UGANDA: The Forum for Democratic Change-FDC party has reiterated its decision to replace Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda as the party chief whip in Parliament.
On 7th August 2023, the FDC party Secretary General Nathan Nandala Mafabi wrote to the Speaker of Parliament Annet Anita Among informing her that the party had appointed Yusuf Nsibambi, the Mawokota South MP to replace Ssemujju.
According to Section 6j (1) of the Administration of Parliament (Amendment ) Act, a party in opposition may appoint its chief whip. Nandala said that the party worked within this provision to appoint Nsibambi while the party President Eng Patrick Oboi Amuriat Informed the press without much detail that the decision had been reached by the party’s working committee.
“In the same vain, we hereby withdraw Hon. Ssemujju Ibrahim Nganda as the Party Whip with immediate effect” read the letter in part.
However, on the 14th of August 2023, nine Members of Parliament from FDC petitioned the Speaker challenging Mafabi’s decision saying that he flouted the party procedures and hence should be disregarded. The petitioners were; Francis Mwijukye, Asinasi Nyakato, Thadeus Kamara, Denis Lit Oneka, Harold Muhindo, Atkins Katusabe, Naboth Namara, Moses Kabuusu and Emanuel Ongiertho.
They argued that they are members of the party’s National Executive Committee-NEC which is mandated to make such appointments but they did not participate in any meeting leading to a decision to replace Ssemujju.
“As a result, any decision unilaterally communicated by the Secretary-General without involvement and decision of the aforementioned party organs is illegal and as a consequence ultra vires. It is of no consequence!…” they noted.
Two days later, on 16th August 2023, the Speaker responded to the petition rejecting the decision communicated by Nandala.
In the letter addressed to Nandala, the Speaker said she was “unable to effect your (the) communication until the matters raised by the petitioners have been resolved and a communication made to that effect to avoid legal consequences of the same and disruption of Parliamentary business”.
She also noted in her communication that, unlike previous times, the party made no mention of a meeting held by a party organ to take the decision despite having serious consequences on the workings of the legislature.
“The above notwithstanding, while these are internal party matters, they affect the harmony, cohesion, and operation of parliament,” wrote the speaker.
Following the Speaker’s decision not to replace Ssemujju, the party has written back to her clarifying some of the concerns raised by the petitioners.
In a letter dated 17th August 2023, addressed to the Speaker of Parliament, Mabafi reiterates that the party followed the correct procedure in withdrawing Ssemujju and appointing another person to the position.
Nandala says that they attached to their earlier letter to the Speaker supportive documents relating to the decision of the party. He says that they submitted along with the communication to the speaker, minutes, and resolutions of the 169th and 195th Working Committees which appointed Ssemujju and later Nsibambi respectively.
He says they also attached the party constitution.
Nandala asserts that the FDC has a working committee as stipulated in the party constitution under Article 22 and that this functions as the FDC cabinet. He says it is this committee that appointed Ssemujju to the position of FDC Chief Whip in Parliament on 26th May 2021 and the same organ convened on 7th August 2023 to appoint Nsibambi to replace Ssemujju.
“It is unfortunate that non of those members who petitioned you are members of the working committee. In fact, they petitioned a wrong office” wrote Nandala adding that the petitioners should also have provided the Speaker with the party Constitution to show her what was violated of the law.
Nandala told the speaker that the petitioners misled her concerning the mandate of the National Executive Committee-NEC, the National Council, or the National Delegates Conference. He says non of the bodies is mandated, under the constitution, to appoint the chief whip.
“Madam Speaker, I am certain if you had asked for clarification from me as a Member of Parliament and Secretary General, I would have clarified. Your letter clearly shows that Parliament is meddling in internal Party operations which is against the Political Parties and Organization Act as amended” wrote Nandala.
Although Nandala says the other organs of the party have no mandate to make the appointment, it should be noted that the FDC constitution is silent however on who or what organ of the party should make the appointment.
The withdrawal of Ssemujju and the appointment of Nsibambi came at a time of conflicts within the party following allegations of “dirty” money. It is alleged that Nandala received money from President Yoweri Museveni to mortgage the party to Museveni.
The allegations were made by one of the party founder members Dr Kiiza Besigye and gained support among members including Ssemujju who was the convener of a meeting during which the allegations were openly made public.
Nandala has denied the allegations. The conflict has led to fears that the party is headed for another split.
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