At the same time, 18 MPs did not participate in the vote. Six of them had earlier been suspended from the House, while two were arrested as they tried to provide their colleagues with legal help in fighting the suspensions. Another two were reported sick, while the rest, eight, mostly District MPs aligned to the ruling NRM, were conspicuously absent when the vote was called. Isaac Mufumba tells us who they were and asks why they were absent.
Aidah Nantaba- Kayunga Woman
On Wednesday, October 18, 2017, Minister Nantaba, who was in the company of Ntenjeru North MP, Mr Amos Lugoloobi, was shocked during a consultative meeting they held in Busaana Town Council in Kayunga District when residents overwhelmingly voted against what was then a proposal to have Article 102 of the Constitution amended.
Shortly after the Busaana debacle, the minister appeared to be at odds with Government Chief Whip, Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, who had earlier been quoted to have criticized her for apparently deviating from an earlier Cabinet decision to support the proposed amendment.
“The Speaker would have said that because as Cabinet we had already decided on the matter; we shouldn’t have to go back to the people. Why did Nankabirwa go to Kiboga to consult yet Cabinet had already decided on the matter? Before she attacks Nantaba, she should first explain why she went to Kiboga,” Ms Nantaba was quoted to have said.
While the NRM’s top leadership is yet to pronounce itself on the matter, her failure to show up for the crucial vote was construed by sections of the public as a deliberate attempt not to anger the people of Kayunga, who had earlier told their MPs not to endorse the amendment.
Ms Nantanba has been keeping a low profile and avoided returning to her constituency, where sections of the masses have arranged to give her a hero’s welcome.
However, in a brief telephone interview she gave Sunday Monitor last week, the minister said she was not afraid of being fired from government over her disappearance in the run up to the vote.
One of her associates also told Sunday Monitor that she was out of the country at the time the vote was carried out. Both the confidant and Ms Nantaba will, however, not say where exactly she was on the day the vote was conducted.
Karungi Elizabeth Beikirize- Kanungu District
The Kanungu District MP was missing in action during the acrimonious debate and the subsequent vote. “On that day, as Parliament was preparing to vote, I was in labour and gave birth on that day,” she said.
So which way would she have voted? Ms Karungi says she does not know how she would have voted as she is yet to find out what her constituents would have recommended. “I never consulted because I was not well during the [consultation] time. So I cannot say that they (people of Kanungu) said this or that,” she says.
Loy Katali-Jinja District
A few hours before Speaker Rebecca Kadaga called the vote, Jinja District MP, Ms Loy Katali, who is serving her first term in office, had told Parliament that consultations in seven out of the district’s 12 sub-counties had proved that the proposed amendment was very unpopular.
The consultations had taken her to Buyengo, Busedde, Mafubira, Budondo, Buwenge Town Council, Buwenge Rural, Butagaya and Busedde sub-counties, but it was only in Butagaya and Buwenge Rural where residents expressed support for the amendment.
In areas such as Mafubira Sub-county, the consultations had on November 4, 2017, turned rowdy as youth tried to force her to put on a red ribbon, the symbol of opposition to the proposed amendment.
Moments after she had left, the youths pounced on Butembe County MP Nelson Lufaafa, roughed him up and destroyed his car. Many of them were arrested.
In light of her submission to Parliament, she had been expected to vote against the motion, but was conspicuously absent when the vote was called. Why?
“I am a finance person and I know that you don’t procure or compile financial reports on the basis of an incomplete record. I had not consulted in some of the sub-counties such as Bugembe Town Council, Kakira Sub-county and Jinja Municipality. I, therefore, didn’t have a complete record,” she told Sunday Monitor on Friday.
Kiyingi Deogratius Gonzaga- Bukomansimbi
Given the altercation that broke out in Serinya, Butenga Sub-county in Bukomansimbi District during the burial of the late former executive director of Mulago National Referral Hospital, Dr Lawrence Kaggwa in November last year when he joined other MPs from greater Masaka region in attacking government over the manner in which it is handling the primary health care system, the Bukomansimbi MP was expected to have joined other members of the mainstream Opposition in voting against the controversial amendment.
He was, however, one of those who were missing in action when the vote was called, raising a few eyebrows.
Mr Kiyingi has since told Sunday Monitor that he has not been in good health since the last third of November.
“I have been down with pneumonia since the last third of November and was admitted in Nairobi Hospital for quite some time. I was discharged last week, but I am due to go for further treatment in Bangkok, Thailand next month,” he told Sunday Monitor on Friday.
He, however, did not say which way he would have voted if he had been around.
Jack Wamanga Wamai- Mbale Municipality
The FDC stalwart is serving his second full term in Parliament.
He was first elected following the abrupt resignation of Wilfred Kajeke in July 2009. He served out the rest of what should have been Kajeke’s five year-term until 2011 when he was elected to serve his first full five year term.
Though he had opposed the proposed amendment, he missed the vote because he was away attending the 34th session of the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) - European Union (EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly, which sat in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince from December 18 to December 20, 2017.
The Ugandan delegation was headed by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Jacob Oulanyah.
“If I had been around, I would have definitely voted against it, but I guess that would have counted for nothing. We would have still lost the vote, anyway,” he says.
The retired Diplomat, who is also the only member of the Opposition on Uganda’s delegation to the ACP-EU Parliament, says the meeting was among other things meant to discuss how to make adjustments to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement which was signed in the Cotonou, Benin on June 23, 2000 and is due to expire in February 2020.
Mugema Peter (Panadol)- Iganga Municipality
The Iganga Municipality MP had been a largely insignificant figure on the floor and in the corridors of Parliament, until May 19, 2016 when he nominated Kampala Central MP, Mr Muhammad Nsereko, to contest against Jacob Oulanyah for the post of Speaker.
He was, however, not in the precincts of Parliament on the day of voting on the controversial Bill.
“I had lost a nephew, a young man of 26 years, who was about to complete his degree in Civil Engineering. The Government Chief Whip called me and asked me to come in and vote, but I couldn’t. In our culture, you don’t leave mourners in your compound and go out to vote,” he told Sunday Monitor.
Despite having been voted to Parliament on an NRM ticket, he has been behaving more like an opposition politician.
He has been at the centre of leading demonstrations to protest poor state of affairs at Iganga hospital and service delivery in the district. He is also a vocal critic of some of the NRM government’s programmes. That makes him quite unpredictable. So which way would he have voted?
Ms Nankabirwa expressed shock at the manner in which one of the MPs from Busia had voted. Well, she would have been in for another shock.
“I would have definitely voted no. The amendment had not been popular among the people of Iganga Municipality,” he said.
Doreen Amule- Amolatar District
During local celebrations to commemorate Independence Day in Amolatar at Boma Grounds last year, the Amolator MP was attacked by a section of residents as she tried to sell to them the idea of supporting the controversial constitutional amendment.
Some of those in attendance were said to have grabbed the microphone from her and stopped her from making any further submissions at the function.
Police in Amolatar was forced to bolster her security. The North Kyoga region police spokesperson, Mr David Ongom Mudong, confirmed last October that the MP had been provided with two additional police escorts.
Despite the threats to hear personal security, Ms Amule, who was one of the co-sponsors of the Bill, was expected to have voted in favour of the same, but was listed as those who were not in the House when the vote was called.
It was not possible to establish where she was and why as several telephone calls to her known mobile phone were neither answered nor returned by press time. A text message to the same number was also not responded to.