Ugandan opposition lawmakers have resolved to boycott parliamentary sittings to mount pressure to secure the freedom of fellow MPs who were arrested earlier this month.
Allan Ssewanyana and Muhammad Ssegirinya of the National Unity Platform lead by pop star-cum opposition leader Bobi Wine were arrested in regard to a recent wave of murders in the central region of Greater Masaka.
The two, who are facing murder and terrorism charges got re-arrested soon after being granted bail by the High court.
Opposition lawmakers announced their resolution Wednesday “following today’s meeting chaired by the leader of the opposition in parliament (LOP), Mathias Mpuuga”, according to local media.
“We condemn the illegal detention of the two MPs and many other Ugandans who are being held for so long without trial,” opposition chief whip John Baptist Nambeshe said, adding that, “We will boycott the plenary sittings of parliament until the due process of the law is followed in the prosecution of our colleagues and other opposition supporters.”
The move, Nambeshe said, is intended to force the government to respect the rule of law.
“Until the two members and other Ugandans who support change who are in incarceration; some in places we don’t know are taken through due process, we shall not go back to parliament and comfortably deliberate on issues when our people are being persecuted,” Nambeshe said.
The development comes a day after opposition MPs stormed out of parliament in protest of what they termed as government’s failure to offer a satisfactory reason for the brutal re-arrest of Ssewanyana and Ssegirinya moments after they had been granted bail.
Ssewanyana was re-arrested last Thursday while Ssegirinya was re-arrested this Monday outside Kigo prison by armed security operatives. Meanwhile, the opposition has also rejected President Museveni’s push to abolish the requirement to grant bail to suspects.
“We want to confirm that we stand by the current provisions in the Constitution. Uganda obligations, internationally and regionally; we are party to the universal declaration of human rights that calls for presumption of innocence, we are a party to the international covenant on civil and political rights. All those obligations mandate us as a country to ensure that we respect the presumption of innocence and by extension, we uphold the right to apply for bail,” Bugiri MP Asuman Basalirwa said.
“We will defend the current constitutional provision that entitles anybody accused of an offence to apply for bail and will therefore not be party to any moves that are intended to remove bail from our law books. The current provisions on bail are sufficient enough to cater for Mr Museveni’s concerns,” he added.
Yesterday Tuesday, Museveni met NRM MPs to sell to them his idea of scrapping the constitutional provision on bail which Basalirwa warned is likely to cast the NRM government in bad light.
“The NRM government will go into history as the first government in the whole world to abolish bail. Not even the Taliban [in Afghanistan], not even the military regime in North Korea or in Myanmar abolished bail, so, they [NRM] will be the first should they pursue this matter to its conclusion. If Museveni wants to be the champion of being unique in that respect, we will not follow him in that uniqueness,” Basalirwa said.