Wednesday, May 25, 2011

2011 – 2016; Uganda under President Museveni, corrupt ministers and a partisan parliament.

Uganda dissolved the 8th parliament recently which political commentators described as one the worst in Uganda’s history. Judgment was based on performance, bills passed and the independence of the parliament from other Arms of Government like the executive. The 8th parliament was also characterized by a lot of drama that included some members of the house storming out of the house in protest and other opposition MPs locked out for turning the house into a boxing ring. Several bills weren't passed. The most outstanding bills included the Domestic Relations Bill which as been debated for several decades without being passed, and then; “anti gay bill” was introduced in the 8th parliament.

While some Ugandans, donors and the Civil Society are waiting to start rating the performance of the 9th parliament. I have already started doing my rating. I predict that the 9th Parliament will be the worst house ever. On May 24, 2011 President Museveni who was sworn in for his record 4th presidential term appointed two of the countries best lawyers Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi and Amama Mbabazi as his Vice President and Prime Minister respectively. The appointments were a surprise to many who were eagerly waiting to see who makes it to the next cabinet. If these two, Mr Ssekandi and Mbabazi were the only ones who make up the 9th house and cabinet, I am one of those that believe we would have a best house. Unfortunately, they will work alongside the parliament where ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) has 145 members, the opposition has only 50 members and 29 NRM-leaning independents. This is why I think the 9th parliament and cabinet will be the worst.

1. The (NRM) party has 145 members while the opposition has only 50 members. Still almost all the 26 independents are NRM supporters. To me, this means that the opposition in parliament will be an exact description the NRM calls them; the “shadow opposition” The opposition will again resort to fighting with fists and throwing shoes at NRM members to make their voices

2. The Leader of Opposition in the 8th parliament lost in the previous elections and will not part of the 9th house. Professor Ogenga Latigo was not only respected the NRM as an intelligent parliamentarian but he stood by his position throughout the 8th parliament and provided the best guidance the opposition needed. None of the current opposition members of parliament are any closer in quality to Professor Ogenga Latigo. I don't think the opposition will benefit much from their next leader in the 9th house.

3. The 9th parliament is still dominated by NRM members some of whom have been in parliament since 1996 and whom the whole world saw being bribed with app.$2000 each to scrap presidential term limits to allow president Museveni stand for his 3rd term. As soon the MP for Lyantonde’s Kabula county Mr James Kokooza was declared winner of the hotly contested elections, he called the press and announced that he going to table a bill in the 9th parliament that seeks to increase presidential term limits from 5 years to 7 years (Mr. Kakooza came to the limelight after spearheading the scrapping to presidential term limits from the constitution back in mid 2000s. He is back in style this time; huh!) If the bill is passed and President Museveni decides to seek reelection in 2016, he will be president till 2023; King Muswati style!

4. Most of the NRM ministers who have been implicated in big corruption scandals in 2007 and 2008 were members of the 8th parliament or held important cabinet posts. They are likely to retain their ministerial positions or be rewarded with new ministries for mobilizing masses to vote Mr. Museveni. What will happen to the ministries to which they have been rewarded?

5. The 9th parliament will not pass the Domestic Relations Bill which most Civil Society Organization and women right activists are calling for to be passed. Despite having the first female Speaker, it should noted that she subscribes to the NRM and is one of the top NRM cadres. The Domestic Relations bill which has for long been criticized by the Islamic faith and male parliamentarians on grounds that it will disempower them is likely not to be passed because the NRM will not comprise with the little support it gets from the Moslem community.

6. The 9th parliament is likely to pass more laws that impact human rights and freedoms of citizens. Mr. Museveni has already made it clear that he will ask parliament to amend the constitution to deny demonstrators bail for a period of six months. Civil Society organizations and the opposition have already objective the president’s strategy that seeks to keep in prison opposition members of parliament but I think the constitution shall be amended since NRM has the numbers in parliament

7. The Anti-gay bill: This controversial bill tabled by Hon. David Bahati in the 8th parliament is likely to be passed in the 9th parliament. Despite intense international criticism, the bill will be passed by the 9th parliament. The NRM caucus shall sit and decide to pass the bill and it will be passed in a couple of days despite the many human rights implications the bill will have a section of Ugandans and none Ugandans who have out and declared they are gay.

Can we make the 9the Parliament better?

This is what I think can make 9th parliament better more independent.

1. If the Speaker and her deputy who are both NRM cadres must put their party’s interests aside and serve the nation.

2. Parliament stops amending constitution interests of the ruling NRM party.

3. All bills stabled before parliament shouldn’t be passed until consultation with all stakeholders and partners are made.

4. The opposition must get a competent Leader of Opposition in parliament. This isn’t likely to happen because Besigye has also adopted Museveni style of appointing people to key Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) party positions. So don’t be surprised if he also appoints his successor.

5. And, the anti-gay bill should not even be tabled before parliament for debate as it appears now. Clauses that impact the rights of gays must be addressed first or the bill be thrown out.

Ahabwe Mugerwa Michael

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily present the views of ICOD Action Network or staff. All views herein are ideas of the writer.

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