Uganda: Radical Niwagaba Constitution Bill One Step Away

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has closed debate on the Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2019 that seeks to among many radical suggestions repeal the offices of RDCs, reinstate Presidential term limits, crap UPDF representation and cut number of senior ministers to 21.

“In every district there is the RDC, Police Commander, Internal Security Officer, Secretary of Defense and Chief Administrative Officer for monitoring govt services, thus this RDC position is a duplication of services,” mover of the motion Wilfred Niwagaba argued earlier.

He was supported by Mbale Municipality MP Wamai Wamanga who said the position of RDCs was wasting public resources since they duplicate the roles of other security agencies.

However several MPs opposed any additional constitutional changes.The Constitution Amendment Bill 2019 that has dominated parliament for three days, also seeks to create a new electable office of Deputy President and change the name of the Uganda Police Force.

“Our Constitution has really suffered with amendments. If it was mortal, it would have been diagnosed with amendment fatigue,” said Robert Centenary Franco, arguing that “We should not treat our constitution like a piece of cloth that is tailored whenever someone changes size. We need to sanctify our constitution.”

Kadaga says vote next

This bill was read for the first time on 19th December, 2019, and referred to the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, pursuant to Rule 128 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament.

After three days of debate, Kadaga on Thursday afternoon said that a total of 65 MPs had presented their views and that the bill’s second reading, were MPs take a vote on each proposal, will be on notice. Article 260 of the Constitution, requires two-thirds of the total number of legislators at the second and third reading of the Bill.

Out of 65 MPs who participated in the debate, there seemed to be consensus on the proposal to reinstate the presidential term limits and the establishment of a panel of Speakers to ensure business goes on in the house even in the absence of the Speaker and Deputy.

However, MPs expressed divergent views on the several proposed constitutional amendments including the removal of UPDF representation in Parliament, scrapping the Resident District Commissioners- RDCs, making all Ministers Ex-officials, reducing the size of Cabinet to about 40 Ministers (21 Cabinet Ministers and 21 State Ministers), holding the 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 it isn’t part of the original proposals in the Bill, the proposal tabled by the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee to increase the term of office for Parliament and other elected officials from 5 to 7 years beginning May 21st divided the House after a section of MPs supported the proposal.

Angelline Osegge said the proposal to increase the term for MPs from five (5) to seven (7) years is uncalled for. “Madam Speaker, as a country we have seen what long stay in power can cause to the stability of the country. I strongly reject any attempts to encourage long stay in power,” Osegge said.

Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee chair Oboth Oboth was an unhappy that his colleagues were tagging proposed changes to him personally, yet he simply presented a report on behalf of the majority in his committee.

“I supported the removal of the age limit on condition that we restored the term limits. The country can be at peace if we did that. I however, disagree with the committee on the introduction of the political 7 year term,” said Richard Othieno Okoth

Niwagaba earlier presented the minority report from the committee signed by Mathias Mpuuga, Ibrahim Nganda, Abdul Katuntu, Muhammed Nsereko and Asuman Basalirrwa.

This proposal on the terms of MPs was initially passed by parliament while amending the Constitution in 2017 but was quashed by the Constitutional Court.

If approved by Parliament, Uganda would hold its next general election in 2028 instead of 2026. The Minister of State for Lands Persis Namuganza supported the move to increase the parliament term saying that most of the MPs wanted it as well but were afraid to speak out.

Panel of Speakers

Cecilia Ogwal called for an adoption of the proposal to improve effeciency of parliament.

“The issue of panel of speakers is now a practice in East Africa. 2 persons are not enough to steer House. We passed a resolution in May 2019. This panel must carry the spirit of our rules that takes into consideration all political shades of opinion,” she said.

UPDF speaks out

On the proposal to remove UPDF representative Brig. Felix Kulayigye said that their presence is still necessary.

“The military is part of our body-politik. For us to sustain what we have achieved in this country, we cannot throw away what we struggled for. I therefore, state that the army should stay in Parliament,” he said.

Gen. Moses Ali, the First Deputy Prime Minister also rejected the proposal to remove army representatives in parliament and added that the office of the RDC should not be removed, but rather remove individual RDCs who degrade the environment.

On removal of the army from parliament, Niwagaba said the UPDF is neither a marginalized group nor has it played its duty in preserving and defending the sovereignty of Uganda. He says the army has failed to remain impartial by engaging in partisan politics.

The Bunyole West MP James Waluswaka instead suggested that the 10 slots for the Army representatives should be divided among the security agencies including Police and Prison Services.

Patrick Okabe was also crictial of the growing influence of the UPDF. “We are soon going to have parliament as the command centre of the UPDF. The CDF and other high ranking officers will be here. Their election process should also be more transparent. Let us have two or a maximum five but not 10.”

MP Nambeshe added that, “The continued presence of the UPDF in this temple of multiparty politics contravenes sections of our constitution which states that the army should not take part in partisan politics.”

Objectives of the bill

The objective of the Bill is to amend the Constitution of the Republic ofUganda in accordance with articles 259 and 262 of the Constitution to-

(a) provide for the involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission;

(b) provide for the qualifications of a chairperson of the Electoral Commission;

(c) prescribe the grounds for the disqualification of members of the Electoral Commission;

(d) require the Electoral Commission to determine election complaints that arise before polling within ten days;

(e) provide for the oath of allegiance of the leader of the opposition;

(f) provide for the holding of presidential, general parliamentary and local government council elections on the same day whenever possible;

(g) remove representation of the army from Parliament;

(h) provide for the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General as ex-officio members of Parliament;

(i) provide for the Speaker’s Panel;

j) provide for the involvement of the Parliamentary Commission in the appointment of the Clerk to Parliament;

(k) allow political parties or organizations, or voters to challenge presidential elections;

l) restrict presidential term to two terms only;

(m) replace the office of Vice President with the office of Deputy President and provide for his or her election;

n) repeal the office of Prime Minister; prohibit the appointment of Ministers from among members of Parliament;

(p) restrict the number of Cabinet Ministers and otherMinisters to twenty one respectively;

(q) provide for the appointment of the Attorney Generaland Deputy Attomey General by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission; and their tenure of office;

G) increase the tenure of office of members of the Public Service Commission from four to five years;

(s) mandate Public Service Commission to determine salaries and allowances of public officers under Chapter Ten of the Constitution;

(t) mandate the Public Service Commission, Education Service Commission and Health Service Commission, as the case may be, to appoint persons to hold or act in the respective office of the rank of head of department or above;

(u) repeal the office of resident district commissioner;

(v) change the name of Uganda Police Force to Uganda Police Service and provide for the regulation of its conduct;

(w) provide for the establishment and functions of city land boards;

(x) and provide for other related matters.


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