Former East African Legislative Assembly Speaker, Margaret Nantongo Zziwa, received a major boost in her fight against what she calls unfair impeachment from the EALA speakership last year.
This follows a recent ruling in which the First Instance Division of the east African court of justice (EACJ) overruled — with costs — the objections of the Secretary General, Dr Richard Sezibera, blocking her from giving evidence in court without seeking leave of the regional House.
Sezibera raised the objection in the case in which Zziwa sued him on grounds that her removal from the Office of EALA Speaker was illegal and an infringement of Articles 53 and 56 of the Treaty for the Establishment of the East African Community.
Sezibera had issued an objection asking court not to allow Zziwa to use evidence relating to the office of the EALA in her defence before seeking leave of office.
In his submission, Sezibera reasoned that by adducing such evidence while still a serving EALA MP, Zziwa was in contravention of Section 20 of the EALA Powers and Privileges Act 2003.
This section states thus: (1) Notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, no member or officer of the Assembly and no person employed to take minutes or record evidence before the Assembly or any Committee shall, except as provided in this Act, give evidence else-where in respect of the contents of such minutes or evidence or of the contents of any documents laid before the Assembly or such Committee, as the case may be, or in respect of any proceedings or examination held before the Assembly or such Committee, as the case may be, without the special leave of the Assembly first had and obtained in writing.
In its ruling however, the Court quashed Sezibera’s preemptive assertion on grounds that it found that it has not been satisfactory established before the Court that the evidence the Applicant intends to adduce before the Court does not fall in the realm of Section 20 of the EALA Powers and Privileges Act 2003.
That it would be premature at this stage to forestall Zziwa’s evidence on the pretext that it does not comply with the provision of the said Section.
Court further held that it would also be premature to adjudge the Applicant’s evidence and prevent her from testifying in her matter.
The Court reiterated its earlier position that the Act is a valid Community Law and must be complied with by all the witnesses that seek to adduce evidence in Court.
The only exception in this regard for present purposes would be the Clerk to the Assembly who was summoned as a witness in this matter pursuant to the Court order that must be obeyed.
The subject of the main Case is that the Applicant (Zziwa) alleges that in contravention of Articles 53 and 56 of the Treaty, Rule 9 and Annex 3 of the Rules of Procedure of EALA and Rule of law, on 26th November, 2014 some members of EALA convened in the Assembly chambers, summoned the Clerk of the Assembly to “preside over the Assembly”, re-instated a motion/process of removal of the Speaker, referred the motion to the Committee on Legal, Rules and Privileges for investigations, “ suspended” the Speaker/Applicant from exercising the functions of the office of Speaker and appointed one of them to preside over the proceedings.
That the Committee’s action of conducting investigations on a non-existing motion was an illegality.
That the Committee as constituted for the purposes of investigations was improper and breached the rules of natural justice, specifically the rule against bias.
The Court had directed the Clerk of the East African Legislative Assembly to appear in Court as one of the witnesses who was required to give evidence but he did not appear in Court.
In February 2015 the Court allowed Hon. Margaret Nantongo Zziwa to withdraw her Application seeking to stop her impeachment from the Office of the Speaker because the prayers sought had been over taken by events and the Assembly had elected a new Speaker.
The ruling of the Court was delivered by a bench of three Judges of the First Instance Division.
They were: Lady Justice Monica Mugenyi (Principal Judge), Justice Fakihi A. Jundu and Justice Audace Ngiye.
The EACJ has re-scheduled the matter for hearing on 18th and 19th November 2015.
It should be remembered that prior to her impeachment, Zziwa put up a spirited defence to protect her seat.
In the defence, Zziwa denied any wrongdoing; instead accusing her pursuers of being driven by witch-hunt, bias to occasion a mega hate campaign against her.
Against this background, we have unearthed top secrets that EALA insiders believe could have been the major drive behind the desperate desire to uproot Zziwa from the EALA speakership.
According to our reliable sources, Zziwa was more of a victim of circumstances having entered the EALA speakership as a total ‘alien’.
It is thus not surprising that the most outstanding players behind her impeachment— including her local rival Dora Byamukama— were members of the EALA Commission in the regional parliament’s second term.
Our sources intimated that on realizing that many of the Commission’s members then had served their second and final term as mandated by the EAC Treaty guidelines, a resolution was reached to create a couple of offices that would provide employment to these outgoing members.
Among the newly proposed offices included; the Speaker’s Advisory Bureau which would be headed by then outgoing Kenyan Speaker Abdi Rahim, as well as the East African Parliamentary Institute.
The advisory bureau would be created for the outgoing speaker to advise new speakers while the EA parliamentary institute for which Uganda’s Wandera was to be director was tasked with conducting human resource training to new EALA staff.
For these new projects to materialise however, members agreed that there was a need to have the next EALA speaker from the commission; or at least someone who was a beneficiary of the commission.
It is for this reason that the Commission members agreed in a meeting at Kempinski Hotel in Dar es Salaam to back their colleague Dora Byamukama for the post since it was Uganda’s turn to produce the next speaker who is elected on a rotational basis amongst the 5 member states.
To ensure a Byamukama victory, some commission members even contributed to her campaigns.
It’s thus no wonder that the polt to fail zziwa’s candidature was highly charged, with over 70 Ugandan MPs being transported to Arusha to try and talk her out of the race.
As we earlier reported in these pages, the anti-Zziwa candidature move was only foiled by her insistence not to back down on top of a pronouncement by late east African affairs minister Eriya Kategaya that president Museveni had not blessed any official NRM candidate as had been claimed by the Dora camp.
When Dora finally fell to Zziwa in the speaker’s race, it is said that most of the commission members— cognizant of the privileges that were at stake courtesy of the ‘alien’— decided to strike hard and see her out of the speakership.
The most vocal protagonists in the zziwa censure included Nusura Tiperu who beefed her for failing to Favour her after she nominated her, Dora Byamukama, Mulengani, Rwandan legislator Hajabakiga who accused Zziwa of being a genocide denier, and Dan Kidega who was sponsored by the Commission for a master’s degree at ESAMI institute in Arusha. Others include Abdu Mwinyi from Tanzania, Mathuki from Kenya and Ogley from Kenya among others.
Our sources say that although Dr. Sezibera was not part of EALA, some of Zziwa’s pursuers dragged him into the fray well aware that he was crucial if their move was to succeed.
Although there was some rivalry between EALA and the east African secretariat especially after Zziwa managed to convince EALA chairman Uhuru Kenyatta to increase the MPs’ salaries and allowances, the final blow came when one of her haters went and told Dr. Sezibera that Zziwa was covertly fighting her and that she was in fact behind some of the audit queries that were being raised against his office.
With this, the secretariat and the hateful EALA members resolved to do anything within their powers to see Zziwa out. And it is for this reason that she went to court in a bid to seek justice.