Monday, January 7, 2013

UGANDA'S PARLIAMENTARY TYRANNY IN THE MAKING?


 
If recent reports are to be believed, Members of Parliament pushing for a recall of parliament from their current recess to discuss the issues surrounding the death of Buteleja MP Cerinah Nebanda have secured the required numbers and are seeking an audience with the speaker to effect the recall.

Nebanda died under mysterious circumstances and was allegedly abandoned by her “friends” at a local clinic apparently after they realized she was in bad shape.

A report released last week showed that the MP was getting medication for pre-existing conditions but may also have ingested illicit drugs.

Subsequently a government pathologist was arrested at the airport on his way to South Afica with samples from the deceased MP, that he was taking  for independent tests. The police say he had no authority to do that and are set to charge with abuse of office among other things.

The strange sequence of events have raised suspicion and understandably so.

The MPs claim to have raised 133 signatures, a figure more than the third of the 388 member house required by law to cause the house to reconvene.

The proposers of the recall want the house to discuss the recent arrest of MPs for utterances they made following the arrest of the Nebanda.

The MPs arrested were Chris Baryomunsi and Meddie Nsereko who were detained separately and released.

In addition some MPs seem intent on discussing the happenings around Nebanda’s death. MP Geoffrey Ekanya speaking on a local radio station said that they had lost faith in the government process following similar mysterious deaths in the past that he claims have gone unresolved.

The ruling NRM do not support the house’s recall from the festive recess.

That the MP’s death was unfortunate is an understatement.

These contestations and many others before and many more to come, are the teething pains of democracy.

The law may be well laid out as to separation of powers between the three arms of government but one can always expect there will be jostling for space for a longtime before each arm appreciates its boundaries.

It would seem unreasonable to try and inquire into the death of Nebanda by the house,  as it has become a criminal case.

The MPs made statements outside the house, which therefore makes the susceptible to prosecution, but more importantly being honourable men whatever they said, I would like to believe, was backed by fact and could be useful in investigations into their counterpart's death.

It would be strange if MPs in discussing the issue for example demand that charges be dropped against their counterparts, as that would be interfering with the work of the police.

In fact, why the police continue to be understaffed, undermanned, undercompensated and therefore always  several steps behind the criminal elements could be a question parliament may be well placed to answer.

That there may be a loss in confidence in the police as MP Ekanya suggests, usurping their role would not be the best way to redress the issue, unless the MPs are trying to expand their powers to criminal investigations.

They say that, all tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.

Some MPs knowingly or unknowingly are looking to perpetuate a tyranny of parliament over us. The oversight role of parliament is important, even critical in the smooth running of nations, but even its powers are not unlimited.

Some may argue that executive’s excesses are such that its only parliament that can check it, but two wrongs do not make a right.

MPs putting government on tenterhooks may make for very good drama. But when the drama becomes an end in itself, while ruing the fact that we get the leaders we deserve, we wonder whether we are getting value for money.

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