19 June 2017

Uganda: How NRM, Opposition Plan to Navigate House's Second Session

During his State-of-the-Nation address, President Museveni listed a number of legislations that government promised to bring in the-yet-to start second session of Parliament.

Key among the most controversial legislations that attract highly scented gossip in the corridors is the Constitution Amendment Bill.

Both sides of the House; ruling National Resistance Movement and the Opposition alike are changing deployment and battle tactics to ensure they push their interests through in these contentious legislations.

First, the numbers; and here the Opposition cannot enhance their advantage, with several by-elections falling right onto the palm of their rivals, the National Resistance Movement.

Reaching out to NRM

Right after her appointment as Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Ms Winfred Kiiza sought to reach out to the NRM MPs, telling Sunday Monitor then that "we also feel that the issues we raise concern our friends in the ruling party too".

The strategy, at best, is not proving to work in the Opposition's favour, as their counterparts in the ruling party are also unleashing what they believe will maintain their members in tow.

Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa told Sunday Monitor in an interview that her side, working with the Prime Minister's Office, will roll out a three-pronged approach to have a coherent team in the second session.

"We worked out a tracking level in Cabinet to make sure we handle issues urgently, secondly we will be tracking in ministries where Bills come from and also tracking at Parliament," says Ms Nankabirwa, in a strategy she believes will whip members to accelerate the passing of legislations in the House.

Clearly, Ms Nankabirwa's frustration is apparently with the length of time and the dragging nature of the legislative process.

A critical question to the government side is outright rejection-even contradiction on the floor of Parliament, of ruling party positions by MPs. Towards the end of the first session, the hunger question offered the most interesting revelation about this rebellion.

MPs led by Ms Monicah Amoding (NRM, Kumi), pushed for a motion urging government to declare a state of emergency regarding hunger and famine in the country.

Whereas the Prime Minister, also leader of government business in Parliament, was strongly opposed to the move, NRM MPs openly rebelled and voted in favour of the motion anyway.

With more controversial legislations expected, will there be more outright rebellion and rejection of government positions by NRM MPs?

"Rebels will not emerge; we are going to keep talking to members, but members also have a right to have their own opinion on issues," says caucus vice chairperson Solomon Silwany (NRM, Bukholi Central).

Mr Silwany says the NRM caucus will operate on an open door policy, so that an MP or group of MPs can as well disagree and be allowed to carry on with their objections.

To Ms Kiiza, she believes they have taken many lessons from the first session, and will be employing those skills to put up a better show.

"For us, we look at every challenge as a learning opportunity, we also realised that majority of the members were new; we held trainings internally and we are going to unveil a strategy very soon so that you can be able to know what to expect from us," she said.

Ms Kiiza's strategy is still a cat in the bag, which she promised to unveil soon, but also placed focus on the issue of attendance.

Deputy Chief Opposition Whip Roland Kaginda (FDC, Rukungiri Municipality), told Sunday Monitor that the Opposition will create a unique response to controversial legislations, singling out the age limit which is wide speculators believe will be contained in the Constitution Amendment Bill.

"We will immediately expose individuals and this time we want to sue government of Uganda in other international courts of law," said Mr Kaginda, referring to the age limit talk.

Mr Kaginda said all is set to "name and shame," and warned absentee MPs who he said are intending to simply show up on voting that "they will be individually pursued and exposed".

Enter the huge force of the independents that stand between the two political extremes; or do they?

They outnumber the entire combined force of the Opposition, but many are viewed with suspicion as most have a history of associating with the ruling NRM.

Their 'coordinator,' Mr Andrew Baryayanga (Indep, Kabale Municipality) as Speaker Rebecca Kadaga refers to him, looks to fighting for extra space in the House.

"First, we will make sure that we have a budget in place," says Mr Baryayanga; a move he believes will put him at the same pedestal with the Opposition.

He was cautious not to commit the rest of independents on a strategy they will employ, cryptically saying "independents are independent of one another," meaning individual independents will be up for grabs.

However, if history is anything to go by, independents mostly align with the ruling NRM, majority of them being disgruntled erstwhile party supporters who suffered disappointments after primaries.

As the second session begins and the 10th Parliament continues to take shape, watchers will be eagerly awaiting game changers in the House or perhaps refining of old strategies.

Some proposed Bills for 2nd session

Foreign Service Bill

The Traditional and Cultural Leaders (Amendment) Bill.

The Labour Disputes (Arbitration and Settlement) (Amendment) Bill.

The Employment (Amendment) Bill.

National Youth Service Scheme Bill

Public Service Pension Fund Bill,

Salaries and Allowances (Specified officer) Bill cap 291 of 1999

Bank of Uganda (Amendment) Bill.

Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2018

VAT (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Excise Tariff (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Stamps Duty (Amendment) Bill, 2018

Agriculture Extension Bill

The NAADS Amendment Bill.

Fisheries Bill

National Coffee Bill

Constitution (Amendment) Bill.

Administration of the Judiciary Bill.

Uganda Land Commission Bill

Land Lord -Tenant Bill

NEMA Act (Amendment) Bill.

The Climate Change Bill.

New Sugar Bill.

Consumer Protection Bill.

Building Control Bill

Small Arms and Light Weapons Control Bill

The Asset Recovery Bill.

National Health Insurance Bill

Organ and Tissue Transplant Bill

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