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WHY CAN'T THE MPS IMPEACH PRESIDENT MUSEVENI?

By Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
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Dear people,
The expulsion of two MPs from FDC was overdue and it may be interpreted differently by some people but I think it was the beginning of something new in Uganda politics: nobody is above the law in the country, and that is why today I would like to move this debate from those two MPs to the impeachment of the president of Uganda himself.

Apart from when in April 2009, Ken Lukyamuzi and CP suggested that the president get impeached following the re-appointment of Justice Faith Mwondha as the Inspector General of Government without the approval of Parliament, we have never seen parliament attempting to threaten president Museveni yet he has several times used his office wrongly. His removal through impeachment will be imperative to the survival of the nation.

We agree that under clause 4 of article 98 of our constitution that the President cannot be prosecuted for a criminal offence or sued in a civil action in any court. The sole exception being only the case of the Presidential Election Petition but an aggrieved party in any other civil or criminal matter will have to wait until the end of his term of office. The same constitution says the president, vice-president and all civil officers are subject to impeachment though there is significant disagreement on this issue.

Bribery and treason are among the least ambiguous reasons meriting impeachment, but the ocean of wrongdoing encompassed by the Constitution's stipulation of “high crimes and misdemeanours” is vast. Abuse of power and serious misconduct in office fit this category, but one act that is definitely not grounds for impeachment is partisan discord. Several impeachment cases can confuse political animosity with genuine crimes.

Nevertheless, I happen to think that any president who commits a felony should be fired, ie, impeached. Seeking to impeach a politician is perfectly legal. It is a statement that the President has done wrong. That is why Impeachment is written into the Constitution .Impeachment itself is not a criminal procedure as in most cases the president is acquitted but being found not guilty doesn't mean that you are innocent. He is just considered innocent in the eyes of the law. Not that this doctrine has any bearing on impeachment which is a political process.

Ugandans need to be educated that they can remove a president from office by using their parliament instead of thinking of fighting wars in bushes. Impeachment requires a majority vote of the House .This is one of the reasons why the opposition need to put a lot of effort in winning all grass root elections instead of just concentrating on the issue of the joint presidential candidate. If either Mao,Otunnu or Besigye fails to become the joint presidential candidate under the IPC, he should go and stand for parliament somewhere else to help boost the number of opposition MPs in the next parliament.

A vote by the parliament is a form of censure which should be encouraged every now and then to punish the offender, and give relief to the citizens of Uganda. A President should be impeached for high crimes or misdemeanours, regardless of his popularity. If having been elected qualified as a defence against impeachment, almost no president would ever be impeached.

Impeachment is about removing from office an Executive who has abused his executive power, who has used his place, position and authority to subvert the functioning, practice and excise of constitutionally guaranteed rights. For instance, the constitution does not give the president the right to give a directive that the police should investigate a certain politician as we have recently witnessed with Besigye. This is the work of the IGG not the president. For God's sake, under what Law did the president use to ask a radio station to apologise for hosting Dr.Otunnu.

In USA, the first official impeached was Senator William Blount of Tennessee for a plot to help the British seize Louisiana and Florida from Spain in 1797. Judge John Pickering of New Hampshire was the first impeached official actually convicted. He was found guilty of drunkenness and unlawful rulings, on March 12, 1804, and was believed to have been insane. Three presidents were seriously threatened with impeachment. The first, Andrew Johnson, escaped conviction in the Senate, and hence removal from office, by a single vote. The second, Richard Nixon, aborted the process by resigning. Nevertheless, that resignation was forced by the looming spectre of impeachment. The third one was William J. Clinton who was impeached but also survived the senate vote.

NRM MPs don't need to save the president in parliament if they feel that he has done wrong. For instance, Clinton was impeached on two counts, grand jury perjury and obstruction of justice, with the votes split along party lines. The perjury charge failed by a vote of 55–45, with 10 Republicans voting against impeachment along with all 45 Democrats. The obstruction of justice vote was 50–50, with 5 Republicans breaking ranks to vote against impeachment.Similalry,NRM MPs just need to do the right thing here evenif president Museveni is the party chairman.

Therefore, the expulsion of Beti Kamya and Onzima from FDC displayed the first kind of 'impeachment' process among party politics which should be extended to the national level if we are to strengthen discipline in all organs of the government.

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Abbey Kibirige Semuwemba
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