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Legislators who never speak in Parliament

By Vision Reporter

Added 1st August 2010 03:00 AM

SIXTEEN legislators did not speak at all on the floor of parliament in the year, 2008–2009, according to the Parliamentary Scorecard Report compiled by the African Leadership Institute released this week.

SIXTEEN legislators did not speak at all on the floor of parliament in the year, 2008–2009, according to the Parliamentary Scorecard Report compiled by the African Leadership Institute released this week.

By Vicky Wandawa

SIXTEEN legislators did not speak at all on the floor of parliament in the year, 2008–2009, according to the Parliamentary Scorecard Report compiled by the African Leadership Institute released this week.

Of these, seven had not spoken even in the previous year.

The report assesses the performance of Uganda’s legislators on the floor of parliament, the committees and their constituencies.
On participation on the floor of parliament, the report measured performance by counting the total number of lines spoken by an MP.
All types of contributions are counted and all contributions given equal weight.

By this measure, 16 MPs are shown not to have uttered a word on the floor during the proceedings of parliament. Five of these did not attend a single plenary session during this time.

However, this was an improvement from the parliamentary session of 2007–2008, when the scorecard showed that 34 MPs did not say a word.

Those who did not speak for two years were Caleb Akandwanaho (Ex Officio), Nulu Byamukama (NRM, Kitagwenda), Margaret Kisira Mbeiza (NRM, Woman MP Kaliro), Ramadhan Kyamulesire (UPDF), James Makumbi (UPDF), Francis Ben Okello (UPDF) and Julius Oketta Facki (UPDF).

The ones who spoke in 2007-2008 but did not speak in 2008-2009 were Rhoda Acen (FDC, Woman MP Amuria), Silver Bahane Niyibize (NRM, Bufumbira North, Kisoro), Florence Hashaka Kabahweza (NRM, Woman MP, Kamwenge), Peter Abrahams Lokii (NRM, Jie, Kotido), Edward Ndawula Kaweesi (NRM, Kiboga West), Jeje Odongo (Ex Officio), Isaac Sejjoba (Independent, Bukoto Midwest, Masaka), Ali Ssekyanzi Ndawula (NRM, Bamunanika, Luwero) and David Tinyefuza UPDF).

Nine of the 16 silent MPs are members of the NRM party, five are army representatives, one FDC and one independent.

At a recently-concluded NRM national delegates’ conference, President Yoweri Museveni criticised the party MPs who barely or never rise to take strong positions in support of government schemes, during parliamentary sessions.

The scorecard disclosed that most MPs attended plenary sittings infrequently or not at all and this could be one of the reasons some do not speak in the House.

The average plenary attendance was 52% and this was a great improvement from 45% in 2007–2008 or just 23% in 2006–2007.

Only 160 MPs out of 333 attended over half of the plenary sittings in 2008–2009. Average participation increased from 616 lines in 2007–2008 to 820 lines in 2008–2009. This could be partially due to the increase in sittings from 80 to 96.

MPs are obliged to attend plenary sittings, which provide them with an opportunity to present the views of their constituents, raise new issues and debate the important challenges facing Uganda.

When Saturday Vision contacted the silent MPs, some put the blame on the Speaker, Edward Ssekandi, claiming that during the plenary sessions, he ignores them even when they signal that they have ideas to contribute to the floor.

However, the speaker refuted the claim. According to the guiding principles regarding the parliamentary debate sessions, individuals who feel the need to contribute to the debate but are not chosen by the speaker, have the alternative of writing down their names and the pressing idea and presenting it to the presiding officer to forward it to the speaker to call them onto the floor.

Isaac Sejjoba, the MP for Bukoto County in Masaka district, rejected the results of the scorecard.

“Do those who compiled that report have any evidence that I did not speak? Let them present it or their report should be taken as false.”

Ben Francis Okello (UPDF), who has not spoken a word on the parliament floor for the second year running, also argues that the scorecard is wrong.
“The authors of that report know better what they are up to because I know for a fact that I have been contributing during those sessions.”

However, Florence Kabahweza Hashaka, the Woman representative for Kamwenge district, agrees that the report is right.

She admits that she has not been active on the floor of Parliament.

“But I have been very active in the committees of public accounts and agriculture. I am also active in my constituency. I am one of the few MPs that actually have offices in the constituency,” she argued.

Army, MPs, public views on the silent legislators


FELIX KULAIGYE, ARMY SPOKESPERSON
Who is that person to complain that our five army MPs have not talked at all? Who sent them to Parliament? The five are delegates of the army. Those of us who sent them there know what they are doing. Leave them to us to evaluate them and if we feel they are not performing, we will send them home. But our MPs are doing very well and that is why they are still in parliament.

NORBERT MAO, GULU LC5 CHAIRMAN, DP PRESIDENT GENERAL
The score card is helping Uganda to asses the viability of our democracy. President Museveni has in the past said he does not mind whether someone speaks in parliament or not as long as they vote his way. So the silent MPs are doing the right thing.

And it is not a surprise that the majority came from the NRM. The NRM has lowered the bar so much because most of the decisions are taken in the NRM caucus. So, when they come to parliament, they just keep quiet and vote.

There is no independent thinking. Same with UPDF representatives; the president said the army MPs are a listening post. So, they are not supposed to think.

As for the silent Opposition MPs, it is a band wagon effect. During the 2006 elections, FDC was so popular in the north and north east that anybody who stood could get elected. Now the score card is smoking such people out.

DAUDI MIGEREKO, NRM CHIEF WHIP

I know there may be NRM MPs on the list but it is not true that NRM MPs are not performers.

In fact, the top performers according to the score card are from NRM. You see, NRM has so many MPs; many are on top so it is understandable that a few can be average.

PASTOR MARTIN SEMPA, MAKERERE COMMUNITY CHURCH

For MPs, advocacy and lobbying does not necessitate speaking on the floor of Parliament. Some of those silent people may be effective elsewhere and even wield serious power.

You may find that those who make a lot of noise have less influence in parliament and therefore do no matter. In the World Cup, not everybody could score a goal. The team that plays well wins the trophy. Some may keep quiet but vote on important decisions.

PROF. MORRIS OGENGA LATIGO

Leader of the opposition in Parliament
I know all my members have spoken and have been very hard working. But it is not that you have to speak in parliament all the time as long as you contribute in other areas.

The opposition has done a lot of legislation especially in amending some of the Bills. In fact, the opposition has to be applauded for keeping parliament alive because as you have observed, the people in the NRM come only to vote and rarely participate in real debate.

PROF. ELIAB LENYON GUMISIRIZA, FORMER DEAN, FACULTY OF EDUCATION, KYAMBOGO UNIVERSITY

Some people may not have the ability to speak in public. Speaking in parliament is not easy. You must know the language of debate. But most of the elected MPs may not have this ability. Our people vote MPs because they like the person or have been bribed. I hope MPs who did not speak were very useful elsewhere.

PROF. AARON MUKWAYA, POLITICAL SCIENTIST, MAKERERE UNIVERSITY

It is not a surprise that many of these MPs are silent for five years. Some people go to parliament without an idea of what is expected. Some go because of their local manifestos or popularity but when they reach there, things are different and their colleagues are on a different wave length. They see about 300 educated colleagues and get intimidated.

They fear to get ashamed and keep quiet. Some MPs are not known and possibly, when it comes to serious debate, the speaker picks people he thinks know what to do. The parliament of Uganda is also very huge; you can’t expect everybody to speak.

Maybe if it was a government headed by a prime minister like in the UK and he often comes to parliament to debate, many of them would be competing to be seen or scared of remaining silent. But our MPs fear to annoy the powers that be because they have been promised ministerial posts.

ANTHONY OKIROR, BANKER

This is a shame! How can you be elected, entrusted by a whole constituency, you are getting paid and will get pension but you have not spoken a word for two years?

MPs are elected to talk! Don’t they care if their names are missing from the Hansard? Those MPs should be caned in public. A provision should be enacted to force such people to resign after every year.

Compiled by Frederick Womakuyu

Legislators who never speak in Parliament

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