Ruling party MPs sharply opposed to the Raphael Magyezi constitutional amendment bill have said they were approached and promised cash if they dropped their opposition to the draft legislation.
They were also reportedly promised good roads, electricity, clean water and refurbished health facilities in their constituencies.
In separate interviews with The Observer yesterday, several ‘rebel’ NRM MPs said presidential emissaries have approached them and urged them to soften their hardline stance to the amendment, which seeks to lift age limits for qualified presidential candidates and presumably allow President Museveni seek re-election in 2021 when he will be well above the 75-year upper age limit.
According to the MPs interviewed, President Museveni has reportedly telephoned and talked to some while others have been approached by State House aides, NRM parliamentarians such as Bukedea Woman MP Anita Among and Security minister Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde.
There are 10 NRM MPs loudly opposed to the Magyezi amendment; including Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga), Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), Patrick Nsamba Oshabe (Kassanda South) and Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South).
Others are Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Louis Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya), Alex Ruhunda (Fort Portal Municipality) and Sylvia Rwabogo (Kabarole Woman).
Interviewed yesterday, Oshabe confirmed he has repeatedly been approached by Museveni’s emissaries but declined to meet the head of state. Oshabe tried last month but failed to table his own private member’s bill calling for a Constitutional Review Commission.
“I was first approached by Lt Gen Henry Tumukunde, he told me that I risked being isolated by the party if I continued associating myself with the ‘rebel’ MPs. He then told me that the president wanted to meet me because he knows that I am one of his own,” Oshabe said.
The Observer couldn’t independently confirm Oshabe’s claims. We couldn’t reach Gen Tumukunde on his known mobile telephone lines.
Oshabe said he was later approached by Among and Ibanda North MP Maj Guma Gumisiriza. Among and Gumisiriza reportedly told Oshabe that the president had agreed to take power to his Kassanda South constituency.
“Of course I know that is a lie because this is a promise they have been making since 2006. Yes, we need electricity but if they have to extend power to my constituency, they don’t need to first take me to meet the president or call me,” Oshabe said.
“It must not be a trade-off; they should handle that with the Rural Electrification Agency,” Oshabe added.
Interviewed yesterday, Among confirmed approaching the ‘rebel’ MPs but denied doing so on behalf of the president.
“I don’t need to be assigned by anyone; it is out of my own conviction,” the former FDC deputy treasurer said.
Moments before this writer interviewed her; she was over-heard relaying a message to Oshabe, which she claimed was from the president.
“It is the same story they have been telling me. Her story is not any different from what Gen Tumukunde tells me,” Oshabe told this writer moments later.
Owing to his harsh criticism of government business in parliament, Busia municipality MP Godfrey Macho was mistakenly included on the ‘rebels’ list and fluked an opportunity to meet his party chairman in September while the likes of Nambeshe declined.
“I was among the very first people that Museveni summoned but I turned down his invitation,” Nambeshe said on October 10.
Nambeshe also tried and failed to table a constitutional amendment bill last month. In his private member’s bill, he proposed that MPs appointed ministers should vacate their seats.
“He has been summoning us in groups of three, but I refused to go and the others went,” the former seminarian added.
With this approach faltering, the president has reportedly changed tack. He has now invited a bigger group of NRM MPs opposed to the Magyezi bill.
“We had resolved as a group that wherever he calls anyone of us, we expose everything because he can use it to blackmail us,” Tinkasiimire said.
The president reportedly wants to meet the ‘rebel’ MPs to discuss contents of their October 4 letter written to him as party chairman.
“He has summoned us in his capacity as NRM party chairman using our letter. He has proposed that we meet at a private place but we are saying no; the venue should be open and easily accessible to the media,” Nambeshe said.
On Independence day, the group travelled to Oshabe’s constituency where police broke up their planned rally against the amendment. After their botched rally, the group discussed Museveni’s meeting that had been planned for yesterday (October 10).
“We have asked him [president] that the meeting must not be in a secret place; it must be during the day and on time,” Tinkasiimire said.
The group has prepared a memorandum they will read before the president and have listed more demands to those contained in their October 4 letter.
In their October letter, the group asked the president to consider setting in motion a planned democratic and transparent transition and succession process within NRM and the presidency.
They urged the president to dis- associate himself from what they called a divisive, opportunistic and isolationist constitutional amendment process.
According to the MPs, others have been promised at least 25km of tarmac roads while some are to get piped water and better- equipped health facilities if they support Igara West MP Raphael Magyezi’s bill.
This was in addition to a cash offer of Shs 130 million to capitalise savings and credit cooperative societies (Saccos) in their constituencies plus an additional fund to finance women and youth projects.
Before the September 27 fracas in parliament that saw the presidential guard Special Forces Command soldiers violently eject MPs opposed to the amendment out of the House, Museveni had met some ‘rebel’ MPs but to his surprise, some like Mbwatekamwa remained firm in their opposition to the amendment.
The Kasambya MP is currently nursing a fractured arm he sustained during the fracas. He is understood to have gone to the meeting with Amoding who also remains opposed to the amendment.
Interviewed for comment, senior presidential press secretary Don Innocent Wanyama said he was not aware the president planned to meet the NRM MPs.
“I have looked at the president’s official programme and I have not seen anywhere where it is indicated that he is going to meet ‘rebel’ MPs. So, I can’t comment on things I am not aware of,” Wanyama said.