LEGISLATURE - The High Court is set to deliver its ruling on the Liberal Party (PL) politicians’ disputes tomorrow. During a heated hearing session yesterday at the High Court in Nyamirambo, the warring parties, involving PL president Protais Mitali and expelled legislators Elie Ngirabakunzi and Isaie Murashi, the plaintiffs contested against what they called illegal sacking from the party.
“Our clients were sacked illegally from the Party. And the National Electoral Commission (NEC) approved the dismissals based on wrong information fed to them by (party) members who were against our clients,” Floribert Karuranga, one of the defence lawyers, said.
MPs Ngirabakunzi and Murashi are seeking a court injunction to block the party’s September 27 decision to withdraw them from the Chamber of Deputies.
On Tuesday, NEC replaced the two lawmakers with Francois Udahemuka and Charles Kamanda in Parliament following PL’s request.
Karuranga however hastened to add the problem was not with the Commission.
Defence council John Bosco Kazungu said there was no relevance for his clients to appear before court as NEC had already announced the successors for Ngirabakunzi and Murashi.
But the argument was challenged by Mbaga Tuzinde Mbonyimbuga, another lawyer for the petitioners, saying that those announced by NEC were not to become MPs as they had not sworn-in yet.
“They are not Members of Parliament until they are sworn in before the President of the Republic,” he argued.
However Kazungu insisted that taking the oath was simply a formality.
He also accused the petitioners of making errors in filing the suit. “Their petition should have been a request to suspend the decision of the party, but not an injunction,” Kazungu told the court that was presided over by Emmanuel Itamwa.
Lawyers for the fired legislators on Friday petitioned the High Court seeking an injunction, and notified the Chamber of Deputies of the unfolding court case.
However, vice Speaker Ambassador Denis Polisi on the same day wrote to NEC president Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa requesting his office to announce the two MPs’ replacements.
Ngirabakunzi, Isaie Murashi, and three other PL members were fired from the party last Thursday after two months of tense wrangles following contentious party polls.
The three other expelled officials are party president for the Southern Province, Dr Laurien Nyabyenda, Emmanuel Uwimana (first vice president for Western Province) and Emmanuel Musabyimana, who was the party chief in Kicukiro Sector, Kigali.
The five politicians have filed a separate but related lawsuit challenging their expulsion from the party. The case is also with the High Court, but the date of hearing is yet to be fixed.
The party’s executive committee took the decision to sack the five men after they repeatedly accused Mitali, party first vice president Senator Odette Nyiramirimo and others, of rigging the hotly contested August 5 party elections.
Those accused dismissed the claims, and instead alleged that the five were attempting to split the party for personal benefits. Mitali is the Minister of Commerce, Industry, Tourism, Investment Promotion and Cooperatives.