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Will the Ninth Parliament deliver on its promises?

By Vision Reporter

Added 20th May 2011 03:00 AM

UGANDANS are eagerly waiting to see how Rebecca Kadaga, the new Speaker of Parliament, will preside over the business of the August House.

UGANDANS are eagerly waiting to see how Rebecca Kadaga, the new Speaker of Parliament, will preside over the business of the August House.

By John Semakula

UGANDANS are eagerly waiting to see how Rebecca Kadaga, the new Speaker of Parliament, will preside over the business of the August House.

They are also keenly watching the activities of the 9th Parliament, which kicked off its duties on Thursday.

Kadaga won the Speaker’s seat after the ruling NRM party endorsed her. Former Speaker Edward Ssekandi succumbed to Kadaga’s pressure and bowed out of the race.
Kadaga will now face several challenges in her five-year term.

Space issues

Top on the list of urgent issues is the shortage of space due to the increase in the number of legislators from 333 to 375. Even the 8th Parliament was dogged with scarcity of space whenever there was a huge turn-up of MPs, especially during debate on contentious issues. MPs who arrived late were always forced to look for chairs around the Parliamentary building.

A proposal to widen Parliament, which was passed several years ago, has not yielded results due to shortage of funds to execute it.
Members of the Parliamentary Commission are suggesting that plenaries be conducted in the conference hall. Some MPs will also share offices.

New brooms

Ugandans are also waiting to see the performance of the new entrants, especially those people who were perceived as ‘firebrands’ outside Parliament.

These include Ibrahim Nganda (Kyadondo East), Medard Ssegona (Busiro East), Lukyamuzi (Rubaga South) and Mathias Mpuuga (Masaka Municipality).
In the past, some MPs who were elected to Parliament after fronting themselves as firebrands, disappointed the voters when they got there and their voices faded.

Game of numbers

It will also be interesting to watch how the opposition MPs, whose numbers have slightly dwindled, will make themselves heard.

The 8th Parliament had 212 NRM MPs, 38 independents and 60 opposition MPs. Due to the numerical advantage, the NRM party always found it easy to pass Bills even when MPs from the opposition vehemently opposed them.

The 9th Parliament is expected to take the same trend since the NRM has retained its numerical advantage over the opposition. NRM has 263 MPs, there are 40 independents, while the opposition has 55, with most independents leaning towards the NRM party.

The numerically outwitted opposition could only afford to walk out of Parliament in protest and that was the only weapon they had to counteract the mighty NRM.

But despite their numerical disadvantage the opposition MPs who led and occupied some of the parliamentary committees set the agenda in the House. Most of the hottest debates in the 8th Parliament, like the Temangalo and CHOGM debates, originated from the committees presided over by opposition MPs. The Public Accounts Committee chaired by the Forum for Democratic Change’s (FDC) Nandala Mafabi, set the pace and kept the ball rolling.

The age issue

With an average age of 43 years, the 9th Parliament is composed of youthful MPs who, under normal circumstance, would be expected to be vibrant.

In Canada, the UK and Kenya, the average age of the legislators is 50 years.
In Canada the average age is 53, while in the UK and Kenya, it is 51 and 58, respectively. Analysts argue that a Parliament with a higher average age is fit to deliver more effectively than a Parliament with a lower average age.

It’s argued that the elderly MPs possess a wide scope of experience on a wide range of issues, which they exploit to enact good laws.

On the other hand, a youthful Parliament can make laws for the current and future generations, but are said to be easily influenced.

Unfortunately, there are long-serving and famous MPs whose contributions in the 8th Parliament were crucial, but will be missed in the 9th Parliament.

They include former leader of the Opposition Prof. Morris Ogenga Latigo, who was regularly in the limelight in the Eighth Parliament.

Others are Livingstone Okello Okello (Chua), Hope Mwesigye (Kabale Woman), Ibrahim Lubega Kadunabbi (Butambala), Erias Lukwago (Kampala Central), John Kawanga (Masaka Municipality) and Beatrice Byenkya (Hoima Woman).

The wisdom of the longest serving MPs like Crispus Kiyonga, Sam Kutesa and others like John Nasasira, Amama Mbabazi, Jim Muhwezi and Edward Ssekandi, will be vital in shaping the direction of Parliament.

But the fairness of the Speaker to both the Government and opposition MPs equally as well as the willingness of MPs to respect each other, will enable the 9th Parliament to leave a great legacy in 2016.

Will the Ninth Parliament deliver on its promises?

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