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Parliament approves bill providing for elderly representation

The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga chairing the afternoon plenary session. Photo by Parliament of Uganda.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Parliament has approved a bill providing for the inclusion of five representatives of older persons in the house. These will now form part of the other marginalized groups that are currently represented in parliament.

Article 78 of the constitution provides for the composition of Parliament and it recognizes members directly elected to represent constituencies, one woman representative for every district, representatives of the army, youth, workers, and persons with disabilities.

During the plenary session chaired by the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga on Tuesday, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Ephraim Kamuntu tabled the Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which provides for five representatives of older persons in parliament. It also seeks to operationalise Articles 32 (1) and 78 (1) of the Constitution and provide for the manner of election of representatives of older persons in parliament by electoral college. 

Immediately after the Bill’s first reading, Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal took to the floor and moved a motion for the suspension of several Parliament Rules of Procedure that provide for a process of handling a Bill to enable them consider the piece of legislation immediately. Usually after a Bill’s first reading, it is sent to the responsible committee for scrutiny within a period of 45 days after, which a report is presented before parliament for debate and approval. 

In her motion, Ogwal said that she was speaking on behalf of millions of people who have reached the age of 60 and there is no body to cater for them.  She noted that it was important that the House isn’t  polarized because of this.

Ogwal also said that Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) compel countries to leave no one behind in their democratic process and that due regard should be made for the representation of older persons through the enactment of a law to facilitate the Electoral Commission (EC) to organize for their election.

However, Wilfred Niwagaba, the Shadow Attorney General noted that the Speaker had earlier directed presentation of a Bill to amend the Constitution. He wondered whether the ruling had been vacated to allow for presentation of a Bill amending the Parliamentary Elections Act.

Kadaga noted that the provision in the Parliamentary Elections Act is the same as that in the Constitution. 

Ogwal’s motion to suspend various rules was then adopted and MPs proceeded to debate and consider the Bill. During the debate, majority of the MPs supported the government position. But the Kampala Central MP, Muhammed Nsereko cautioned against creating seats for special interest groups since it doesn’t necessarily address the real issues.   He instead urged parliament to look into the welfare of the special interest groups like the elderly other than creating seats for them. Kasilo County MP, Elijah Okupa also said that the elderly people are the most represented in the current government and cited several elderly ficials in the Judiciary, Executive and Legislature.    Okupa said that the concerns of the elderly can easily be addressed in the current government given its composition.  However, Kadag cautioned the legislators against digressing from the matter before them.   

After the debate, Parliament moved to approve clauses within the Bill and adopted the provision to have five representatives for older person, one of them being female.

The Bill also provides that the election of representatives of older persons in Parliament shall be divided into four regions namely; Northern Region, Eastern Region, Central Region and Western Region.

According to the Bill, the four regional electoral colleges shall each elect a Member of Parliament to represent the respective region and shall, after doing so, jointly elect the national woman representative for older persons.   “All members of a District Council for Older Persons within each region shall constitute an electoral college for the election of the representative of the older person in Parliament for that region. A person seeking to be elected as a representative of older persons in Parliament shall be aged at least sixty years and shall also be qualified to be a member of Parliament in terms of article 80 of the Constitution and section 4 of this Act,” reads the Bill.

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