PARLIAMENT - Today’s highly anticipated parliamentary session promises fireworks as two expelled PL lawmakers have vowed to return to Parliament amid heightened tension. MPs Elie Ngirabakunzi and Isaie Murashi were on September 27 thrown out of the Chamber of Deputies by their party, Liberal Party (PL), but they immediately filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction. The High Court is set to rule on the case today. The two MPs and three other politicians were sacked from the party after two months of infighting over allegations of bribery and poll rigging.
Although the National Electoral Commission (NEC) on Tuesday named their replacements, the two legislators are defiant, insisting that they still hold their parliamentary seats as their dismissal was ‘illegal’.
Murashi said yesterday that he would attend today’s session during which the Lower House will open its third ordinary term.
“There are laws that govern this country; and those are the laws that we have to follow. Article 78 of the Constitution gives us the right to keep our status as MPs until competent organs rule otherwise,” Murashi said.
He added: “We are still MPs and will continue to go about our parliamentary business as usual.”
However Ngirabakunzi said he was in a state of ‘confusion.’
He said: “I am too confused. If I follow the Constitution, then I will have to turn up tomorrow (today). But that is likely to cause terrible chaos, and that is why I don’t know what to do.
“I will either ignore the law to prevent chaos or I respect the law and expect some unpleasant happenings at Parliament.”
He said he was being fought by some officials he described as ‘cowboys’, and particularly singled out vice Speaker Denis Polisi who, he said ‘ganged up’ with some NEC officials to plot his downfall.
Polisi, who was has been acting as the Speaker, on Friday wrote to NEC asking them to replace Ngirabakunzi and Murashi, a day after he had received a letter from PL notifying him that the duo had been withdrawn from the House.
Ngirabakunzi called on fellow MPs to protest his expulsion from the House.
“We are lawmakers not lawbreakers; my fellow colleagues should not tolerate such malpractices; they should do something about it or else our Parliament will be proving to be incompetent,” he said.
Ngirabakunzi insisted that the Parliamentary Bureau acted illegally by asking the NEC to replace him and Murashi. NEC president Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa announced businessmen Francois Udahemuka and Charles Kamanda as their successors.
Article 78 of the Constitution states in part: “Any deputy who, during his or her mandate, either resigns from his or her political organisation or resigns from the Chamber of Deputies or is expelled from the political organisation to which he or she belongs in accordance with provisions of the organic law governing political organisations or joins another political organisation, shall automatically lose his or her seat in the Chamber of Deputies.”
It adds: “Disputes relating to decisions taken in accordance with the proceeding paragraph are adjudicated by the High Court of the Republic in the first instance and by the Supreme Court in the second and the last instance.”
The MPs’ expulsion is largely centred on the August 5 party elections that saw Commerce minister Protais Mitali and Senator Odette Nyiramirimo, controversially clinching the posts of party president and first vice president, respectively.
Ngirabakunzi, Murashi and three other party leaders – PL 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, later contested the election results, citing irregularities.
They repeatedly accused Mitali, Dr Nyiramirimo, and others, of rigging the hotly contested elections held at Red Cross headquarters in Kigali.
Their claims were however dismissed by most of the other party leaders, who instead blamed the five men of plotting to split the party for their personal benefits. Besides the injunction application, the five politicians also filed a separate lawsuit with the High Court challenging their dismissal from the party. Meanwhile MP Sam Kanyemera Kaka is also expected to show up for today’s session.
Kaka, a former army chief of staff, had been arrested and charged for allegedly obstructing justice but was acquitted last month.
The retired army general and Brig. Gen. Frank Rusagara had been arrested for allegedly failing police efforts to apprehend city businessman Assinapol Rwigara at a funeral service in Kabusunzu.