A joint force of presidential guards, the elite Special Forces Command (SFC) soldiers and police officers attached to parliament forcibly pulled out several legislators opposed to lifting the age limit from the chambers of parliament today afternoon.
In a scuffle that lasted more than an hour, at least 30 SFC soldiers in plain clothes poured into the chambers to pick at least 25 MPs who were named and suspended by the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga for three sittings at the beginning of the session, for engaging in disorderly conduct during yesterday’s plenary sitting.
The operation was commanded by Kampala Metropolitan Police Commander, Frank Mwesigwa, who was seen earlier in the day, patrolling the precincts of Parliament with the Inspector General of Police, Gen Kale Kayihura.
The legislators disrupted the House proceedings when fighting broke out between opposition and NRM MPs, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House.
Those suspended from the House include Ronald Kibuule the state minister of Water, who was accused of carrying a firearm during the House sitting, an act Kadaga explained was a violation of Rule 74 of the Rules of Procedure.
“I have received some terrible information that Hon Kibuule endangered the safety of members by bringing a firearm into this House. I have checked the footage and Hon Kibuule did not go through security checks. He came through the Office of the President into the North wing and into this chamber so I will be suspending you,” Kadaga announced.
Kadaga also suspended 23 opposition legislators, whom she accused of flouting the House rules by engaging in chaotic behavior. They will not be allowed to access Parliament, including committee and plenary sittings.
“The Speaker was not heard in silence. Members were standing, jumping over tables and chairs; they were dressed in a manner that contravened the Rules and despite calls from the Speaker to sit down and be orderly, this was not adhered to. Some members crossed from one side to another in a menacing manner…This Parliament is a place to speak, to exchange views even if you don’t have the same views,” she reminded the legislators.
The suspended MPs include Allan Ssewanyana (Makindye West), Monica Amoding (Kumi Woman), Sam Lyomoki (Workers), Moses Kasibante (Rubaga North), Betty Nambooze (Mukono Municipality), Robert Kyagulanyi (Kyadondo East), Francis Zaake (Mityana Municipality), Ibrahim Kasozi (Makindye East), William Nzoghu (Busongora East), Gilbert Olanya (Kilak North), Jonathan Odur (Erute South), Mohammad Nsereko (Kampala Central), Angelline Osegge (Soroti Woman), Wilfred Niwagaba (Ndorwa East) and Odonga Otto (Aruu).
Others are Nandala Mafabi (Budadiri West), Mubarak Munyagwa (Kawempe South), John Baptist Nambeshe (Manjiya), Mbwatekamwa Gaffa (Kasambya), Roland Mugume (Rukungiri Municipality), Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Barnabas Tinkasimire (Buyaga West), Muwanga Kivumbi (Butambala) and Medard Ssegona (Busiro East).
Two other MPs who were arrested but were not on the list include Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda (Kira Municipality) and Matthias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality).
When the Speaker directed them to leave the chambers with immediate effect, only Kibuule and Mbwatekamwa complied. The opposition legislators refused to budge and kept shouting, “procedure, procedure”.
However, Kadaga did not budge and ordered them to leave immediately or be forced out by officers from the Sergeant-at-Arms. When the MPs remained defiant, Kadaga suspended the House for 30 minutes.
At that point, the police officers walked into the chambers to escort the MPs out but the legislators instead grabbed the microphone stands and tried to scare away the officers.
Some legislators were seen shoving the police officers away, prompting more commotion that saw the SFC soldiers enter the chamber and grab MPs indiscriminately. MPs Odonga, Gerald Karuhanga (Ntungamo Municipality) and Hassan Kaps Fungaroo (Obongi) jumped on the Table of the House, where the mace is usually placed, with microphone stands and warned the officers against touching them.
Zaake pulled out his belt and repeatedly tried to whip the officers. Other MPs hurled chairs at the officers, leaving one of the Parliament police officers bleeding profusely.
The provocation saw the SFC officers, three or four at a go, lunge at the MPs and drag them out of the House. Ssemujju was the first victim to be dragged out. Others followed suit, however the opposition MPs did not go without a fight.
One of the SFC officers jumped on the seats and grabbed Nabila Naggayi Ssempala (Kampala Woman) and tried to drag her out. However, some MPs nearby rushed to save her. It was not until one of his fellow officers shouted that she is not on the list of suspended MPs that were suspended that she got relief.
Former Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) and State Minister of Works, Gen. Katumba Wamala tried to quell the commotion by calling for calm and speaking to the SFC officers; however this did not help save matters.
For close to two hours, the suspended MPs were dragged out, one by one and swiftly taken to the North Wing entrance, opposite National Theatre, where a number of police pickup trucks were waiting to whisk them off to unknown destinations.
At least three MPs fainted, including Osegge, Lucy Achiro (Aruu North) and Angiro Gutumoi (Erute North). Zaake has also been admitted in hospital.
Speaking to The Observer, Mwesigwa revealed that a total of 27 MPs are currently under detention. However, sources within Police intimated to the Observer that the MPs are currently in a number of police stations around the Kampala Metropolitan area. Some of them are currently being held at Special Investigations Unit in Kireka.
The Speaker reconvened the House after 4pm where in her communication she announced that the MPs who caused damage to Parliament property within the chambers would be directed to pay for them.
“Some damage has occurred in the chambers. I will ask the Rules committee to review the footage and identify the members who caused the damage. They will be taken to the disciplinary committee and will be obliged to pay from their salaries,” Kadaga said, adding that Kibuule will also appear before the committee for carrying a gun into the House.
Leader of Opposition, Winnie Kiiza tried to intervene, standing up to express concern over the manner in which the SFC officers handled the MPs, however Kadaga shot her down immediately.
“Take your seat. You are familiar with our rules of procedure. Our rules say if you are asked to leave, you must leave. If you don’t leave, you are removed,” she said, warning that she would suspend any member who disrupted the sitting.
At this point, the opposition MPs walked out of the chamber in protest, as NRM MPs heckled them.
Raphael Magyezi (Igara West) was granted leave of Parliament to draft a bill, which will include amendments to Article 102 (b) of the Constitution to remove the minimum and maximum age criteria of 35 and 75 years respectively for presidential candidates.
In his motion, Magyezi stated that the bill seeks to amend Articles 259 and 262 of the Constitution to provide for the time within which to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government council elections; to provide for eligibility requirements for a person to be elected as president or district chairperson; to increase the number of days within which to file and determine a presidential election among others.
Magyezi was seconded by Moses Balyeku (Jinja West) and Doreen Amule (Amolatar Woman). Magyezi has 45 days within which to present the bill before Parliament for first reading.
FIGHT OVER RED CAPS
Before the ugly events, there was a brawl that ensued between a group of opposition MPs and security operatives at Parliament’s parking lot over the red caps. The MPs had ditched the red ribbons they wore yesterday for red caps after Kadaga forced them to remove them.
MPs including Julius Ochen (Kapelebyong), Phillip Okin Ojara (Chwa West), Joseph Ssewungu (Kalungu West), Mubarak Munyagwa, Gilbert Olanya (Kilak South) and Ssempala Kigozi (Makindye-Saabagabo) were beaten up as they attempted to pick their caps from one of the vehicles.
“We were just picking our caps, we were not violent, they just attacked us and started beating us. If they want to attack us, we shall also revenge. This is not their house [parliament], they are supposed to protect us not to beat us up,” Francis Zaake.
Ojara said the security is now biased, adding "we are legally dressed and I don’t see any problem with our dress code." Zaake was injured while Kapelebyong MP Julius Ochen was also seriously beaten.