On Tuesday, the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee started hearings on the controversial Constitution Amendment No 2 Bill, which seeks to remove presidential age limits.
The first witness, Raphael Magyezi (Igara West), the mover of the bill, faced a torrid time before what he later branded a hostile committee. OLIVE EYOTARU brings you an abridged account of the proceedings.
Introductions by MPs.
Aston Kajara (Mwenge South) raises a point of information on why Jackson Kafuuzi (Kyaka South) has accompanied Magyezi.
Kajara: Is he Magyezi’s lawyer? Did you also summon him here?
Committee chair Jacob Oboth-Oboth: Well, I believe that is one of the reasons. Hon Kafuuzi Jackson, a few weeks ago when we had a second meeting about when to begin, we talked about MPs who are in this committee who have made it known their particular interests. He followed through; I did not ask him but he felt he needed to be on record.
He wrote to the chairperson indicating that he has an interest in this matter and will not be involved in the voting or in taking decisions but would be here with his interest disclosed.
He was one of the seconders of the motion and he is here as we meet Hon Magyezi, the mover of the motion with the seconders… Today, we have Hon Magyezi at 10 am and the seconders and then the following day up to the last group. Does that satisfy you?
He has made it known that he will not be in this committee with a voting right because he has particular interest under Rule 85 (2); so, you see him as a person who is just adding a number to the committee and an observer.
Whatever he says will be tagged to his interest. When you hear the way he is talking, you know he is talking for the furtherance of the interest that he seconded…
Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality): For me, I don’t care whether Magyezi comes with his wife or his son; that is his business. (laughter)
Kafuuzi: Mr Chairman, it is my humble prayer that he withdraws that.
Ssemujju: You as who? As a witness?
Kafuuzi: I am not Magyezi’s wife and I would hate to be put at that level. We are colleagues and you disagree with my opinion, but I would like you to do so with respect. If you are used to bullying people, I want you to know I am not the type of person you will bully.
Ssemujju: You are boiling for no reason. Maybe you also don’t know me. (laughter)
Oboth-Oboth intervenes. (Point of order): We are not here for political activism. We are here as MPs who are supposed to process this bill. Some of you who are doing political activism, for and against, please desist from this.
I have all the powers to invoke but don’t push me. We are all adults here and cannot just argue. We can debate after processing thoughts. We know this is an ‘Airbus bill’ and the take off is dragging, but we are definitely going to take off and cruise.
Hon Kajara raised a procedural issue about Hon Kafuuzi being on the other side of the aisle. I gave information which most members were not privy to… After giving that, I thought Hon Ssemujju was going to speak to it before I make further ruling on the matter…
We don’t cruise the same way. Hon Ssemujju was passionate about not caring about who comes with Hon Magyezi but then the language employed was a bit not of taste…
Ssemujju: I did not know that someone will be offended to say that if he appeared or he went somewhere with his wife, and I don’t find anything offensive there. We should not be involved in trivialities. I have said I don’t care who Magyezi appears with in this committee. The other day he appeared with SFC (Special Forces Command soldiers); so, I don’t care.
I want to repeat; whether he appears here with his wife or children, I don’t care. So, if Kafuuzi thinks he wants to be his wife, it is his business (interruption)…
Kafuuzi: Just let it pass. He cannot change; that is how he was brought up. Let it pass.
Ssemujju: The earlier submissions of my colleagues about whether this should be an internal meeting to sort out internal issues. Let me start with the issue of participation. I am a member of this committee and have been following proceedings in the media.
I have not been invited to this committee until when I sent one of my staff to go and check out after reading in the paper. I was told the crime I committed was that I was not on WhatsApp; that is why I was not invited. So, the meetings you have had planning for the processing of this bill, I have been excluded, Mr Chairman (point of procedure)
Magyezi: Chair, you are involving us in matters which have not brought us. Maybe we give you time, you sort yourselves out, then you can invite us at another time. I don’t want to hear what I am hearing, really.
Ssemujju: Mr Chairman, I have also learnt from the shadow attorney general, Hon Niwagaba, that he has also not been invited to the earlier meetings for planning for this particular bill.
I want to speak about my own safety and probably the safety of MPs attending this meeting. On 27th September, soldiers from the Special Forces Command invaded parliament. Before they did, they were stationed in this particular room.
What happened on that day, I know you are aware. Many members of this committee became victims of that invasion, Shadow Attorney General, Hon Monicah Amoding, Hon Nsereko. The reason I am raising this; I am going to be uncomfortable sitting in a room as enclosed as this one with a history of it at one time being turned into a camp for SFC before invading parliament.
I am extremely vulnerable. I don’t know in which direction today they are going to attack and if you can see one of the witnesses, the way he speaks, I don’t know. Probably, they have stationed them somewhere. I have a problem with this as a venue for this meeting...I think because this committee supervises parliament, not necessarily during the processing of this bill, it should interest itself in the events of September 27.
If you read the Constitution, this Parliament is mandated by the Constitution to regulate the conduct of UPDF and as a result, parliament made the UPDF Act to regulate the conduct of UPDF including creation of its organs. The group that invaded parliament was not created following the law and that’s why they don’t care about the law. That is why I am saying I am vulnerable.
Oboth: Hon Ssemujju, I think I have…
Ssemujju: On 13th October, you and a couple of others went to State House to meet the sole beneficiary of the bill. The beneficiary was meeting MPs and you in particular, Mr Chairman; you went to meet him together with Hon Esther Anyakun of Nakapiripirit and Hon Kesande Grace of Rubirizi.
In these meetings, millions of money were being dished out. Mr Chairman, you need, yourself, to come clean and help the committee appreciate that you will be impartial in chairing the committee meetings.
You attended the NRM parliamentary caucus and yet you are not a member…I want to subject myself to the jurisdiction when you have given me assurance that you are going to be the chairman I have known since I became a member of the committee...
I did not come here expecting Magyezi and company. I actually thought we would be here to first agree on how we are going to process this bill, go through the programme. Meeting Magyezi can’t be my first activity in this meeting.
Oboth: The first one is very regrettable that you’ve not been able to get the invitations… (Interruption) …The SFC invasion room is where we are in!? I didn’t even know that.
For your information that day, I had guests from the USA and was in my constituency…I can only imagine that if you knew that this was where some people who invaded Parliament were in, I can only imagine and identify with the kind of sentiments and phobia you have developed over this room.
Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East): Actually, for your information, Hon Chair, it also acted as a transit for some of us who were rudely arrested and this is the room where my spectacles were broken and it took me two weeks to get my lenses from Japan. So, you can imagine sitting in a room that acted as a torture chamber.
Oboth: I didn’t know that but I think as the leadership of the committee, we shall have to review that and see the possibilities. This is the only place they had given us where it is spacious enough for purposes of receiving not only the two but we expect more people to be coming. But if there is no alternative, we shall share with you and as a committee, we shall make a decision on that one particularly.
On the second one, about 13th October, I was not in State House and have not been there unless you are saying I went with you. That is a very serious issue against my person and integrity. The good thing is that now I have developed a thick skin. Go to the NRM side; they are saying when I put on my red neck tie, they say I am pro-opposition.
The opposition says I am pro-NRM. I think I have achieved the centre of neutrality. I think that it could only be fair that you think of me that way; my track record speaks for itself. I am not a corrupt man. I will never and will never betray my conscience.
Those who are appearing before this committee will not bribe me, including the president. Make arguments that add jurisprudential value to what we are doing. I will be convinced but when you bring political sentiments...
Even when I was handling Umeme, people said when I bought a Nissan, I got money from Umeme and we would not make a report. I have a track record…The chair is very strong and I want to challenge you, probably I will impress the Speaker that you adduce that evidence that I went to State House…
Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman): I am one of the members of your committee that was a victim to the infamous events of 27th and 28th of September in our historical calendar of this country.
Of course Hon Magyezi was the source of all these issues that happened to some of our colleagues, some of who have not yet healed. Some are trying to get treatment for their broken backs and skulls… (Interruption)
Ssemujju: But Mr Chairman, you have not decided on the issue of the venue…This Parliament and country [don’t] end today. If we are uncomfortable with the venue, you cannot insist that for you, you want to sit here. What is it that you planned for us?
Oboth: No, no, no you can’t impute that. Let’s all stay here and if we are to die here, we die here (laughter).
Matthias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality): Of course you die alone, not with us, Honorable Chair. You will not die with me because when they were strangling me over this bill, you were not around… (Laughter).
With your indulgence, certainly all of us are concerned with the manner we are processing this particular bill. First, it’s not before this committee with my participation. You are aware of how I was inadvertently thrown out of the House…the way bills get before committees that I have known over the six years I have been in Parliament, is quite unique from the way this got before this committee.
A bill so important and bipartisan in manner of processing, I imagine, should have gotten here with the tacit consent of both sides of the House.
Ssemujju: I am raising a motion without notice. Under our rule 50 (1) (m). I am raising a motion without notice on a matter of privilege. I earlier spoke about my own safety and the safety of other MPs in this venue of SFC. My motion is that you suspend proceedings and identify another venue where all of us are going to be uncomfortable…
Oboth puts the matter of shifting to vote. (Point of procedure)
Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central): When we delve into not using consensus and we go into voting for everything, then we may end up not proceeding in this committee. I urge you that in matters where we deserve consensus, we may even ask our colleagues to step out, we talk to ourselves and agree to proceed…
Abdu Katuntu (Bugweri): I wish we could listen to each other. A concern has been raised and in my view a very serious concern and I have not heard any other voice to the contrary. I thought the chair would be trying to solicit the opinion and views of members…Is there for example any of our colleagues who said no, we must proceed in this room and now, who thinks the concerns that have been raised don’t matter at all?
Oboth, in consultation with the Sergeant-at-arms, resolves to move sitting to South Committee room at 12 pm. Meeting resumes with some MPs raising points of procedure on the manner in which the meeting is being conducted, particularly on the committee programme.
Monicah Amoding (Kumi Woman): I don’t know, Chairperson, if you are in charge of this meeting or not because we are having four meetings in one and if we are unable to process these, maybe we call it off. We are here waiting patiently for your ruling as a chairperson but we are not getting any headway.
Gaster Mugoya (Bukooli North): Let us not hide our sentiments. I want to inform this august committee that some members, and I have a right to say that, do not have any slightest iota of interest to proceed on this matter and they have pre-determined intentions to fail this process and I want to appear on record.
So, as chair of this committee, you should keep it at the back of your mind; they have done it covertly and overtly.
Mpuuga: Listen to Hon Mugoya, he is making very legitimate submissions and I would like to support him to the level that we should not derail this country. I am actually willing to derail this committee, and not derail the country with this bill.
The best way not to derail this country is to listen to the emerging issues.After back and forth arguments, the committee adjourned to 2 pm. Hon Magyezi starts presenting justification for his bill.
Ssemujju raises point of procedure.
Ssemujju: For a bill to be properly before this committee, there are requirements even before a presentation is made. The first requirement under our rule 111 is that the Clerk will print the bill and cause it to be printed in the gazette.
After those two procedures, then a certificate of financial implication will be issued...The Hon Magyezi was given permission on Thursday 28; on Tuesday he was presenting a bill…the bill was published within the gazette and within these two days, Hon Magyezi made a request to ministry of Finance under the law and the certificate was issued? We might process a bill that is not properly before the committee…
Magyezi: Those are valid observations. The bill was duly gazetted Number 54:Vol CX dated 28th September 2017…Certificate of financial implication was duly given and it was laid here and signed by minister of Finance, Matia Kasaija dated 28th September 2017.
Katuntu: So, the bill was gazetted on 28th September 2017 and on the same day, that is when the certificate of financial implication was given. Is that so, Hon Magyezi?
Magyezi: For purposes of record, the date of gazette is 28th September and the date of the certificate of financial implication is 28th September.
Ssemujju: Also, that is the day Hon Magyezi obtained permission from parliament to table a private member’s bill. Is that right? That’s the day he obtained permission from parliament at 5pm. The bill is printed the same day, even after working hours, the minister Matia Kasaija issued a certificate of financial implication…?
Magyezi: I have to reconcile the dates because I have the date of 19th September for the time I submitted this bill to the Speaker…
Katuntu: You would help your case if you relaxed. We are seeking clarification from you. This is your bill.
Magyezi: Did I receive leave on the same day as the certificate of financial implication and gazetting? No. I received leave on the 27th September…(interruption)
Ssemujju: We want the evidence of the process because Magyezi has forged documents before. We must satisfy ourselves that there was a process; a request was made and letters must come.
Mugoya: With due respect, we have our evidential rules of procuring documents. I do not know whether you forcefully get a document, even where a request is being made by the chair. You want a copy, you make an oral copy and it is granted…
Magyezi: Our rule 112 is very clear. If the motion is carried, the printing and publication of the bill in the gazette shall be the responsibility of the Clerk. I am not the Clerk of Parliament.
Ssemujju: Before we proceed, we need evidence from the Clerk that this requirement was made. Two, the certificate of financial implication is the responsibility of Hon Magyezi. This evidence we need.
Oboth: I think that the evidence you asked for is prima facie. We have what looks like a copy of the bill with the gazette number. We also have what looks like the certificate of financial implication. It will be upon this committee to invite both the Clerk and the minister of Finance to prove whether the documents are authored by them…
Paul Akamba (Busiki): I would like Hon Magyezi to confirm to this committee that leave was granted to him on the 27th as he has said. But before he does so may I, through you, Chair, request that he be put on oath?
Mugoya: At what point do we bring the interplay of articles 90-94 because you want to put a witness on oath when he has not exhausted his submissions?
Oboth: I had made a ruling that would point to another aspect to really clear Hon Magyezi. We never investigated you on whether you forged and we are not doing that now. But to make sure that this is a committee of record and to gain the integrity of it, I want to ask the Clerk to invite the minister of Finance and the Clerk to Parliament to come and speak about these two documents...On the issue of having him on oath, well, what do you people think?
Medard Sseggona: (Busiro East): He is not doubting that what he is going to tell us is the truth. His history has been acrimonious…Him being our very own who we have investigated before in matters relating to forgery of a parliamentary record, I think it is necessary that we satisfy ourselves that he is telling us the truth in everything that we are going to ask him.
Magyezi:…You actually invited me here to formally present the bill to you. I have taken the trouble to present to you my detailed, written presentation even signed by myself. Uganda’s law presumes you innocent until you are proven guilty.
In this particular matter, I have not done anything wrong to warrant an oath and I want to believe you will allow me to present, then I take the questions and if at any time in taking the questions my answer is doubtful, I have no problem in taking oath…
Oboth puts matter to vote and nine voted for it while five rejected it. After taking oath, Magyezi starts presenting but is interrupted again.
Sekikuubo: I was seated here and I heard you stating on the microphone that you wished other witnesses did not come.
Oboth: It will be embarrassing for them to come [given] the way we are proceeding. I wish they don’t come…it is regrettable how we are conducting business here.
The witnesses are not being allowed to proceed. Those who are in this committee want to take it to another level, unknown in the rules of procedure… Even if we do what, this report has to be made. We invited this one, they did not come…we are wasting our valuable time trying to do a ping pong…if we can be in a committee of parliament and we cannot allow somebody whom we are opposed to, to speak, then this is not parliament…
Mpuuga: We were evicted and he had his way…
Oboth: I was not the presiding officer there; so, you cannot carry your anger from there…
Mpuuga: They even moved a motion congratulating themselves for whatever they did. This is a continuation of their transgression and they must come clean.
Edward Makmot Otto (Agago) tries to call for calm
Sseggona: He (Magyezi) brought in soldiers for us and he actually celebrated our pain because he enjoys the comfort of military escorts. Otto, you have never been beaten by SFC. Do you know what it means to be descended upon by foreign mercenaries?
Arguments ensue and points of order raised.
Magyezi: Mr Chairman, I’ve laid on table already my documents. I have also presented to you detailed documents concerning justification for the bill. I would like to thank you. It has been a pleasure for us to present this and I hope the other witnesses will get a better environment (interruptions)
Magyezi stands up and leaves.