Nakawa lawmaker, Michael Kabaziguruka, who suffered a nasty accident mid last year, was seen being wheeled into parliament during the debate and passing of the age limit bill, now assented into law by President Yoweri Museveni.
The law scrapped the upper age limit (75 years) and also lowered the age limit to 18 years from 35. Under the same law, the MPs also extended their term office from five to seven years, BAKE BATTE LULE talked to the legislator whether it wasn't after all a futile fight?
You had an accident recently how is your health now?
I was involved in an accident in July, spent a month in hospital but currently I’m on physiotherapy. I’m not feeling bad, although I walk with the aid of clutches, but with the grace of God, I know I will heal completely very soon.
Initially, the doctors had given me four months, but I’m already in the fifth month but by February 2018, I hope I will be able to walk normally without aid.
We saw you being wheeled in parliament to participate in the debate on age limit. What motivated you to do so seeing that you were evidently in pain?
When I offered myself to stand as MP, I knew what it entailed. I knew what I wanted to do. When I took my oath of office, I vowed to uphold, defend and protect the Constitution of the republic of Uganda.
So when there are attempts to break the Constitution by individuals led by Hon. Raphael Magyezi, I had a duty to go to parliament and make my voice heard – to present the views of the people of Nakawa.
That was the reason why I sacrificed myself that day and put my health on the line to go to parliament. To me it has always been the country first. That’s why I was there.
Was it worth it?
It was every bit of it. I had the objective of defending the Constitution and I did whatever was humanly possible under the circumstances. Despite the challenges, despite the attacks on parliament, the wanton beatings and arrest of honorable colleagues, I still think it was worth it. We managed to stand and say this is wrong; whatever the cost.
What are your thoughts about the process that ushered in the Magyezi Bill?
The whole process was shrouded in illegalities right from the time it was first mooted. The mere fact that an individual member of parliament presented the proposed amendment was fraudulent.
We, as members of parliament swear an oath; to uphold defend and protect the Constitution. It is not my responsibility to propose amendments to the Constitution. Parliament has the powers to amend the Constitution but it is not my duty to propose the amendments.
Once the amendments have been proposed, it’s my duty to look into the amendments, and, where I find it necessary that these proposed amendment are necessity in the good governance of this country, then we would incorporate them in the Constitution.
Quite clearly the Magyezi amendment are in total breach of these two, because as a practicing accountant, I’m trained to look at the substance of a transaction not the form. In this case, the substance of this amendment is, really to prolong Museveni’s tenure as president of this country.
That was the sole aim of Magyezi’s bill. Unfortunately, the colleagues who voted in favor of this amendment did not even have the courtesy of hiding it that the bill was also for other people.
All of them were saying point-blank that this was for Mr Museveni. First of all, the mover of the motion doesn’t tell us anybody who has been disenfranchised by the article as it is. I neither saw a group of individuals go before the committee and say that they were disenfranchised.
So you can see that there is a lot of illegality. Secondly, the justification that Hon. Magyezi gave that these amendments were as a result of the Supreme court ruling in the Amama Mbabazi Vs Museveni, and the Electoral Commission was also fraudulent.
It is true that the learned justices gave some recommendations to improve the electoral environment in this country, but the justices were very clear, they expressly ordered the attorney general to present electoral reforms within two years.
And in the event that they failed, they should [go] back to court and seek an extension of time. The attorney general is not time barred because the two years expire next year.
So we still have time to put together a raft of electoral reforms. Just before the 2016 election, the opposition and other civil society organizations put together a raft of proposed electoral reforms which are still lying on the desks of the attorney general and the minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.
It is therefore an irony that Magyezi would rely on that ruling and present lifting age limit as the only amendment that will cause a free and fair election.
Seeing all these illegalities as you call them, why would you go ahead and take part in them?
Our point was to be on record and I think we managed to do that. I think when one is engaged in an illegal act, I have a duty to come and say this is illegal.
In criminal matters, there can never be neutrality because you are either on the side of the oppressor or the oppressed. To claim to remain neutral you would be choosing the side of the oppressor. In this case, we couldn’t just look on, we had to come in and be counted as we put these issues on record - pointing out why they are illegal.
In future if we decide to challenge them like we are going to do anyway, the conduct, the misconduct, the misinterpretation by the speaker of the Constitution, of the rule of procedure and other laws all cannot go unchallenged.
We needed to be in parliament to point all these out and put the speaker on notice and the MPs. We don’t serve our interests, we have our masters, who voted for us and we had to make their voices heard.
People are used to seeing us walk out, but this time we said let’s have a change in strategy because the previous walkouts have not yielded much results. It instead gave these unscrupulous individuals room to go ahead and do what they want to do in a free environment. So we had to come in and make it very hard for them to do as they pleased.
In a way, are you not helping President Museveni cleanse what some have termed as a satanic bill by saying there was tight scrutiny and everybody said what they needed to say.
We actually managed to unmask Museveni. Not that we didn’t know we were dealing with a dictator. Not that the international community didn’t know we had a dictator here. We wanted to further unmask him for anybody who still thought that we were dealing with a sane government.
We actually managed to expose the extent of the tragedy facing Uganda. You remember on September 27 when MPs were attacked by a gang of unknown assailants?
People that the speaker also said she didn’t know? Of course it beats my understanding that after such an episode, the speaker would come in and act as though it was business as usual and allow Magyezi to present the bill that was illegal.
She sheds crocodile tears by writing to the president seeking explanation as to who those who attacked members were. In my thinking, the speaker should have suspended the House and sought explanation about those who attacked MPs and probably work tooth and nail to bring them to book.
But to proceed as if nothing happened, is hypocritical on the part of the speaker. She was simply trying to sanitize her image that had been soiled.
What is your take on the MPs’ decision to extend their tenure by two years?
Of course that can only by termed as greed on the part of MPs. They have lost sight of why they were voted to represent the views of the people.
People said no to the amendments but the MPs came to parliament and said yes. So many of them fear they will not make it back to parliament, so they have resorted to cutting deals with Mr Museveni in which case he has duped them that he can extend their tenure by two year yet clearly he knows it is an illegality that can’t stand.
How can you be sworn in for a five year period and then turn around and increase it? In as much as the Constitution gives parliament the mandate to amend the Constitution, we definitely cannot extend our own term. You can’t have an amendment that seeks to serve your interests. We can extend the term of parliament but not retrospectively.
In the event that court okays what parliament did, what will be your recourse? Would you resign after your five years?
I don’t want to speculate, I’m still hopeful that the court will rule against what parliament did. I’m hopeful that the judiciary will exercise their mandate free of coercion and find this attempt to rape the Constitution illegal.
In the unlikely event that the judiciary goes along with MPs who misrepresented their people, then I pray that the people of Uganda take up the mantle, I will borrow some words from the Constitution of New York to the effect that;
“Whenever the ends of government are perverted and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may and are right to reform the old and establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive to the good and happiness of mankind,” then we shall refer this matter to the people who are enjoined under the Constitution that the power belongs to them and that they are commanded to do anything to resist a constitutional overthrow.