The Wednesday melee in Parliament over the amendment of the 75-year Constitutional age limit for a presidential candidate, largely seen as a move to allow President Yoweri Museveni to rule for life left several opposition MPs either hospitalised or in jail!
The first causality of the ugly brawl was MP Angelina Osege, who was seen being carried out of the Parliamentary chambers by Parliament’s Director of Communications Chris Obore and MP Abdu Katuntu before an ambulance took her to hospital.
Opposition Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda was temporarily hospitalised at St. Francis Hospital Naggalama and thereafter returned to custody in Naggalama police station, while Francis Zaake Butebi was reportedly in comma at Lubaga Hospital. Some other MPs like Nabilah Nagayi checked themselves into hospital.
Many of the “rabble-rousers” like Kaygulanyi Sentamu aka Bobi Wine, Mohammad Nsereko, Allan Ssewanyana, Theodore Ssekikuubo and others were taken to various detention centres including SIU Kireka, Kira Division, and Naggalama Police station.
In two previous plenary sittings, the opposition MPs had successfully foiled a plan by Bushenyi County MP Raphael Magyezi to table a motion to seek leave of Parliament to work on a bill seeking to amend Article 102 (B) of the Constitution that bars someone over the age of 75 from standing as a presidential candidate. In 2021, President Museveni who has ruled the country since 1986 will be 76 and ineligible to contest for office if the Constitution is not ammended.
The opposition MPs don’t have the power of numbers so they stuck to “guerrilla” tactics, heckling and singing the national anthem, forcing the Speaker to adjourn two previous sittings.
Yesterday, Kadaga would have none of the “madness” of the opposition MPs who were clad in red bandanas, berets and ribbons around their heads to symbolise that they are ready to shed their blood to protect the Constitution. She kicked off business by suspending 25 “rowdy” MPs, some of them belonging to the ruling NRM party but opposed to lifting the age limit and Water Minister Ronald Kibuule who was accused of having entered the August House with a gun.
The MPs defied Kadaga’s orders which led to a melee as private clothed security men entered the plenary and forced them out. The MPs wouldn’t go down without a fight and they used all weapons at their disposal, exchanging blows and kicks as microphone stands and chairs flew in the air.
The MPs were whisked off to Police custody in vans while some were taken in ambulances after collapsing or sustaining injuries in the scuffle.
NRM MPs have their way
After the melee, Parliament resumed and Leader of the Opposition Winnie Kiiza protested the manner in which her colleagues had been manhandled and demanded to know where they had been taken before any other business could be conducted. “They have been kidnapped,” she said.
Kiiza’s comments didn’t amuse Kadaga who asked her to take a seat but she instead preferred to walk out of Parliament with the rest of the opposition MPs, leaving NRM MPs to have their way as Magyezi’s motion, which was seconded by Moses Balyeku, Jackson Karugaba Kafuuzi, and Doreen Amule was successfully passed.
Magyezi now has up to a month to present the bill for the first reading.
Now the opposition MPs have to go back to the drawing board.