There has been a lot of chatter about the issue of representation in Parliament especially when a constituent’s representative is incarcerated or is unable to perform his/her duties. Days after the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament, Hon. Rebecca Kadaga announced the one month vacation for parliamentarians; some discontent has arisen among the residents of Nakawa Municipality. The disgruntled lot wonders whether its interests will be met despite their representative’s absence from the House’s proceedings.
Under Chapter Six of the Constitution of Uganda are the constitutional provisions for the Legislature. Article 84 specifically provides for the ‘Right of recall’ of a legislator. Among the reasons for recall include:
- Physical or mental incapacity rendering the member incapable of performing the functions of the office;
- Misconduct or misbehavior likely to bring hatred, ridicule, contempt or disrepute to the office; or
- Persistent deserting of the electorate without reasonable cause.
This recall is by a petition executed by two thirds of the registered voters of the constituency. The petition is handled by the Speaker of Parliament who causes an investigation into the matter; and upon satisfactory reasons, declares the seat vacant or declare the petition was unjustified.
However, the right to recall is cautioned by Article 84 (7) which provides that: ‘The right to recall a Member of Parliament shall only exist while the movement political system is in operation’. Suffice to note that the movement system is no longer in operation in Uganda, following the introduction of multiparty politics. Food for thought: Upon change of government (if that is to ever happen), will this article be operationalized or will they simply ignore it to suit the new governments’ interests?
In 2015, one Member of Parliament tasted what the wrath of Article 84 would be if it were operational. After the Anti-Corruption Court convicted him in 2012, Bukonzo East MP, Yokasi Bihande Bwambale was ousted from Parliament over accusations of conduct impeaching his moral turpitude.
– ‘Dishonesty and moral turpitude’, the Deputy Chief Justice had termed the MP’s offences. The court also ordered the MP to refund all the money he had received in salaries, allowances and emoluments between April 2012 and September 2015; the period falling within his conviction. His was an offence of ‘uttering false accountability pertaining to constituency development fund’.
And since the offence carried a fine of Ushs.1m or 2 years in jail, the court opted that he pay the fine. The law further slapped him with a prohibition from holding any public office for 10 years. Such is the law.
While the lot grumbles, legislators are facing public fury for the alleged interest in transportation machines and ‘death (burial) allowances’, one member of Parliament is battling treason charges. Michael Kabaziguruka (read Vol.6 Issue 1 for the background) could have faced the above procedure had he not officially reported to his boss, the Speaker of Parliament about his reasons for missing attendance at the Legislative Assembly.
So, when does a Legislator vacate his/her seat?
A Member of Parliament vacates his/her seat in Parliament on either or a combination of conditions below:
- If he/she resigns, in writing and executed by him/her, addressed to the Speaker;
- If he/she is elected but it’s discovered that he/she was not qualified for election;
- Upon dissolution of the Constitution, if it affects his/her seat;
- If he/she is absent from fifteen Parliamentary sittings without the Speaker of Parliaments’ written permission;
- If he/she is found guilty by the appropriate tribunal of violation of the Leadership Code of Conduct and the punishment prescribed is or includes vacating office;
- If recalled by the electorate in his/her constituency;
- If the person leaves the political party for which he/she stood as a candidate for election;
- If having been elected as an independent candidate joins a political party;
- If he/she is appointed a public officer.
These laws apply only during the multi-party system of governance and where coalition governments are formed. It is his constituency’s decision to make, if a replacement is needed to fill the void. Meanwhile, he still enjoys immunity from recall given that he has officially informed the Speaker of the predicament preventing him from attending the sessions; more so because the law on recall is redundant.
Perhaps the Attorney General awaits court’s decision on the matter to institute charges against the Member of Parliament if convicted, thus the close look at Michael Kabaziguruka’s trial; perhaps not, if the legislator is acquitted. The most concerning issue is whether the legislator’s absence to execute his duties affects the people of Nakawa Municipality, warranting them the option to petition for a replacement in the meantime. It can be argued that their interests are no longer represented in the House, considering the absence of their representative.
BY ATUHAIRWE AGRACE
This article appears in our digital magazine, The Deuteronomy Vol 6, Issue 5 of September 30th, 2016 under the title, “What next for the Constituency with an almost defunct Legislator?”.
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