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Niwagaba’s radical Constitution Bill one step away

Independent Ndorwa East MP Niwagaba’s Private Member’s Bill to amend the constitution is due to be voted on by parliament any time from now

✳ Repeal offices of RDCs
✳ Remove Army MPs
✳ Restrict Ministers to 21
✳ Panel of Speakers in Parliament
✳ Reinstate Presidential term limits
✳ UPF to Uganda Police Services
✳ Repeal office of Prime Minister
✳ Have an Elected Deputy President

Kadaga closes debate on Constitution Amendment Bill, to give notice of vote on the articles proposed

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT & URN | 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, scrap 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.

He was supported by Mbale Municipality MP Wamai Wamanga who said the position of RDC 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 to Police Services.

“Our Constitution has really suffered with amendments. If it was mortal, it would have been diagnosed with amendment fatigue,” said Robert Centenary, 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. READ FULL TEXT Constitutional-Amendment-Bill-2019_2

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.

Speaker Kadaga

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.

Those opposing the proposed extension for MPs terms included his colleague from Tororo.

“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.

Legal and Parliamentary Committee chairman Oboth Oboth. His committee reviewing the bill has recommended that government commences the process of increasing the term of political offices from 5 to 7 years.

Panel of Speakers

Cecilia Ogwal called for an adoption of the proposal for a team of speakers to improve the efficiency of parliament.

“The issue of panel of speakers is now a practice in East Africa. Two persons are not enough to steer House. 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-politic. 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 critical 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 of U­ganda 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;

(o)pro­hibit the ap­point­ment of Min­is­ters from among mem­bers of Par­lia­ment;

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

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

(r) 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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