JUDICIARY - The High Court yesterday ruled that embattled legislators Elie Ngirabakunzi and Isaie Murashi are still Members of Parliament despite having been sacked by their party the Liberal Party (PL).
Presiding judge Emmanuel Itamwa said the two MPs’ decision to seek a court injunction to block the party’s September 27 resolution to withdraw them from the Chamber of Deputies and immediately replace them was lawful.
The judge also said that the announcement of the two legislators’ successors by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) was only part of the normal process through which prospective MPs are endorsed, and does not mean that those announced are already lawmakers.
“No body becomes a Parliamentarian before taking an oath before the President of the Republic or the President of Senate,” he said.
He said taking the oath was not a formality as it had earlier been argued by defence lawyer John Bosco Kazungu.
Following the verdict, Ngirabankunzi told journalists that he was happy with the court’s decision. “The ruling demonstrates that there is transparency in our court, and it is a reminder that we should all have faith in judiciary. I am optimistic that whatever mess was committed will be rectified.”
The afternoon court session was attended by a host of senior party officials including PL party president Protais Mitali, PL first vice president Senator Odette Nyiramirimo, the two announced MPs-elect Francois Udahemuka and Charles Kamanda, Murashi, among others.
The court on Wednesday heard from both sides.
NEC president Prof. Chrysologue Karangwa had on Tuesday announced the two MPs’ replacements, sparking fears for a crisis in case courts overturned the decision after the swearing in of Udahemuka and Kamanda.
The lawmakers and three other party officials were expelled from the party after accusing Mitali, Nyiramirimo and others of rigging the hotly contested August 5 party elections.
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 all since filed a separate but related lawsuit challenging their expulsion from the party. The case is also with the High Court, and the court has scheduled the hearing for October 18.
Those accused dismissed the claims, and instead alleged that the five were attempting to split the party for personal benefits.
Mitali is also the Minister of Commerce, Industry, Tourism, Investment Promotion and Cooperatives.
However, court ruled that the plaintiffs could not be awarded damages since they did not indicate what damage they accrued following their replacement from the House.