It was a chaotic scene in Parliament after members of the Parliamentary Defence committee clashed with each other over the way government was handling the process of deploying UPDF troops in South Sudan.
It all began when the opposition legislators; Ibrahim Ssemuju Nganda, (Kyadondo East) and Mukasa Kivumbi ( Butambala) took on their NRM counterparts and accused them and the committee chairperson, Ms Benny Namugwanya Bugembe of conspiring with the Defence Minister to fail yesterday’s meeting and the consequent meetings.
The Defence Minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga was expected before the committee yesterday to explain the country’s military presence in South Sudan without constitutional approval but he did not show up.
Whereas his junior Minister,Gen Jeje Odong appeared before the committee to ask legislators for more time “to recall my team [his staff] back”, the opposition MPs claimed that their NRM colleagues and the Minister were plotting against the committee meeting.
Jeje said he did not have all his staff around and therefore could not brief the committee but the opposition MPs insisted government did not want to feed them with answers after they deployed without Parliamentary approval.
“I have established from reliable sources that the Minister’s excuse [to ask for more time] is a cover up because by yesterday, the Chief of Defence forces, Gen Katumba Wamala was on his way to deploy UPDF soldiers in South Sudan to guard the Oil wells there after Khartoum pulled out,” said Mr Ssemuju.
He claimed that Mr Kiyonga had too headed to South Sudan, an allegation that Gen Jeje dismissed.Jeje said that Gen Wamala was at the boarder in West Nile while other officials were out of the country.
“Government says its there [in South Sudan] on the invitation of South Sudan but they had long deployed the soldiers and they are now buying time with the connivance of NRM committee members because they have no answers,” said Mr Ssemuju
The MP claimed that their NRM colleagues had met earlier in the morning to strategise on how to fail yesterday’s meeting.
It also emerged that the chairperson had without the permission of the committee written to the Defence Minister inviting him for the meeting on Friday (today) but without the knowledge of some MPs.
“I am surprised that today’s meeting is on because I met the Minister in the corridors and he informed me that it has been called off. He told me that another meeting had been called on Friday but those are the last things I can ever accommodate in my life because this puts the leadership of the committee in a despicable situation. Are you [asking Jeje Odong) following the law? Also if you are coming here to lie and the chairperson is part of the conspiracy, is this fair for Ugandans,?”, asked Mr Kivumbi.
Ms Namugwanya in response apologized about the Friday letter she sent to the ministry but Mr Semujju insisted that what was happening in the meeting was a “play up and everything was stage managed,”.
Minister Jeje at this moment lost his cool and threatened to walk away.
“It is objectionable for a member to insinuate this. This is absolutely nonsensical .I will not sit here and accept this kind of nonsense,” he responded.
With the persistent intervention of MPs Saleh Kamba, (Kibuku), Simon Murongo (Bubulo West) and Peter Eriaku,(Kapelebyong County). the legislators finally agreed to postpone the meeting to today.
The government of South Sudan on Wednesday defended the deployment of UPDF in Juba, saying Uganda has the right to stop the conflict from degenerating into a genocide.
Mr Samuel Lominsuk,the South Sudan ambassador said his government, that of DRC and Uganda have a military agreement that allows UPDF to enter South Sudan to hunt for LRA rebels led by Joseph Kony, “which prompted UPDF to intervene and defend Uganda’s borders.”
MPs have previously questioned why government deployed without Parliament’s mandate and want answers from government. Government is however on record defending their intervention as a timely to evacuate Ugandans out of South Sudan.