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Parliament in the last 55 years of Independence

Analysis

Parliament in the last 55 years of Independence

 

Current Speaker of Parliament Rt-Hon-Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga

Current Speaker of Parliament Rt-Hon-Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga

Since independence in October 1962, the Uganda Parliament has had nine speakers, only one woman; Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga. The Woman Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (MP) for Ka­muli Dis­trict, the first woman Speaker has been in Parliament for the last 27 years, 16 of which as both Deputy Speaker, first, and then Speaker.

Two of those speakers have faced turmoil in their tenancy of the House: Naren­dra Pa­tel, the second post-Colonial speaker and only Asian, from 1963 to 1971; and now Kadaga. Patel took over the man­tle from Sir John Bowes Grif­fin (1962 -1963), Ugan­da’s first Speaker af­ter in­de­pen­dence. Sir Grif­fin had been Uganda’s Chief Jus­tice from 1952-1958.

Pa­tel witnessed the replacement of the 1962 Constitution with the “Pi­geon-hole” con­sti­tu­tion. That is when Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote, defiled the sanctity of Parliament by having five ministers arrested from inside the House. It represented Obote’s falling out with Kabaka Frederick Mutesa of Buganda King­dom.

Whereas this was unprecedented, arguably what Kadaga has witnessed this September, 2017, as the country is preparing for the 55th Independence Anniversary Celebrations, has been utter chaos in the House.

This is during the introduction of the controversial Private Member’s Age Limit Bill. Introduced by Igara West MP, Raphael Magyezi, the Bill seeks to amend the 1995 Constitution’s Article 102 (b) to remove the age limit of 75 years for a president in office.

The net effect of it is that it would allow incumbent President Yoweri Museveni, to stand as president in 2021, when he is past 75 years of age. Opposition MPs vehemently opposed the introduction of the Bill in the House leading to unprecedented brawl in the House with fist-fights and destruction of furniture.

Failing to control the MPs in the first instance of adjournment, Kadaga “called in” the Police and other security agencies to manhandle the errant MPs. In the process, ten MPs were seriously beaten by the operatives, requiring admission in hospitals. Subsequently, Kadaga suspended 25 other MPs, one of them, Ronald Kibuule, Minister of State for Water, for illegal possession of a firearm in the precincts of the House.

Patel’s speak­er­ship ended in 1971 when Colonel Idi Amin overthrew Obote in a coup. Thereafter, he abrogated Parliament and ruled by decree. After the Liberation Wae of 1979 when Amin was toppled by a combination of guerilla forces in exile and the Tanzanian People’s Defense forces (TPDF), Prof. Ed­ward Rugu­mayo (1979-80), took over the mantle.

An academician, Rugumayo was nom­i­nated to chair the Na­tional Con­sul­ta­tive Coun­cil (NCC) of the 1979 Moshi Con­fer­ence in Tan­za­nia which was adopted as the in­terim Par­lia­ment after fol­low­ing over­throw of Idi Amin, NCC con­tin­ued to be the supreme leg­isla­tive body un­til the gen­eral elec­tions of 1980.

Fran­cis K. Bu­ta­gira (1980-1985), who had been an NCC mem­ber of and a High Court judge be­tween 1974 and 1979, took over the speakership of the fourth Par­lia­ment un­til the mil­i­tary coup by Gen. Tito Okello, who over­threw Obote’s second Uganda People’s Congress Government.

Okello’s Government was in turn overthrown by Yow­eri Mu­sev­eni’ rebel forces in 1986. They instituted the Na­tional Re­sis­tance Coun­cil (NRC), which was its Par­lia­ment. As its chairman, Musevenui presided over the fifth Parliament from 1986 to 1996 when it passed the Con­stituent As­sem­bly Statute that es­tab­lished and pro­vided for the elec­tion of the Con­stituent As­sem­bly Del­e­gates to work on the for­mu­la­tion of the new con­sti­tu­tion. The 1995 Constitution instituted yet another Parliament and James Wa­pakhab­ulo presided over the sixth Parliament from 1996 to 1998.

Wa­pak­ab­ulo is re­mem­bered for hav­ing strongly op­posed the lift­ing of term lim­its in 2005 which led to his fall-out with Pres­i­dent Mu­sev­eni. He was replaced by Fran­cis Ayume (1998- 2001), who continued Wapakhabulo’s sixth Parliament, when he was had to resign his speakership on being ap­pointed At­tor­ney Gen­eral in 2001.

Ed­ward Ssekandi be­came Speaker in 2001 and steered both the seventh and eighth Par­lia­ments. He first served as Deputy Speaker un­der the late Wa­pakhab­ulo from 1996 to 2001, and then took over until 2011, when he was named the Vice Pres­i­dent, the position he still occupies.  He was deputized by Kadaga till she assumed the full mantle from the eighth and now the tenth Parliament.

 

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