There is a looming crisis in parliament as opposition legislators vow to boycott all plenary sessions over matters surrounding the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2017 dubbed age limit Bill.
Opposition MPs have been elusive in the parliament chambers since September when plain-clothed security operatives stormed parliament to bring sanity after suspended MPs defied Speaker Rebecca Kadaga’s orders to exit the chambers having caused chaos when Igara West MP County Raphael Magyezi presented his Private members’ bill that seeks to amend article 102(b) of the 1995 Constitution to lift presidential age limit.
Parliament has been on recess since October 14 when Speaker Kadaga adjourned the House sine die to allow members do countrywide consultations on age limit Bill. However, on November 06, MPs were called back for a special sitting to pay tribute to Ruhaama County MP William Beijukye who passed away. To the surprise of many, none of the opposition MPs attended the special sitting that was chaired by Deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah.
Even today (Tuesday) when plenary sittings resumed, despite being in the precincts of parliament, none of the opposition MPs or even NRM ‘rebel’ MPs attended today’s sitting that was also chaired by Oulanyah.
The MPs who are opposed to lifting of age limit say that they will not attend any plenary session until Speaker clears the air on the 27th September unprecedented incident where plain-clothed security operatives raided the chambers.
“The Leader of Opposition [Winfred Kiiza] before this parliament opened had an interaction with the Speaker and both agreed that the first item to attend to today should be security and welfare of MPs. This is so because the speaker in October wrote to the president complaining that she doesn’t know the people who came from president’s office to invade parliament,” Opposition chief whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju, Kira Municipality MP told Kampala Post.
Opposition MPs are disturbed that Tuesday’s order paper does not reflect what Speaker Kadaga and LoP Kiiza had agreed on.
“So I went to follow up with that undertaking with deputy speaker [who is chairing the House today] and he did not give me an opportunity on behalf of my colleagues to give that statement. He said he has not been briefed by the speaker and that may be the matter can be handled tomorrow,” Ssemujju said. He added that until the issue of MPs’ security and welfare has been dealt with, “we will not go and sit in parliament. Today we are acting as gentlemen and ladies to allow the speakers sort themselves out, but tomorrow it will not be the same issue.”
Parliament Rules of Procedure recognize the role of the opposition MPs in the legislation process and in fact Rule 9(3) provides that, “the seats to the left hand of the Speaker shall be reserved for the Leader of the Opposition and Members of the Opposition party or parties in the House.”