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Constitutional crisis: Why Uganda’s government, parliament operations may soon grind to a halt

By Annet Kasiima | Monday, Jan 16th 2017 at 08:03
Ugandan Parliament               Photo:Courtesy

These are stupid times, and it is official! Uganda’s Deputy Chief Justice Stephen Kavuma is on collision course with Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. It all started with leakage of a story that a $2million bonus was shared by 42 public officials who somehow worked with the lawyers who represented Uganda in a legal tax dispute with an oil company.

The lawyers picked $10million and the civil servants who were carrying out their normal duties were given what is now called
the presidential handshake of $2m.

The leakage caused public outrage and Parliament was planning to debate the issue. Some adult male civil servant went to the constitutional court to sue the state over the deal and demanded an injunction, stopping any debate over the matter.

The injunction was granted and an order was issued by guess who? The DCJ who was reported by mainstream media to be in the process of legally reducing his age by four years, so that he avoids retirement this year on clocking the mandatory retirement age of seventy.

Speaker Rebecca, the first woman to hold the high office, was incensed. But as a lawyer and law-abiding official she could not
disobey the court order, banning discussion of the presidential handshake. So she complied by down parliament! As she closed the
country’s legislative business indefinitely, she ordered the Attorney General to go and ensure that the “stupid order” by the DCJ is
removed.

Why Executive must eats humble pie

Short of that, Parliament will not reopen. The Speaker officially described the order as ‘stupid’ and that is what went into the Hansard. She was cheered wildly by MPs on both sides of the political divide – ruling party and opposition in solidarity. So now we have a crisis. Soon government will not be able to run, legally. This is because parliament approves all public expenditure
and they cannot do it when they are not sitting.

According to Speaker Rebecca, there is no way they can discuss budgets without first disposing the anomalies of officials pocketing ‘handshakes’ irregularly. She listed several crucial items that parliament cannot handle without first dealing with the presidential handshake.

And so that is how Uganda ended up without a functional parliament, until the Executive eats humble pie and tells the Attorney General to go and ‘vacate’ the order restraining the honourable members from discussing the presidential handshake.

So you can see the mess these men have landed our country in. It took a woman to see this and she has taken tough measures to force them to account. Hopefully they will listen.

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