parliamentary leaders: They say they are lawyers; I’m not sure. If they were, they would have known that they were violating the Constitution. The parliamentary leadership wants to create fear and intimidation among MPs so that they don’t say anything. They [MPs] are so timid that they can’t even exercise their rights. They are working in fear, which is extremely unfortunate. If they say that I forged signatures in Naguru land, here I am, the president is also alive; I have not seen them go with that forged document to him and say, see, your minister forged this,” Namuganza said.
She added that she cannot watch as a group of people overthrow the Constitution.
“That’s why people get guns and go to the bush. I cannot see the Constitution being raped, violated by the parliamentary leadership, and I remain silent,” Namuganza explained.
Asuman Basalirwa, who is one of Among’s confidants, said Namuganza got a rope and hanged herself when she thought she could fight everybody in parliament and win.
“If she goes and says that ad hoc committees of parliament are useless, of course, that is contempt. The 10th parliament almost censured Namuganza; why don’t you ask yourself why? She made similar comments against Rebecca Kadaga [the then speaker]; so, is everybody witch-hunting her? Whether there is a personal interest or not for me as a lawyer, I’m interested in what the rules say. I was not the author of the rules,” Basalirwa said.
When asked why MPs have singled out only Namuganza while the report implicates other politicians, Basalirwa said the minister is the only one who has come out strongly against parliament.
“After the report, she came out and undermined it. Not that she shouldn’t have said anything, but you can’t say that parliament is useless. Doesn’t parliament have the mandate to constitute a committee on any matter? The report talks about many people. Why don’t you ask yourself why Namuganza. The difference is that the others have never come out to question its legality or recommendations. The others decided to keep quiet or mourn quietly,” Basalirwa said.
By press time, the censure motion had already been pinned on the parliamentary notice board. It is being championed by Agago North MP John Amos Okot and his Ntungamo Municipality counterpart Yona Musinguzi. They must collect at least 176 MPs’ signatures to proceed for debate and adoption.
Source: The Observer