Ugandan MPs ejected from parliament


At least five Ugandan lawmakers received hospital treatment for injuries sustained while being dragged out of the parliament by plain-clothes security guards opposition MPs said were soldiers from President Yoweri Museveni’s Special Forces.

The clashes erupted in the chamber last week over a motion to end a constitutional limit on the president’s age, effectively allowing 73-year-old Museveni, one of Africa’s most entrenched “Big Men”, to extend his 31 years in power.

Reinforcing lawmakers’ suggestions soldiers were involved in the incidents, television footage showed Uganda’s Special Forces commander in parliament just before dozens of MPs were forcibly removed.

Ugandan authorities have not commented.

Rights groups denounced the incidents as a violation of parliament’s ban on police or soldiers entering the chamber.
“In effect what happened was an overthrow of the constitutional order,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a Kampala-based human rights lawyer and political analyst.

One of the ejected MPs, Gaffa Mbwatekamwa, had a cracked left arm in bandages and a sling as he described his ordeal.
“These guys grabbed me from behind and one twisted my arm. I started screaming and another one squeezed my balls,” he told Reuters at a Kampala hospital where he was visiting a fellow injured legislator.

He and other MPs said they were also punched and kicked by security guards. Mbwatekamwa added some of the alleged guards were recognised as members of the armed forces.

That claim was backed by footage aired by the private NTV Uganda channel of Special Forces Command (SFC) Colonel Don Nabasa pacing the corridors of parliament moments before security guards burst into the chamber.

Police chief Kale Kayihura also told the NBS television channel police enlisted the help of “sister” security agencies to clear parliament, a term used by police to refer to the armed forces.

Police spokesman Asan Kasigye denied legislators were beaten by security personnel. A spokesman for the Special Forces Command said he could not comment beyond the statement from the police chief.

US ambassador Deborah Malac criticised the “rough treatment” of lawmakers and said she expected them to be treated “humanely”.

Despite growing cries of autocracy against Museveni, Washington backs him as a strongman who has turned Uganda into a bulwark of stability in Africa’s troubled Great Lakes region.

Nabasa’s predecessor as head of Special Forces was Museveni’s son, Muhoozi Kainerugaba, who many Ugandans believe is being groomed as a successor to his father. Uganda’s next election is in 2021.

Museveni’s moves to extend his term mirror similar attempts in neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi, where they have sparked serious political instability, including armed insurrection.