By Francis Emorut
NRM caucus influence is threatening Parlaiment powers, the director corporate planning and strategy, Diskon Okumu has said.
“There is a threat of NRM caucus taking over the power of the House. This is a very serious issue we are trying to tackle,” Okumu told members of civil society organizations and MPs.
He was responding to concerns on what Parliament is doing after the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, recently in a summit during Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) in Dar-es-Salaam Tanzania expressed frustration by NRM caucus stifling debate among its own members.
“Many times members are not able to speak freely because the caucus has given instructions which they should strictly adhere to,” Kadaga said.
The director of corporate planning and strategy of parliament, Dison Okumu (C) talks to Simon Osborn (R), the chief of party of National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Josephine Namusisi the NDI's deputy chief during the civil society organisations’ Parliamentary interface meeting at Hotel Africana in Kampala. PHTOTO/Francis Emorut
“It’s not proper in multi-party setting (dispensation) to stifle debate in the guise of a caucus taking overall position,” Okumu said.
Okumu pointed out that the problem was lack of capacity by the individual MPs who can not conduct research and come up with researched knowledge based information to challenge the position taken by the caucus.
He advised MPs to do extensive research so that they cannot be swayed away by the caucus position.
“When your argument is based on researched information, you cannot be swayed away by other members but if it’s weak then you toy the line of others,” he said.
Okumu made remarks during a civil society organizations-parliamentary interface meeting in Kampala.
The interface meeting was organized by Uganda National NGO Forum in conjunction with Uganda Joint Christian Council and supported by National Democratic Institute (NDI).
It aimed at designing strategies on how best to engage lawmakers in the next session of parliament.
Simon Osborn, the chief of NDI pointed out that civil society plays a vital role in the oversight of political processes.
“By ensuring policy decisions reflect citizen interests, civil society holds government and political actors accountable,” Osborn said.
The chairperson of Uganda Women Parliamentary Association (UWOPA), Betty Amongi rapped civil society for lack of coordination.
She accused them of organizing same meetings in different places making it difficult for lawmakers to choose which one to attend.
“You are not focused. How can you organize so many meetings in different places talking same subject? Is it because you have got the same funding in the same areas?” Amongi asked.
The Oyam South MP also criticized civil society for keeping quiet on topical issues especially when government is not happy with it.
The director of corporate planning and strategy of parliament, Dison Okumu (L) talks to MP Emmanuel Dombo after the meeting. PHOTO/ Francis Emorut