8 February 2013

Uganda: Oil Debate Chaos - Report Pins Executive

A parliamentary investigation into the rowdy conduct of MPs during debate on the controversial Oil bill on November 28, 2012 has found the Executive culpable, The Observer has learnt.

According to a member of Parliament's Rules, Discipline and Privileges committee, which has been investigating the chaos, MPs have completed the draft report, and the findings are clear.

"The executive caused the trouble by always attempting to interfere with the work of Parliament though these institutions are independent of each other under the doctrine of separation of powers."

A record 210 MPs appeared before the probe alongside a host of ministers. On a day of chaotic scenes, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who was chairing the debate, was forced to sneak out of Parliament as debate whirled out of control.

MPs and the Executive were deadlocked on a provision that sought to give the Energy minister powers to negotiate oil deals and contracts. Some MPs, mainly from the opposition, but also independent-minded NRM members, wanted those powers vested in an independent authority.

Although he refused to divulge details of the report, Committee Chairperson Fox Odoi (West Budama North) said: "We completed our report and it's ready for debate. I don't know when it will be given space on the order paper to be tabled on the floor of Parliament."

The Observer has learnt that the findings by the committee have triggered a war of words between NRM and opposition MPs. The NRM MPs claim the report was deliberately skewed to dent the image of the Executive and are planning to write a minority report.

According to the findings, it has also been difficult to identify the MPs who breached the sanctity of the House.

"We failed to identify which MPs were undisciplined on that fateful day because almost all MPs stood up," said a source. However, the report prominently mentions the government Chief Whip, Justine Kasule Lumumba.

"The only person who features many times in the videos we closely watched is Kasule Lumumba and our report talks about her more than any other MP ," the source said.

Lumumba yesterday insisted any misconduct on her part could only have been response to the opposition's provocation.

"After the sanctity of Parliament had been abused by the opposition and a few NRM MPs and turned the chambers into a political rally, I, as the government chief whip, commandeered government side to stand up," she said. "I have no regret at all because I am not the one who started the confusion."

The committee recommended a refresher course for MPs on Parliament decorum.

Though the committee recommended that lawmakers resist from errant behaviour, "We did not draw the boundaries for this because we don't want to compromise the vibrancy of the ninth Parliament."

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