By Moses Walubiri
SPEAKER of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga wants an independent unit to handle legal matters of Parliament and not the Attorney General.
Under Article 119 of the constitution, the AG, as the principal legal adviser of the Government is mandated to legally represent its numerous institutions including parliament.
The relationship between parliament and the AG has been rather frosty following what Kadaga described last year as the AG, Peter Nyombi 'turning into a hostile witness' in a suit that parliament subsequently lost.
“We are forcefully being represented by the AG. Every time our lawyers try to represent the institution, the AG thwarts them. But on this, we shall not relent to demand for independence from AG,” Kadaga told journalists on Friday.
Kadaga cited countries like Zambia whose parliament has an independent legal team representing its interests to push for similar changes in Uganda.
In the said suit, city lawyer, Severino Twinobusingye, successfully challenged the House’s resolution ordering Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, and two cabinet ministers – Hilary Onek and Sam Kutesa - to step aside over allegations that they had received kickbacks from companies prospecting for oil in Uganda.
Attempts by parliament’s legal team to put up a defense where thwarted by Nyombi, who later conceded to all issues raised by the plaintiff, thus causing the state sh13b loss in costs of the suit.
Kadaga also had a riveting standoff with Nyombi last year over the continued stay of four MPs that had been expelled from the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) over accusations of indiscipline.
After the High Court ruled that the four beleaguered MPs – Muhammad Nsereko, Theodore Ssekikubo, Wilfred Niwagaba and Barnabas Tinkasiimire – had lost their seats after their expulsion from NRM, Kadaga ignored Nyombi’s opinion augmenting court’s ruling.
Article 83(1) (g) obligates an MP who leaves the political party on whose ticket he stood for election to vacate his seat. The point of contention in the case of the four MPs was whether they had left NRM by their expulsion.
The shadow Attorney General, Abdu Katuntu, subsequently petitioned court challenging Nyombi’s actions as an affront to the independence of parliament.
If parliament is to secure its independence from the AG, legal experts contend, a constitutional amendment to explicitly provide for it will be necessary.
“A constitutional amendment to provide for the position the Speaker is advancing is necessary. But beyond this, Kadaga’s position shows a fundamental breach of trust between two arms of government which does not augur well for the country,” Makerere University law don, Dr. Businge Kabumba opines.
Peter Walubiri, a constitutional expert, says that only a constitutional amendment “can guarantee parliament’s independence from the AG’s advice or misadvise.”
“In light of Article 119, parliament cannot claim independence from AG,” Walubiri says, calling for a constitutional amendment to clear the blurred lines between the executive and legislature.
Kadaga wants independent legal team for MPs