Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Democratic Party President Nobert Mao wants the Human Rights Committee of Parliament chaired by the opposition in order to keep the government in check. He made the recommendation while appearing before the Human Rights Committee of Parliament which is probing violence in the just concluded 2021 elections.
Although the Human Rights Committee falls under standing committees, thus is chaired and deputized by the National Resistance Movement-NRM as stipulated in the rules of procedure, Mao wants it chaired by an opposition MP since it is an accountability committee.
The rules of procedure provide that the party or organization in government shall designate the chairperson and deputy chairperson of each standing committee. However, the rules place Public Accounts (Central and Local Government), Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprise and the Committee on Government Assurance under the official opposition party.
According to Mao, although opposition MPs seat on the human rights committee, the ruling party cannot be the same to chair it since most of the victims of the human rights violation are mainly opposition members.
The Committee has in the past probed contentious matters like safe houses and senior security officers in relation to torturing Ugandans. The committee was also at the center of investigating Nalufenya police facility for torture.
There were concerns in the house when the committee chairperson, Jovah Kamateeka, the then chairperson and member of the ruling NRM party wrote a report indicating that there was no torture. However, the minority report pointed to gross human rights at Nalufenya police facility.
Parliament adopted both reports leading to the closure of Nalufenya police facility. Mao also told the members that despite probing rights violations during elections, the problem starts right from Parliament. He explained that opposition politicians have in the past been brutalized while trying to access Parliament even just to deliver a petition.
He explained that security at parliament often wants to scrutinize each document they want to present to parliament, which violates their rights. Speaking about the electoral violence, Mao said opposition politicians were harassed by security throughout the entire campaign with police holding candidates in the cells most of the time.
Mao told the committee that he was personally blocked from entering Kasese district and different media houses.
He also accused the government of using the COVID-19 standard operating procedures to trample on their rights.