The Constitutional Court in Kampala has ordered six Members of Parliament (MPs), including one minister to vacate their seats on grounds that they were elected in constituents that were illegally created.
The affected MPs are; Patrick Ochan (Apac, UPC party), Dr. Elioda Tumwesigye (Sheema, NRM party and also a cabinet minister for Science and Technology), Tarsis Rwaburindore (Ibanda, NRM party), Hashim Sulaiman (Nebbi, NRM party), Asuman Basalirwa (Bugiri, Jeema party) and Abraham Lokii (Kotido, NRM party).
The Justices of the Constitutional Court in their unanimous decision, held that the elections in the aforementioned constituents/ municipalities, were conducted neither in general elections nor as a way of by-elections which are the only recognised ways of electing MPs into Parliament.
“In the premises, I would hold that elections conducted in the six affected municipalities mentioned in the judgment are not elections for an office of Member of Parliament existing under the Constitution because they are not general elections or by-elections.
Secondly, the seats contested for did not have a vacancy and were already represented by elected MPs in the general elections of 2016,” held Justice Christopher Madrama who wrote the lead judgment.
He continued: ” In the premises, the elections already conducted in the municipalities of Apac, Sheema, Ibanda, Nebbi, Bugiri and Kotido are non-existent vacancies or seats in Parliament and cannot stand. I would find that article 61 (1) b that places a duty on the second respondent (Electoral Commission ) to conduct elections in accordance with the constitution, it’s duty is to ensure that each county is represented in Parliament as stipulated by article 62 (2) of the constitution and can only be exercised where there is a vacancy. Vacancies would occur in the municipalities of Apac, Sheema, Ibanda, Nebbi, Bugiri and Kotido with necessary demarcation by the second respondent (EC) and would be available for contest in the next general elections upon dissolution of the sitting parliament or unless any particular existing seat becomes vacant under articles 83 and 84 of the constitution.”
The other justices who agreed with the majority judgment of Justice Madrama are; Deputy Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny Dollo, Cheborion Barishaki, Kenneth Kakuru and Fredrick Egonda Ntende.
This came following a petition by former Bufumbira East MP Eddie Kwizera, who argued that the MPs were elected in constituencies formed within existing constituencies. The petitioner argued that the creation of new constituencies came not without the involvement of the Electoral Commission which legally gazettes and demacates constituencies but rather came through a mere resolution of Parliament.
The court also emphasized that no seats in Parliament can be created after the general elections have been conducted.
“It follows that the sovereignty of the people can only be exercised through the elections envisaged in the Constitution. No seats should be created by creating more constituencies after general elections have been held and concluded for Members of Parliament except in accordance with the constitution,” the court observed.
Based on this, the petitioner had argued that Parliament can only create constituencies through an Act of Parliament and not by a mere resolution.