Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah ended hours of frenzied speculation yesterday by announcing that no competing motions spurred by a spirited disagreement among MPs over the presidential age limit would be tabled until Speaker Rebecca Kadaga returned from London.
The heat generated by the age-limit frenzy brought two MPs to blows yesterday afternoon in the full glare of cameras.
Talk had been rife that a pre-emptive motion by ruling party MPs to introduce a private member’s bill for amendment of Article 102(b) of the Constitution would be allowed.
But when the House convened for plenary, Oulanyah announced that the much-anticipated motions from both the NRM and opposition would not be tabled.
“None of these motions will come to this floor until we have a discussion with the speaker on Thursday morning about the two notices. If it requires the Business committee to determine what happens, then the committee will sit but if by the authority of the speaker and the meeting is necessary to schedule it for business, then the business will be scheduled for Thursday afternoon,” he said.
One of the motions is sponsored by Monicah Amoding (Kumi), Patrick Oshabe Nsamba (Kassanda North) and Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga). It urges government to constitute the Constitution Review Commission (CRC).
Oulanyah said although he had also received a notice for a motion from Raphael Magyezi (NRM, Igara West), for a bill to amend the Constitution, including Article 102 (b), the two motions would be considered after he meets the speaker.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga returns on Wednesday (today). Failure by government to constitute the CRC is one of the reasons advanced by agitators for the deletion of Article 102(b), which sets 35 years as the lower limit and 75 years as the upper age beyond which one cannot stand for president.
If it remains unchanged, the 73-year-old President Yoweri Museveni who has been in power since 1986 will be ineligible for re-election in 2021. A visibly irritated Oulanyah warned legislators against inciting the public.
“There should be no pressure on anybody because these are matters which we have discussed before. If any of them are to come, we shall have the opportunity to discuss them in a fair and open way and then we shall take a decision as a House. I don’t think there should be any anxiety.
“I went to launch the report of the Equal Opportunities Commission and the person who introduced me said the speaker has to leave quickly because the House is going to be hot this afternoon and the speaker is in a rush,” Oulanyah said.
Acting Leader of Opposition Roland Mugume expressed fear over the heavy deployment of military police around parliament and arrest of Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West) and Moses Kasibante (Lubaga North). Both MPs were released without charge today.
He also hinted on police summons to MPs Muhammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Barnabas Tinkasiimire (Buyaga West), Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and Ssewanyana.
“We are actually scared. When you are on the other side (NRM), you can take things for granted but for us, we are scared. Our colleagues have been arrested… I am happy after your communication that the motions will not come, my heart actually relaxed,” Mugume said.
Oulanyah, however, warned that in as much as MPs are entitled to immunity under the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act, it is not absolute where they [get powers] to incite violence, like some MPs have been doing in the media.
“On deployment, we should ask ourselves first and challenge ourselves: What have we as MPs been doing on television and radio stations? I have watched a clip on social media where a member of this House is calling for war in this House; that there is going to be war like it has never been seen,” he said.
“Now when you make these public statements, you make this House a possible scene of crime. When you do that, how do you stop the police from deploying? As speaker, I don’t have to call the IGP… so if you are threatening violence and at the same time expect the police to stay very far away from where you are proposing to execute your violence, really honourable members?” Oulanyah said.
There was a fracas at parliament between Ibrahim Abiriga (Arua Municipality) and Bernard Atiku (Ayivu). Abiriga met Atiku outside the chambers of parliament and reportedly accused him of inciting people in West Nile against him over the age limit debate and calling him a Congolese.
The statement infuriated Atiku who charged at Abiriga and punched him. The altercation attracted MPs and police officers who separated the two legislators.
While Atiku walked away after the fracas, Abiriga was seen gulping water from a bottle before he later walked to the parking lot, entered his vehicle and drove off.