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Opposition MPs Discuss How to Advance Constitution (Amendment) Bill

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The opposition legislators met over the weekend in a three day retreat at Entebbe led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan, their party leaders and representatives from Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Justice Forum to chat away forward.
Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ochan.
Opposition legislators have laid strategies on how to push the privately sponsored Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by the Shadow Attorney General, Wilfred Niwagaba.   The bill seeks to among other things scrap the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal the office of Prime Minister, reinstate presidential term limits and prohibit the appointment of Ministers from among Members of Parliament. 

The opposition legislators met over the weekend in a three day retreat at Entebbe led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Betty Aol Ocan, their party leaders and representatives from Uganda People's Congress (UPC), Democratic Party (DP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) and Justice Forum to chat away forward.   It followed a directive from the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah to the Clerk to Parliament to gazette the Bill.  It followed the failure by the Finance Ministry to provide Niwagaba a certificate of financial implications as required by the Rules of Procedure and the Public Finance Management Act.  Once gazetted, the bill will be formally presented to Parliament for its first reading.

The Shadow Justice and  Constitutional Affairs Minister, Medard Sseggona, says that although the bill seeks to amend the Constitution, it needs to be comprehensive and moved after a constitutional review process so that it isn’t shot down by their colleagues. Sseggona advised his colleagues to stick to areas where they have chance of getting the support of most MPs including those on the government side. 

“We must be strategic and different from our colleagues in government. We must not seem to target the president as this creates immediate opposition against the entire Bill,” he said. He however said that all proposals would be considered at a later stage and wide consultations would be held among parties and parliamentary party caucuses.  

Sseggona said that the amendment to prohibit the appointment of Ministers from among members of Parliament would liberate the Legislature from the Executive and guarantee the independence of the institution. The Leader of the Opposition, Betty Aol Ocan, said the Bill was not targeting the sitting President but rather to improve democracy and governance in the country.

“This is about how to improve on governance in our country and this Bill will help solve several challenges we have. The retreat is over but the conversation continues,” she said. Adding that, “It’s our Bill, so we have to popularize it. All parties should participate in it.” The FDC Party President, Patrick Amuriat, advised the MPs to reach out to their colleagues in government as they are part of the decision making processes in Parliament.

“It seems that the Bill is going to be subjected to the sympathy of those (MPs) on the other side (government side/NRM), so we have to be nice to them. I suggest that the promoters and us outside Parliament come out and popularize it,” he told MPs.  “I give our assurance that we will stand with you in every step that you make to move this Bill,” he added. The Bill among others also seeks to provide for the involvement of the Parliamentary Commission in the appointment of the Clerk to Parliament; Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission (EC) and the qualification of the EC Chairperson and the grounds for disqualification of EC members.