Voice of America (Washington, DC)

11 August 2014

Uganda Lawmaker Demands Inquiry Over Drug Use Allegations

A member of Uganda's Parliamentary Rules and Privileges Committee has called for an independent investigation into allegations some lawmakers use marijuana and other illicit drugs during parliamentary sessions.

Mathias Mpuga says parliamentarians who use drugs should be exposed for undermining the integrity of the law-making body.

"The sanctity of parliament cannot be brought into disrepute by just a few members. And if they are there, if they are a group we need to know them then perhaps their constituents will judge them accordingly," he said. "But of course our rules bar us from engaging in such kinds of acts that are bound to bring the reputation of parliament into contempt."

Mpuga's comments followed a media report in the Daily Monitor newspaper that quoted a member of parliament from Eastern Uganda as threatening to soon name colleagues who allegedly use drugs during legislative sessions.

"Wait, I will one day show you the ones that I see, especially when there is a controversial debate on the floor of the House. They will shout loudest during parliamentary debates," the lawmaker was quoted as saying.

Some Ugandans say this is not the first time lawmakers have been accused of using drugs.

Mpuga says he supports the exposure of any legislators who use drugs while performing their duties.

"I will support that [exposure] because I am one person who would not be comfortable working in an environment where there are people influenced by other things other than knowledge and intelligence," he said. "If drugs are being used to enhance members' way of reasoning, I am hesitant working in such an environment. [The source] will have my utmost support to weed the house of such members and such vices."

Uganda laws prohibit the use of narcotics, according to Mpuga.

"I will implore [anybody] to work with the rules and report this matter to the speaker as the rules prescribe. Then the speaker will invite the committee which will perhaps look into the matter if [the lawmaker] is willing to come and give evidence in the committee," he said. "Otherwise if she is not able to substantiate, she will be dragged to the same committee for bringing the name of parliament into disrepute."

Some analysts say the publicly announced allegation of drug abuse is grave enough to tarnish the reputation of the lawmaking body. They also called for a police investigation into the allegation.

Mpuga disagreed the lawmaker making the allegation is tarnishing parliament.

"I wouldn't judge her by saying she brought the name of parliament into disrepute. Perhaps the member has information and is willing to divulge that information in the plenary, which is why I am giving her the benefit of doubt as long as she is able to substantiate her statement then I have no problem," he said.

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