Uganda: You didn’t deserve to be heard, court tells MPs

A section of MPs who were dismissed from the House last Friday for contesting in elections in non-existent constituencies, have vowed to appeal the Constitutional Court’s decision on grounds that they were not heard as enshrined in Article 28 (1) of the Constitution.

The affected MPs are Mr Patrick Ochan (Apac, UPC), Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (Sheema Municipality, NRM), Mr Tarsis Rwaburindore Bishanga (Ibanda Municipality, NRM), Mr Hashim Sulaiman (Nebbi Municipality, NRM), Mr Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri Municipality, Jeema) and Mr Peter Abrahams Lokii (Kotido Municipality, NRM).

“The decision of the court has affected us directly and yet we were not given an opportunity to be heard as the Constitution demands. We are now going to make an application for review and also another application for stay as we continue representing our people in Parliament,” Mr Basalirwa told Daily Monitor at the weekend.

“The court that we are going to apply to for review, should it decide in a way that we don’t agree with, we shall proceed to the Supreme Court,” he added.

However, Justice Christopher Madrama Izama, who wrote the lead judgment, said the MPs did not deserve to be heard because the constituencies that they had run for were non-existent, hence unlawful.

“I am mindful of the fact that the MPs affected in the six constituencies by this petition were not heard in this petition and if their election was for a vacancy, it could have been challenged within the time stipulated in the Parliamentary Elections Act, 2005.

The right to a hearing is however, not violated because what is being asked of this court is whether the office of the MP in the contested municipalities exists in terms of a vacancy under the Constitution before the next general elections,” Justice Madrama stated.

“The right to a hearing and a fair one at that is enshrined in Article 28 (1) of the Constitution and cannot be derogated from under Article 44 (c) of the Constitution. Such a right can only be asserted if there was a lawful vacancy in an office of MP that had been contested for. Secondly, the right is available in the process of challenging a person who had been elected in an office envisaged in the Constitution,” he added.

The Electoral Commission and the Attorney General, who were respondents to the petition that had been filed by former Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera, have since said they are studying the decision before taking any step.

The court described the election of the affected six law makers as “improper, having been conducted prematurely” for non-existent vacancies, hence null and void.

The justices in their unanimous decision held that the elections in the constituents/ municipalities were conducted neither in general elections nor as a way of by-election which are the only recognised ways of electing MPs into Parliament.

“In the premises, I would hold that elections conducted in the six affected municipalities mentioned in the judgment are not elections for an office of Member of Parliament existing under the Constitution because they are not general elections or by elections. Secondly, the seats contested for did not have a vacancy and were already represented by elected MPs in the general elections of 2016,” Justice Madrama ruled.

The other justices who agreed with the lead judgment are Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny-Dollo, Cheborion Barishaki, Kenneth Kakuru and Fredrick Egonda Ntende.

The court also held that it would only act on the six municipalities which the petitioner had presented evidence to show that elections were conducted after the 2016 general polls.

This was contrary to the demands of Mr Kwizera who had wanted at least 83 MPs to lose their seats for the same reasons without giving evidence.


Justice Christopher Madrama also observed that elections cannot be held where there is no vacancy and which can only occur upon the next dissolution of Parliament or upon recall or the declaration of a vacancy by the Speaker.

The judge warned that to hold otherwise, would lead to a situation where the proportions of representation in Parliament can be multiplied or decreased for particular political parties depending on where certain majorities are popular after the holding of the general elections.

“This has the potential to alter the outcome of the general elections in terms of proportions of political parties represented in Parliament because general elections generally give proportions of representations of political parties notwithstanding any subsequent outcome of any by-elections whenever a vacancy is declared.

This, is made even clear as an obvious intention of Parliament, in the Electoral Commission Act,” Justice Madrama stated.

By Daily Monitor

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