A legal hurdle could deter several Members of Parliament from severing ties with the opposition Forum for Democratic Change, in the wake of the New Formation announced by former Party President Gen Mugisha Muntu, URN reports.
This’ after Muntu announced that he would be exiting the party following disagreements with the new leadership headed by Patrick Amuriat Oboi. He said his exit was based on the outcome of nationwide consultations undertaken in the aftermath of the FDC presidential election held last year.
In his exit statement, Muntu indicated that although the elections that ushered in the current president were legitimate, the implication of the outcome left the party divided between those that were interested in defiance and those who feel strongly that the party should be focused on a different path.
But he made no mention of decisions by other members. Instead, he said, they had options to resign and join the new formation or take any other action based on their belief.
“While we encourage them to be true to what they believe, the decision of whether to resign their positions and join us, remain in their positions and cooperate with us or any other such action is entirely theirs to make. We neither seek to hold anyone at ransom nor cause any institutional disruption,” Muntu said.
URN has since learnt that 18 out of the 35 FDC legislators align with Muntu and would move along with him after his exit from what until now, is the biggest opposition group in Parliament.
They include Winnie Kiiza, Elijah Okupa, Robert Centenary, Paul Mwiru, Francis Gonahasa, Angelline Osegge, Lucy Akello, Akol Anthony, Ariko Herbert Edmund, Kasozi Ibrahim, Abdu Katuntu, Cecilia Ogwal, Jackson Mbaju, Morris Ogenga Latigo, Oguzu Lee Denis, Oyet Simon, Betty Muzanira and Nabillah Naggayi Ssempala. Two others, Odonga Otto and Ongiertho Emmanuel, said they are still undecided on their next move.
Arua Municipality MP Kassiano Wadri who recently contested as an independent candidate in the recently concluded by-election emphasizes that Gen. Muntu is not quitting FDC alone.
But according to the constitution, the members will have to forfeit their seats in Parliament if they leave FDC, the political party for which they stood for election to Parliament. The same would also apply to independent members of parliament who wish to join any political party.
Wadri says that the MPs are waiting for the right time provided under the Constitution to cross the floor.
Aruu County MP Odonga Otto says that the current divisions in his party only give the National Resistance Movement-NRM party mileage ahead of the 2021 general election. He said the opposition can still have a united front.
But FDC president Patrick Oboi Amuriat told Uganda Radio Network that the party is willing to go for by-elections with MPs who exit with Muntu’s New Formation. He said the party is going to scrutinize all its leaders to identify those leaving in a bid to replace them.
He confirmed that a section of party Members of Parliament have already sworn to leave the party.
Opposition Whip Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda told URN that the MPs can only sympathize with Muntu or express their intention to join Muntu but not officially cross to the other side.
“Some of us are remaining in FDC. So, really it would be to each individual MP to announce their affiliation but you can only formally change during the final year.” Ssemujju concluded.
The Leader of Opposition (LOP) Betty Aol Ochan advised her colleagues to remain calm and not rush into making decisions saying that their goal is one and that is a leadership change in the country.
But this is not the first time that parliament is faced with such a situation. In 2009, Beti Kamya, then a Member of Parliament for Rubaga North Constituency quit FDC and started the Uganda Federal Alliance (UFA), a political party advocating for federalism to take over from the multi-party politics.
Kamya maintained her seat in Parliament until 2011 when the constitutional term ended. She contested for the Presidency on the Uganda Federal Alliance ticket.
Around the same time, the then Makindye East MP Micheal Mabikke abandoned the Democratic Party to form the Social Democratic Party. He too remained in parliament until the end of his constitutional term. Mabikke has since reconciled with DP.
But in 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that a Member of Parliament (MP) cannot lose their Parliamentary seat even after being expelled from their Party. This decision was reached after MPs, Theodore Ssekikubo, Wilfred Niwagaba, Mohammad Nsereko and Barnabas Tinkasimire, contested the constitutional court ruling instructing them to vacate their seats.
The Chairman of the National Resistance Movement Organization Yoweri Museveni had asked the speaker to declare their seats vacant for defying the party which brought them to Parliament.