PARLIAMENT - Parliamentarians Elie Ngirabakunzi and Isaie Murashi are seeking a court injunction against a decision by the Liberal Party (PL) to expel them from the Chamber of Deputies. The party president Protais Mitali on Thursday wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Alfred Mukezamfura notifying him that the two MPs had been expelled from the party, and thus automatically lost their parliamentary seats since they had joined the August House on PL ticket. Mitali is also the Minister for Commerce, Industry, Investment Promotion, Tourism and Cooperatives.
“The (two) deputies should be replaced according to the law,” Mitali said in a letter that was copied to among others, the Consultative Forum of Political Parties, the National Electoral Commission (NEC). Ngirabakunzi was also the party treasurer.
The two-page letter, whose copy we obtained, was delivered yesterday to the Chamber of Deputies, the Party Forum and NEC.
The two MPs together with three other PL officials: first vice president for the Southern Province, Dr Laurien Nyabyenda, Emmanuel Uwimana (first vice president for Western Province) and Emmanuel Musabyimana, the party’s president in Kicukiro Sector in Kicukiro District, were also served with their individual expulsion letters.
The five politicians accused Mitali, party first vice president Senator Odette Nyiramirimo, and others, of rigging the hotly contested August 5 party elections. The latter rejected the claims, and instead accused the five of attempting to split the party for personal benefits.
The party’s National Executive Committee had mid this month suspended them from all PL leadership positions for four years.
However, in a swift move the expelled lawmakers have petitioned the High Court requesting it to block the decision.
Through their lawyers, Mbaga Tuzinde Mbonyimbuga and Floribert Karuranga, the two MPs are also challenging the legality of the decision to expel them from the party, requesting the court to stay it until courts pronounce themselves on a lawsuit challenging the expulsion.
At the same time, the five expelled members have filed a case with the High Court against the party’s September 27 decision to force them out of the party altogether.
They also want the party to pay back all charges incurred due to the legal challenge.
“Until that dispute is resolved, then nobody can be legally sworn-in to replace them in Parliament,” Mbaga said yesterday.
He said since such ceremonies are graced by top leaders notably the President and the Chief Justice, by swearing in their replacements, it would be an act of compromising the courts “the reason why we think the party’s decision is not bound as of now.”
“They are MPs and will continue to go about their usual parliamentary duties as long as the courts have not supported the expulsion,” he said.
Article 78 of the Constitution gives the MPs the right to seek legal redress by lodging a lawsuit with the High Court (as the court of first instance) and the Supreme Court in case of an appeal.
Karuranga also said the party did not follow its internal regulations in expelling the legislators “because its is only the Party Congress with powers to make such a decision because those expelled were members of the party’s National Executive Committee.”
He said it was only the party Congress with powers to expel them.
The defence counsels said the High Court yesterday registered the files under reference numbers 0040 (for the main case) and 0041 for the injunction petition.
The decision to expel the MPs, according to a letter signed by Mitali, was taken by members of the National Executive Committee in a meeting held on September 16.
The expelled members last evening held a prompt press conference denouncing the decision, and insisted that they were victims of their denunciation of corruption among top party bigwigs.
The men allege that Mitali and some other party officials diverted party funds and that they had issued bounced cheques.
The expulsion come a month after a party probe team said it had failed to technically confirm or disqualify the bribery allegations, calling for more robust independent investigations.
But the probe team led by MP Emmanuel Mugabowindekwe criticized how the five politicians handled the matter. The infighting comes just one year ahead of the next parliamentary elections.