Members of Parliament from Kenya have asked their Ugandan counterparts to back a proposed law that will give lawmakers immunity from powers of bailiffs that have left many MPs having sleepless nights over the skyrocketing debts from financial institutions and individual lenders.
The proposal was brought forward by lawmakers on the Kenyan Parliamentary Committee of Powers and Privileges that called on all legislators in the five member countries of East African Community to work together and come up with a law to protect its regional lawmakers from unnecessary arrests especially from clients who lend to them money.
While appearing before Uganda’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Didmus Barasa, Kimilili-Bungoma County in Kenya said their trip to Uganda was aimed at benchmarking in regard to the powers, privileges and immunities enjoyed by their counterpart in Uganda.
For Uganda’s case, Jacob Oboth Oboth, the Chairperson Legal Committee told his Kenyan counterparts that lawmakers cannot be arrested in the precincts of Parliament and cited a scenario when one lawmaker struggled and relieved himself from court bailiffs who were trying to arrest him in the premises of Kampala Serena Hotel during national budget reading, with the Speaker protesting his arrest on grounds that Serena had already announced the venue to be used for plenary sitting and thus Parliament was constituted as full house.
Armed with that scenario, Dismus Barasa said it was about time MPs in East Africa parliaments put their heads together and enact a law to save them from such embarrassments from their electorates like the case is with diplomats.
However, the proposal was challenged by Wilfred Niwagaba ( Uganda’s Shadow Attorney General) who said that laws can only be effected in a country that respects the rule of law, reminding the Committee of what happened to MPs in 2017 when they were clobbered and arrested in the chambers as they protested the amending of the constitution to remove the presidential age limit.
The development comes at a time when High Court recently sentenced former Kyadongo East MP, Apollo Kantinti to Luzira prison for failing to pay Shs108M to his political rival from NRM Sitende Ssebalu in legal costs following an election petition filed by Sitende challenging Kantinti’s victory which Sebalu won after court nullified Kantinti’s victory and ordered for fresh elections which was won by the now local musician turned politician Robert Kyagulanyi.
Kantinti’s sentence came at the time he was serving a six month sentence in Luzira prison for failing to pay a Shs260M out of the Shs300M loan he had acquired from Standard Chartered bank when he had just won a seat in the 10th Parliament.
His arrest followed his arrest by court bailiffs led by Moses Kirunda and arraigned before high court deputy registrar Flavia Nabakooza who asked Kantinti if he was in position to pay the debt through another agreement, but he (Katinti) instead chose to serve the six months in Luzira prison because he had no penny to pay his debts.