Opposition MPs discuss how to advance Constitution (Amendment) Bill

Opposition legislators have met to lay strategies on how to push the privately sponsored Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2019 which seeks to make changes in a host of areas in the Constitution.

The MPs led by the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan were joined by party leaders and representatives from UPC, DP, FDC and Justice Forum, all of which have representation in Parliament.

The MPs and party leaders met to discuss the Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 which seeks to remove representation of the army in Parliament, repeal the office of Prime Minister, reinstate presidential term limits and prohibit the appointment of Ministers from among members of Parliament.
The retreat was organised by Parliament of Uganda and was held in Entebbe on 13 – 15 December 2019.

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament recently directed the Clerk to Parliament to gazette the Bill, which was moved by the Shadow Attorney General, Hon. Wilfred Niwagaba. The directive came after the Ministry of Finance failed to provide the mover with a certificate of financial implications as required by the Rules of Procedure. When the Bill is gazette, it will then be formally presented to Parliament for its first reading.

The Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs, Hon. Medard Sseggona said that although a Bill seeking to amend the Constitution needs to be comprehensive and moved after a constitutional review process, it should not have too many controversial issues that would lead colleagues to reject it.

Sseggona advised colleagues to stick to areas where they have chance of getting the support of a big number of members including those on the government side.

“We must be strategic and different from our colleagues in government; we must not seem to target the president as this creates immediate opposition against the entire Bill,” he said.

He however, said that all proposals would be considered at a later stage and wide consultations would be held among parties and parliamentary party caucuses.

Sseggona said that the amendment to prohibit the appointment of ministers from among members of Parliament would liberate the legislature from the Executive and to guarantee the independence of the institution.

The Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Betty Aol Ocan said the Bill was not targeting the sitting President but rather to improve democracy and governance in the country.

“This is about how to improve on governance in our country and this Bill will help solve several challenges we have. The retreat is over but the conversation continues,” she said adding that, “It’s our Bill, so we have to popularize it. All parties should participate in it”.

Forum for Democratic Change President, Hon. Patrick Amuriat, advised the MPs to reach out to their colleagues in government as they are part of the decision making processes in Parliament.

“It seems that the Bill is going to be subjected to the sympathy of those [MPs] on the other side [government side/NRM], so we have to be nice to them. I suggest that the promoters and us outside Parliament popularize it,” he said adding that, “I give our assurance that we will stand with you in every step that you make to move this Bill.”

The bill among others also seeks to provide for the involvement of the Parliamentary Commission in the appointment of the Clerk to Parliament; the involvement of the Judicial Service Commission in the appointment of members of the Electoral Commission; the qualification of the EC Chairperson and the grounds for disqualification of members of the EC.

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