Uganda: Constitutional Reforms Left in Limbo As 2021 Polls Near

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The Opposition- led move for Parliament to amend several Articles of the Constitution in order to change the structure of government and the direction of the electoral processes in Uganda is now in limbo as legislation on the Bill is running out of time for the 2021 General Election.

The Private Member's Bill titled; Constitutional Amendment Bill No 1, 2019 was moved in September last year by Ndorwa East Member of Parliament, Mr Wilfred Niwagaba, who is also the Shadow Attorney General.

The Bill has since been with the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for scrutiny.

Some of the key reforms that are likely to be time barred and may be over taken by events include the proposal to have the deputy president elected together with the President, reshaping the composition of the Electoral Commission and conducting elections for presidential, parliamentary and local governments on the same day.

Daily Monitor understands that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee chaired by West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth-Oboth processed the Bill and wrote the report early last month but it is yet to find its way on the Order Paper for presentation, debate and possible passing.

Mr Niwagaba, who is frustrated with the delay by the committee to have the report ready for debate in the House, yesterday said he was waiting for the new developments. He did not participate in the writing of the report as a Committee member because of conflict of interest.

"I am anxiously awaiting the committee report and I have a lot of confidence that the Speaker will prioritise it and give us space on the Order Paper for the second reading and debate. At the end of the day, I hope Members of Parliament will put the interests of the country and its future, support my Bill and pass it," Mr Niwagaba said.

Mr Oboth-Oboth said the committee completed its work and the report has been signed with the required number of members to have it presented on the floor of the House but indicated that there is delay on the side of the Opposition.

"The report is ready and the Business Committee (which determines the business of the House) is ready to let us move ahead but the Opposition members want to write a minority report. They are delaying themselves," he said.

Minority report issue

For a report to be put on the Order Paper, it must have the minority report attached by the time the Clerk to Parliament submits it to the Speaker if there was notice by a committee member to work on a minority report.

Busiro East MP Medard Lubega Sseggona notified the committee that he had got areas of departure from the recommendations of the main report. He has since not submitted his minority report.

Details of the recommendations in the report remain scanty as it cannot be made public before being presented on the floor of Parliament.

Mr Sseggona, who told this newspaper that his minority report may be ready today, declined to share the details of his departure points.

"I have been making research so that I present a minority report that will convince our colleagues in the House to pass the Bill as it is," Mr Sseggona said.

However, sources within the committee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed that most of the clauses of the Bill that deal with the structure of government were dropped by the committee.

The sources say the committee rejected the proposal to repeal the Office of the Vice President and replace it with the Deputy President.

Also reported to have been removed is the proposal to repeal the Office of the Prime Minister, the removal of the army from Parliament, and the reduction of the size of the Cabinet. It is reported the committee has, however, supported the return of term limits.

"The army will remain in Parliament but this time should not participate in taking a vote on the floor," the source said.

REFORMS IN PLACE

Four of the five governments electoral reforms passed early this year have been assented to by President Museveni save for the Local Governments Amendment Bill that he returned to Parliament over the qualifications of urban council leaders. Those signed are Presidential Elections Act, Parliamentary Elections Act, Electoral Commission Act, and the Political Parties and Organisations Act.

Points in the Bill

Electoral Commission set up. They propose having an Electoral Commission (EC) that is independent, where the jobs of chairperson and commissioners are competed for publicly. The Judicial Service Commission would also be involved in the appointment of members of the EC with the approval of Parliament.

Overhauling Executive. The proponents of the Bill are also seeking a constitutional amendment to overhaul the Executive. With a proposal to reform the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), they want the ministers scaled down to at least 42 people.

Electing Deputy President. The alternative government seeks to introduce the position of the Deputy President who will be elected alongside the President.

Elections on same day. In what they call a plan to minimise overspending, the Opposition are proposing that presidential, parliamentary and Local Government elections be held on the same day.

Reforms in Parliament. Critics have questioned the relevance of having 10 army representatives in Parliament.

Speaker's panel. The Opposition seem to be backing Speaker Rebecca Kadaga's proposal to have a Speaker's Panel appointed to help steer business in the House.

Challenging presidential elections. The Opposition are also seeking to change the status quo that bars registered voters from challenging the results of presidential elections.

Others are repealing the position of RDCs and have the presidential term limits reinstated.

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