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Parliament Defers Debate on Opposition Constitutional Amendment Bill

The Bill moved by the Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba seeks to scrap the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal of the Office of Prime Minister and Vice President, reinstate presidential term limits and prohibit the appointment of Ministers from MPs among other things.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga

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The Speaker of Parliament on Wednesday deferred debate on the Opposition sponsored Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 following complaints from legislators about inactive iPads.

The Bill moved by the Shadow Attorney General Wilfred Niwagaba seeks to scrap the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal of the Office of Prime Minister and Vice President, reinstate presidential term limits and prohibit the appointment of Ministers from MPs among other things.  

Each of the 457 Members of the 10th Parliament was provided with an iPad to aid them to receive different documents to facilitate their debate during Committee sittings and Plenary sessions.

Following Tuesday’s presentation of a report by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Chairperson Jacob Oboth-Oboth about the Bill and the Minority report authored by Busiro East MP Medard Sseggona, MPs were on Wednesday scheduled to debate the Bill after Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s guidance.

In her guidance, Speaker Kadaga disgreed with an earlier request by Leader of Opposition Betty Aol Ocan to shelve the proposed piece of legislation for the 11th Parliament since it was hard for them to raise quorum. Kadaga said that the question of quorum which is two thirds of all MPs only arises when the Bill has moved for its second and third reading and not during debate.

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This ruling by the Speaker paved way for debate to begin only for Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu to raise a complaint of inactive iPads and their failure to receive copies of the Committee report to guide debate.

Speaker Kadaga wondered why the iPads were not functioning since internet had been restored fully.

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Equally, Jacqueline Amongin, the Ngora Woman MP said that many of them have not been privy to the Committee report to enable them debate effectively. She appealed that the debate is referred at a later date so that they first access the committee report.

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In response, Speaker Kadaga deferred the debate to Tuesday next week to enable all MPs access the report.

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In the main committee report presented by MP Jacob Oboth, several of Niwagaba’s proposals were rejected. Some of these are a proposal to scrap the representation of the army in Parliament, repeal of the Office of Prime Minister and Vice President, appointment of Chairperson and Commissioners of the Electoral Commission by Judicial Service Commission, repealing Office of Resident District Commissioners; making all Ministers Ex-officios, reducing the size of Cabinet to about 40 Ministers (21 Cabinet Ministers and 21 State Ministers), introducing the Speakers' panel in Parliament and others.    

However, the Committee agreed with the proposal to reinstate presidential term limits, hold Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government elections on the same day, allowing a political party or Organizations that sponsored a candidate to challenge results of Presidential elections and others.

Although not part of the original proposals in the Bill, the Committee recommends that the term of office for Parliament and other elected officials increase from 5 to 7 years beginning May 2021. This proposal was earlier passed by parliament while amending the Constitution in 2017, but later quashed by the Constitutional Court. If approved by Parliament, Uganda would hold its next general election in 2028 instead of 2026.

“Presidential term limits to be meaningful, the presidential term has to be sufficient enough to enable the President implement and fulfill his or her manifesto. It is the considered opinion of the Committee that the term of five years is insufficient for the implementation of the manifesto in order to have a meaningful impact on the development of the country,” reads part of the committee report.  

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